We may never see a Tommy Tune/William Finn Royal Family, but San Franciscans can catch the original George S. Kaufman and Edna Ferber 1927 comedy at American Conservatory Theatre, opening March 26 and running thorugh April 20.
Staged by Albert Takazauckas and featuring A.C.T. veteran DeAnn Mears, Royal Family explores life in the theatre -- and its unusual characters. The Barrymore-inspired Cavendish family are three generations of actors, all struggling to balance life and art. The grand dame is Fanny (Mears), returning once more to the stage despite failing health. Her son has abandoned theatre for movies, but her granddaughter may become a great stage star -- if marriage and motherhood don't get in the way.
Director Takazauckas says of Ferber & Kaufman, "They wrote very sophisticated plays with labyrinthian plots. Their comedies have extraordinarily rich characters, a poignancy and depth, and the endings always surprise. Yet, they're funny."
Appearing with Mears will be Valerie Leonard (Broadway's An Ideal Husband), James Carpenter, Aloysius Gigl, Elizabeth Eidenberg, Bryan Close, Toom Blair, Sharon Lockwood, Will Marchetti, Steven W. Bailey, Hector Correa, Michael DeGood, Rod Gnapp, Linda Hoy, Sharon Malone and Derek Doran Wood.
Designing The Royal Family are J.B. Wilson (sets), Peter Maradudin (lighting), Beaver Bauer (costumes) and Stephen LeGrand (sound). Kaufman & Ferber wrote five other plays, including Dinner At Eight and Stage Door. Kaufman also collaborated with Moss Hart and Abe Burrows; Ferber wrote the novel, Show Boat, on which the Kern/Hammerstein musical was based.
Special events tied into The Royal Family production include a post show audience discussion April 1, 6 and 9.
For tickets ($14-$47.50) and information on The Royal Family at ACT's Geary Theatre on Geary St.Call (415) 749-2228.
In other ACT news, nine productions will comprise the 1997-98 American Conservatory Theatre season, including a week-long stay for Spalding Gray and an out of-town tryout for the Broadway-bound musical, High Society.
Carey Perloff, artistic director of the San Francisco theatre, announced five of the seven subscription productions of the upcoming season, plus the two specialty runs: Gray's It's A Slippery Slope and a return of the company's Christmas Carol.
Here's the ACT mainstage line-up:
High Society (prev Sept. 4, op: Sept. 10)
Christopher Renshaw (Broadway's The King And I) directs this adaptation/combination of Philip Barry's The Philadelphia Story and the Cole Porter movie-musical, High Society. Arthur Kopit (Wings, Phantom) is doing the libretto. The story concerns a socialite who falls in love with another man -- of a different class -- on the eve of her wedding. Songs will include standards from the film and other, interpolated Porter tunes.
Old Times (dates TBA)
John Turturro and his wife, Katherine Borowitz (who together appeared in NY's CSC's revival of Brecht's Resistible Rise Of Arturo Ui), will co star again in this revival of Harold Pinter's comedy/drama, directed etic director Perloff. The story centers on a married couple visited by an alluring woman.
A Christmas Carol (prev. Nov. 28; 0p: Nov. 30, To: Dec. 27)
Raye Birk stars as miserly Scrooge in this Dickens adaptation by Laird Williamson and Dennis Powers. Candace Barrett directs.
It's A Slippery Slope (op: Dec. 30, To Jan. 4, 1998)
Monologist Spalding Gray talks about skiing and the dissolving of a longtime romantic relationship.
Insurrection: Holding History (dates TBA)
Charles Randoph-Wright directs Robert O'Hara's drama, which features L. Peter Callender, Steven Anthony Jones and Gregory Wallace. The play examines both homosexuality and the black experience in America.
Mary Stuart (dates TBA)
A new adaptation of the epic Friedrich Schiller drama, featuring music by David Lang and the vocal ensemble, Chanticleer; and a new translation by Village Voice critic Michael Feingold. Mary Queen of Scots and Elizabeth I go head-to-head in this historical tragedy.
A Streetcar Named Desire (dates TBA)
Richard Seyd directs this 50th anniversary production of Tennessee Williams' classic, featuring Marco Barricelli as Stanley Kowalski. Barricelli played Mangiacavallo in 1996's The Rose Tattoo at ACT. He also teaches at the company's conservatory.
--By David Lefkowitz