The Roundabout Theatre Company will soon add a new venue to its theatrical empire. The company has taken a one-year lease on Off Broadway's Gramercy Theatre, beginning in January 1999, with an option to stay another year, confirmed press rep Erin Dunn and Gramercy general manager Stephen Levy.
The Roundabout's first presentation at the Gramercy will be Harold Pinter's Ashes to Ashes, directed by Karel Reisz and starring Lindsay Duncan (of the original London cast) and David Strathairn (Hapgood, Eyes For Consuela).
The Gramercy's current tenant, Dinah Was, starring Lillias White, has begun advertising "last weeks." No closing date has been announced, but the production will end its run before the end of December, said Levy, most likely Dec. 7.
Dinah Was was the first show at the Gramercy, which opened as a legit house only within the last year.
The Roundabout has lately found itself in a odd situation, in terms of real estate. In 1997, the company was suddenly asked to leave its space at Broadway's Criterion Center, the victim of Times Square's rising property values. The Roundabout's plans to restore and move into the Selwyn Theatre on 42nd Street were already underway at that point. The company plans to move into the Selwyn by the middle of 1999. Harold Pinter's Ashes to Ashes will receive its American premiere at the Gramercy. The path to New York has been a long one for Ashes. The play opened at London's Royal Court Theatre in September of 1996 with Pinter directing, and Stephen Rea (Someone Who'll Watch Over Me, "The Crying Game") co-starring with Duncan.
The show was previously on the Laura Pels schedule for early 1999. Dunn confirmed, however, that Paula Vogel's Mineola Twins would take that slot.
Ashes , a two character play about a faltering marriage, takes place in a university town outside of London. Roundabout also had the New York premiere of the last new Pinter play to hit the States in 1995, with Moonlight, starring Jason Robards and Blythe Danner.
White replaced Yvette Freeman in Dinah Was, who originated the role in the WPA Theatre production that later transferred to the Gramercy Theatre. Freeman is returning to her roles as Nurse Haleh Adams on TV's "ER" and her co-starring spot on NBC's "Working,"
White made a splash belting the "Brotherhood of Man" number in the recent How To Succeed in Business... Broadway revival and then won a Tony as Best Featured Actress in a Musical for her work in the Cy Coleman's The Life. Freeman appeared on Broadway and on tour in Ain't Misbehavin' and has worked at the Muny in St. Louis (Show Boat) and the Boston mounting of Nunsense.
Back in 1959, Dinah Washington was one of the first black artists to cross into the all-white pop charts. With such hits as "What A Difference A Day Makes" and "Come Rain or Come Shine," not to mention her great duet with Brook Benton, "Baby, You've Got What It Takes," Washington became a legendary songstress before she died at a mere 39.
Oliver Goldstick's drama with music, Dinah Was, captures the singer at the peak of her fame, telling of her battles with racism and her career in the music business.
Jean Doumanian, producer of Death Defying Acts, is producing the commercial mounting, which started performances May 28 with the same cast. David Petrarca stages Dinah Was.
For tickets and information on Dinah Was call (212) 777-4900.
--By Robert Simonson and David Lefkowitz and Sean McGrath