Roger Rees and Dana Ivey star in the world premiere of a comedy by Evan Smith, The Uneasy Chair, which will open Playwrights Horizons' 1998-99 season and begin performances Sept. 11. The play, set in Victorian London, tells of a miserly spinster (Ivey) who owns a boarding house and sues her crotchety tenant (Rees) over a breach of promise. Though they can't stand each other, they're practically married to each other.
Chair will be directed by Richard Cottrell and will officially open Oct. 4 for a run through Oct. 18. Also in the cast are Michael Arkin, Paul Fitzgerald and Haviland Morris (Aristocrats). The production is designed by Derek McLane (sets), Jess Goldstein (costumes), Peter Kaczarowski (lights) and JR Conklin (sound).
Smith is a 1994 graduate of the Yale School of Drama. His other plays include Remedial English and The Ecstasy of Lucy.
Rees' New York credits include The Rehearsal at the Roundabout, Indiscretions on Broadway and At the End of the Day at Playwrights Horizons. Ivey's recent credits include the Broadway productions of The Last Night of Ballyhoo and Sex and Longing.
* Also on tap for Playwrights Horizons' 28th season will be the Pulitzer nominated Freedomland by Amy Freed. This darkly satiric comedy had its premiere at South Coast Repertory in Costa Mesa, CA, Nov. 1997. Howard Shalwitz will direct the New York production, which will run Nov. 20-Dec. 27. The play takes its title from the name of a Wild West theme park in the Bronx, where Freed grew up. (The park was ultimately torn down in the 1960s to make way for Co-op City, a high-rise housing development.)
"Freedomland [the park] represents a primordial, unquestioning order for me -- a place of safety," said Freed in a recent interview in the Los Angeles Times. The play, however, is not about the warm, nostalgic world of amusement parks -- at its center is a distraught family with deep seated problems: The father has been abandoned by his first wife; his second wife is a free-love refugee; his two grown daughters -- an avant garde artist and a lost soul who loves to go to Alcoholics Anonymous meetings -- hate each other; and his paranoid son is on the verge of going postal.
Freed's previous play, the black comedy The Psychic Life of Savages -- a fictionalized look at the poets Sylvia Plath, Ted Morgan, Anne Sexton, and Robert Lowell -- won the New York Arts Club's prestigious $10,000 Joseph Kesselring Award and was a hit two seasons ago at Woolly Mammoth Theatre in Washington (in a production that won a 1995 Charles McArthur Award for outstanding new play).
After a lengthy lay-off from playwriting, Christopher Durang has been working double-time the past couple of years, bringing a show to Broadway (Sex and Longing), and one-acts to such venues as Ensemble Studio Theatre and Manhattan Theatre Club (Durang Durang). Now he'll premiere a new full-length comedy, Betty's Summer Vacation, scheduled for Playwrights' third slot, Feb. 5-Mar. 14, 1999. Nicholas Martin (Full Gallop) will direct.
The titular protagonist rents a summer house to get away from it all, only to discover her flat-mates work at scandal mongering tabloids.
Other works by the playwright, whose comedies often push the dark limits of farce, include Beyond Therapy, Sister Mary Ignatius Explains It All For You, The Actor's Nightmare, Nina in the Morning, Wanda's Visit, A Stye of the Eye, Mrs. Sorken and History of the American Film.
Playwrights Horizons fourth production has yet to be determined.
Come autumn, Tim Sanford will begin his fourth season as artistic director of Playwrights Horizons, 416 West 42nd St. For ticket and subscription information call (212) 279-4200.