Ten years in the planning and building, Seattle Repertory Theatre will christen its new $8.7 million second stage Jan. 3 with Peter Parnell's epic, two-part drama, The Cider House Rules, adapted from John Irving's novel.
Tom Hulce and Jane Jones co-direct the 8-hour piece, which begins previews Jan. 3 and opens Jan.15. Both parts have been developed in workshops at Seattle Rep, but this is the first time they're being presented together, on alternating nights, as a fully-staged production. The play concerns young Homer Wells, his life in and outside an orphanage, and his father figure, Dr. Larch, who both saves babies and performs abortions.
The second part will run in a modified repertory schedule with the first, with a closing date set for Feb. 15. Seattle Rep's spokesperson Linda Glass said theatregoers can see both parts on the same day (Jan. 18, Jan. 19, Jan. 26, Feb. 1, Feb. 2, Feb. 8, Feb. 9, Feb. 12). Though the epic itself runs close to eight hours, the full-day, two-part experience is actually longer, because the matinee generally starts at 12:30 PM and the evening at 6:30 or 7 PM.
Hulce is a well known film actor ("Amadeus," "Animal House") who made his Broadway debut in Equus; Jane Jones is the founder and artistic director of Book-It Repertory in Seattle, which is dedicated to bringing novels to the stage. Jones, Hulce and Parnell all met while working on Parnell's own "Rise And Rise Of Daniel Rocket." Parnell's other works include The Sorrows Of Stephen, Romance Language and Hyde In Hollywood.
The cast of 25 for Cider House Rules features Neal Huff as Homer, Michael Winters as Dr. Larch, Christophoer Collet as Wally, Novella Nelson as Nurse Angela, and Lauren Tewes (yes, Lauren Tewes of "Love Boat") as Olive. Other cast members are Jillian Armenante, Tom Beyer, Sarah Brooke, Brienin Bryant, Rebecca Chace, James Chesnutt, Anthony Lee, Dougald Park, Myra Platt, Reginald A. Jackson, Stephanie Shine, Todd Sible, A. Bryan Humphrey, Jayne Taini, David-Paul Wichert and Ron Simons. David Zinn designed the costumes, Jim Ragland the sound, Christine Jones the set and Greg Sullivan the lighting.
Seattle Rep can't help but have pressing hopes for Cider House, since it's opening the epic just before the February deadline for Pulitzer Prize consideration. The Pulitzers have had a recent craving for lengthy epics (Angels In America, The Kentucky Cycle).
Here are some highlights of the new state-of-the-art 286-seat theatre:
* The depth and wings of the 81'X24' stage are 256% greater than the Bagley Wright.
* Three booths - lighting, sound and follow-spot
* Tracked and motorized lighting trusses on stage
* The PONCHO Forum, now used as a 133-seat theatre, will go back to being a rehearsal space
* New lobby area with rotunda
In other Seattle Rep news, the mainstage is hosting A.R. Gurney's comedy Sylvia. The Off-Broadway hit will run to Jan. 25 and star Barbara Dirickson (Sylvia), Jim Fyfe, Sally Smythe and R. Hamilton Wright.
For information and tickets ($10-$38 for Sylvia; $20-$28 per night for Cider) call (206)443-2210.
-- By David Lefkowitz