Elsa Haft and Martin Markinson are on board as the producers for an expected commercial production of Joan Vail Thorne's comedy, The Exact Center of the Universe, which had a critically-embraced, nonprofit April run at WPP Theater Four.
BethAnn Blickers, the playwright's agent, told Playbill On-Line May 7 it is hoped the Deep South play, starring Frances Sternhagen, will come to an Off-Broadway theatre by fall "at the latest," but possibly sooner, with the Theater Four cast intact. The initial non-profit run was produced by Women's Project and Productions March 30-May 2 at Theater Four, on West 55th Street.
Markinson confirmed the plan, telling Playbill On-Line May 7 he was taken with the warmth of the play. He said the work is a spiritual sister to Driving Miss Daisy, Steel Magnolias and the film "Fried Green Tomatoes."
Markinson observed, "I thought it was very human, people related to it. I'm getting a little tired of shows grabbing you by the throat and knocking you out."
Markinson, who runs the Helen Hayes Theatre, said that his Broadway house is booked through the fall, and he and Haft are definitely looking to place Exact Center at an Off-Broadway venue. *
Though buoyed by its star actress, Sternhagen, and a favorable review in The New York Times, The Exact Center of the Universe closed May 2 at Off-Broadway's Theater Four, after eight previews and 27 regular performances (it was originally to close April 25, but was extended one week).
John Tillinger directed Exact Center following a busy season of staging Broadway's now-closed Getting and Spending and the current Night Must Fall.
Sternhagen, who has won two Tonys over her long career, played Vada Love Powell, a matriarch from the Deep South whose small world is rocked when her son, Apple, marries without her consent. Among Sternhagen's most recent credits is the award-winning Lincoln Center Theatre revival of The Heiress starring Cherry Jones.
Joining her on stage as her son was Reed Birney, whose varied career has included such productions -- on Broadway, Off and off-off -- as Gemini, The Common Pursuit, The Family of Mann and Seven Blowjobs. The cast included Bethel Leslie, Marge Redmond and Tracy Thorne.
-- By Kenneth Jones
and Robert Simonson