While Off-Broadway's Primary Stages company enjoys its current extended run of Daisy Foote's When They Speak of Rita, it's already speaking of next season, where three of the four productions have already been chosen. Two deal with various forms of racial hatred, the third with the lures and pitfalls of Hollywood.
Opening the season in September will be Milton Frederick Marcus' The Gardens of Frau Hess, directed by John Henry Davis (Papa, Mountain). Set in 1944, Hess tells of the relationship between Rudolph Hess' wife, Ilse, and the Jewish concentration camp inmate hired to tend her gardens. Billed as a "danse macabre," the story was inspired by real entries in Henrich Himmler's files, according to spokespersons at the Tony Origlio press office.
A world premiere follows in January 2001: Krisit, by Y York [sic]. In it, a young movie producer tries to convince a reclusive actress -- one who'd been burned by a vicious review -- to go back into the spotlight 25 years later. Melia Bensussen, who staged Primary Stages' The Turn of the Screw this past season, directs.
John Henry Redwood, who penned the regionally popular The Old Settler, returns to Primary Stages in March 2001 with No Niggers, No Jews, No Dogs. Set in 1944 North Carolina, the play tells of the relationship between a Jewish sociologist and the black family he's come to study. Both are targets of the same racism and rage.
The final play of the Primary Stages season has yet to be chosen, but it will likely be by "one of this generation's leading playwrights," reads the press release. For information on subscriptions ($120) or single tickets ($35) to Primary Stages, 354 West 45th St., call (212) 333-4052.
As for the company's current show, Horton Foote is directing his daughter, Hallie Foote, in a new play by his other daughter, Daisy Foote, When They Speak of Rita. Enough critics and audiences have apparently spoken well enough of Rita to warrant an extension of the show, through June 25. The play opened May 17, after previews starting May 3.
Rita tells of domestic problems for a New Hampshire family. Jamie Bennett (This Lime Tree Bower), Ken Marks, Ebon Moss-Bachrach and Margot White costar.
The 84-year-old Foote pere, the director, won a Pulitzer for his play, The Young Man From Atlanta and also penned Valentine's Day and 1918. Hallie Foote's acting credits include 1996's 900 Oneonta, the last play staged by the Circle Repertory company. According to a Newsday interview (May 16), she will appear in her father's The Last of the Thorntons next season at off-Broadway's Signature Theatre Company at the Peter Norton Space.
Designing Rita are Jeff Cowie (sets), Deborah Constantine (lighting), Debra Stein (costumes) and Fabian Obispo (sound).
46-year-old Hallie told Newsday (May 16) that working with two family members isn't all that different from other production situations. "When we work together, there is a sort of shorthand between us that makes it easy, but otherwise I don't feel like I'm working with my family," she said. "We are careful, bend over backwards not to show favoritism."
-- By David Lefkowitz and Robert Simonson