While Off-Broadway’s Second Stage Theatre finishes the hugely acclaimed run of August Wilson's Jitney and basks in the somewhat surprising critical and box office strength of their recent revival of Edward Albee’s enigmatic and once-controversial Tiny Alice, the company’s next production is now at the starting gate. Reg Rogers, last seen starring in a CSC revival of Look Back in Anger opposite Enid Graham, is the titular protagonist of Cellini, a historical drama written and directed by John Patrick Shanley.
Cellini, starting previews Jan. 24 (a day later than the first preview date announced many weeks ago) and opening Feb. 12, examines Renaissance sculptor Benvenuto Cellini and his attempt to make great art while pleasing his benefactor, Pope Clement VII. Shanley, best known for penning the “Moonstruck” screenplay, has penned such plays as The Big Funk, The Dreamer Examines His Pillow, Psychopathia Sexualis and Danny and the Deep Blue Sea.
Rogers was a Tony nominee for his work opposite Laura Linney in an acclaimed Broadway revival of Holiday. His co-stars include Lisa Bansavage, David Chandler, Daniel Oreskes, Lucas Papaelias, Gary Perez, Richard Russell Ramos, Jennifer Roszell and John Gould Rubin.
Designing the show are Martin Pakledinaz (costumes), Brian Nason (lighting), Adrianne Lobel (set) and David Van Tieghem (sound).
Author Shanley told Time Out NY (Jan. 18) he's worked on Cellini for six years. "I think it's a more demanding play than I've ever done before... The struggle an artist goes through is the same struggle everyone goes through, with whatever they choose to do. How much commitment do you have? How honest are you willing to be? How badly do you want to do this?" Shanley added that those very questions dogged him while revising Cellini after he first staged it at Vassar College. "The play became my autobiography, too," he told Time Out NY. "And then nothing was good enough. The whole play stank, as far as I was concerned. It became a drama about seeing the back of your own head — seeing your own weaknesses, your own braggadocio, your false confidence, your twisted sexuality, your murderous rages." Eventually, Shanley distanced himself from the material and was able to show an artist nearly coming apart in the first and then devoting himself to his craft in the second.
For tickets ($30-$50) and information on Cellini at Second Stage Theatre call (212) 246-4422.
Also on tap for the Second Stage season:
Beth Henley's Crimes of the Heart is scheduled for a revival, with previews starting April 3. Henley's play about kooky Southern sisters has remained a staple of regional and community playhouses. More recent plays have included the poorly-received Family Week this season and last year's Impossible Marriage at the Roundabout. Other Henley works include The Wake of Jamey Foster (on Broadway in 1982) and The Miss Firecracker Contest. The surprising news here is that Garry Hynes, Tony-winning director of The Beauty Queen of Leenane, will helm the 1981 show.
The final show of the Second Stage season will be Once Around the City, a new musical by Willie and Robert Reale. The production — to be directed by Mark Linn-Baker (who will be acting artistic director of the theatre for six months beginning in January 2001) and choreographed by Jennifer Muller — will begin previews June 12.
City, set in the 1980's, is described as an antidote to the "greed decade." The central story pits a yuppie real estate agent against an advocate of the homeless. Romance, comedy, Reaganomics and a jazzy score are mixed into the show.
The brothers Reale have written six musicals together, including Quark Victory, which played at the Williamstown Theatre Festival in 1999. That quirky tuner centered around a teenage girl named Samantha who takes an amazing journey into the nucleus of an atom. Karen Ziemba and Wilson Jermaine Heredia starred in the production.
For ticket and subscription information call Second Stage Theatre at (212) 787-5600.
In other Second Stage news, the company's much-acclaimed production of August Wilson's Jitney will close at the Union Square Theatre Jan. 28. The show, which has touring plans, ended its run at Second Stage’s home venue Sept. 10 and reopened Sept. 19 at the larger Union Square.
In further Second Stage news, as mentioned above, actor Mark Linn-Baker, best known for his years on TV's "Perfect Strangers" and work in filmdom's "My Favorite Year" has been tapped by artistic director Carole Rothman to oversee the company while she takes a half-year vacation, that started Jan. 1 (she’s expected back next fall to run the 2001-02 season).
A co-founder of New York Stage and Film, Linn-Baker was last seen OB in Chesapeake (a commercial production at the Second Stage space) and had recent Broadway roles in A Flea in Her Ear and A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum. A Second Stage spokesperson at the Richard Kornberg press office didn't know whether Linn-Baker would be choosing any shows for the following season or simply overseeing the Jan-Aug. 2001 slate chosen by Rothman, as well as directing Once Around the City.
— By David Lefkowitz