Richard Nelson's raw and delicate coming-of-age memory play, Franny's Way, set in New York's Greenwich Village, has been extended to April 21 by Playwrights Horizons, the troupe that has been a major presenter of Nelson's work.
When teenage sisters visit New York City in the world premiere of Nelson's latest play, Franny's Way, which opened March 26, they discover past secrets and new desires that take them to the edge of adulthood.
The play (which began previews March 6) is set in a Greenwich Village walk-up in the summer of 1957 and tells the story of two teenage sisters, Franny and Dolly, who, accompanied by their grandmother, come to visit their married cousin, Sally, and her husband, Phil, in the city. "Soon, the young women have embarked on private missions involving love, a forgotten child and a lost mother — and what begins as a carefree idyll becomes a life-changing experience of desire, longing and the bittersweet collision of youth and adulthood," according to production notes.
Sex and longing collide with unspeakable loss in the new work, which has as a rich urban soundscape that serves as another character. The jazz, crowds and traffic outside the window of cousin Sally's Sullivan Street apartment are so vivid you feel transported to the Manhattan neighborhood. Scott Lehrer is the sound designer.
Kathleen Widdoes, the respected and Tony Award-nominated actress (Much Ado About Nothing) who has split her time between the stage and TV's "As the World Turns" (she is the soulful Emma Snyder) is featured in the cast as the grandmother, and as an older Franny looking back on her life. She's in the company of Elisabeth Moss (Zoe on "The West Wing," playing sister Franny); Domenica Cameron-Scorsese (Tony 'n' Tina's Wedding, and the films of her father, Martin Scorsese, "The Age of Innocence" and "Cape Fear," playing sister Dolly), Jesse Pennington (ACT's Goodnight Children Everywhere, Public Theater's A Winter's Tale, as Phil) and Yvonne Woods (Madame Melville, ACT's Goodnight Children Everywhere as cousin Sally).
The not-for-profit Playwrights presents Franny's Way at The Atlantic Theatre, on West 20th Street in Manhattan. The venue is being borrowed while Playwrights' new home is being built on 42nd Street. Tony Award-winner Nelson (James Joyce's The Dead) will direct his own work, which sounds intimately human in the tradition of his Madame Melville (about an American student's coming of age with a teacher in Paris) and Goodnight Children Everywhere (about the impact that wartime separation and parental death has on a family of surviving siblings). Performances were originally announced only to April 14.
Designers are Thomas Lynch (scenic), Susan Hilferty and Linda Ross (costume), Jennifer Tipton (lighting) and Scott Lehrer (sound).
Tickets are $45 (ask about student rates). The Atlantic Theater is at 336 W. 20th Street. For tickets, call (212) 239-6200 or (for Playwrights Horizons information) (212) 279 4200. Visit playwrightshorizons.org.
Nelson has a long history with Playwrights Horizons, including the world premieres of James Joyce's The Dead (Tony Award for Best Book of a Musical), The Vienna Notes (Obie Award) and Jungle Coup and the American premiere of Goodnight Children Everywhere (Olivier Award for Best Play). His other plays include Madame Melville(Vaudeville Theatre, London & Promenade Theatre, New York), The General From America (RSC, Milwaukee Repertory), New England (RSC, Manhattan Theater Club), Misha's Party (co-written with Alexander Gelman for the RSC and The Moscow Art Theatre), Columbus and the Discovery of Japan (RSC), Two Shakespearean Actors (RSC, Lincoln Center Theater, Tony nomination for Best Play), Some Americans Abroad (RSC, LCT, Olivier Award nomination for Best Comedy), Sensibility and Sense (American Playhouse and Second Stage), Principia Scriptoriae (RSC, MTC, London Time Out Award). Playwrights Horizons announced April 5 that it will stage the world premiere of a new Richard Nelson-Ricky Ian Gordon musical, My Life With Albertine, in February 2003.
— By Kenneth Jones