Martha Plimpton, who is fast becoming a leading female star of the New York and regional stage, will headline the Steppenwolf Theatre Company's revival of William Saroyan's cozy classic, The Time of Your Life. The production, which begins Sept. 12, will open the 2002-03 Mainstage season.
Chicago has seen Plimpton tread the boards at Steppenwolf in such classic roles as Pegeen Mike in The Playboy of the Western World and Hedda Gabler. Last season, she won plaudits for her turn in the Atlantic Theatre Company staging of Hobson's Choice.
Robert Breuler, Amy Morton, and Jeff Perry will also star in Time of Your Life.
The production continues Steppenwolf's long tradition of unearthing hoary, big-cast American chestnuts, such as Harvey, You Can't Take It With You and last season's The Royal Family.
Tina Landau will direct the play, which takes place in a waterfront bar patronized by the benevolent oddball Joe, who from his bar stool watches life pass by and sagely comments on the goings-on in his small world, as well as the world at large. The play was made into a movie starring James Cagney. Time will run through Nov. 3. In other news, the theatre will present a new mounting of Alice Childress' seldom seen 1966 drama, Wedding Band. The play, starring Breuler and Rick Snyder, is about Julia Augustine, an African American woman who, in 1918, moves to a quiet seaside South Carolina town. The quiet is broken, however, when the townsfolk discover she's been having an affair with a local white man.
Wedding Band was produced at the Public Theater in 1972. Childress is also the author of several novels and acted on Broadway in 1944's Anna Lucasta, a praised, all-black play which ran nearly 1,000 performances. Many believe Childress's 1955 play, Trouble in Mind, about a black actress working on a play written and directed by white men, was based on her experiences in Anna Lucasta. Childress died in 1994.
As previously reported, Homebody/Kabul will fill the final Mainstage slot in the Steppenwolf Theatre Company's 2002-03 season in Chicago. The Tony Kushner play will run July 10-Aug. 31, 2003, with an opening on July 20. Frank Galati directs.
Homebody/Kabul premiered Off-Broadway at New York Theatre Workshop last fall, just weeks after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Though Kushner wrote the work before the tragedy, the plot, half set in Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan, proved prescient.
Homebody/Kabul, as the title might indicate, is divided into two fairly distinct parts. The first, Homebody, is a one-hour monologue delivered by an eccentric English woman who has retreated from her family and contemporary life into a fecund fantasy world of books, history and verbiage. Kabul, meanwhile, introduces the Homebody's husband and daughter as they journey to the title city in search of the suddenly vanished, and perhaps dead, woman. There, they encounter a culture and world that upends all their previously held ideas about their lives and themselves.
As for the rest of the season, I Just Stopped by to See the Man by Stephen Jeffreys, running Nov. 14-Jan. 12, 2003, will follow Time Of Your Life. Marion McClinton (Jitney, Breath, Boom) was previously named as director. Randall Arney will now perform the service. The play follows an English rock band in search of legendary Delta blues singer Jesse Davidson. As the story goes, Davidson sold his soul to the devil in exchange for his skills as a musician. But other stories say that Davidson is not dead at all.
The plot is drawn from the well known rumors and folklore surrounding Robert Johnson, a guitarist who influenced the likes of Eric Clapton. Johnson's story has been the basis of several movies, including 1986's "Crossroads." Jim True-Frost stars.
The fourth Mainstage position, running April 17-June 15, 2003, is reserved for Richard Greenberg's The Violet Hour, which will have its premiere at South Coast Rep Nov. 5, 2002. The Violet Hour takes place in the small New York City office of John Seaverings Pace, a writer who, having made it through World War I, is ready to get on with the future. Unfortunately, he can't find his theatre tickets, and his decisions during the day will impact the lives of four others: his employee, two budding writers and his friend's fiance. Terry Kinney will direct.
—By Robert Simonson