SoHo Movers: Strictly Personal Breaks Up; Uncle Bob Moves In

News   SoHo Movers: Strictly Personal Breaks Up; Uncle Bob Moves In Like nearly a dozen other New York shows, the Off-Broadway comedy Strictly Personal was set to shutter at the end of last year. But at the last minute, the producers decided to stay the executioner and keep the show going at least one more week, through Jan. 7. That week turned into two full months, with the show reaching performance number 150 on Sunday, Feb. 25.

Like nearly a dozen other New York shows, the Off-Broadway comedy Strictly Personal was set to shutter at the end of last year. But at the last minute, the producers decided to stay the executioner and keep the show going at least one more week, through Jan. 7. That week turned into two full months, with the show reaching performance number 150 on Sunday, Feb. 25.

But the show's longevity aside, word in the industry had Personal losing quite a bit of money each week, with speculation building over how long producer Jake Feinberg - also the author - could keep going in the red. The answer came suddenly: Strictly Personal closed Sunday, March 11, at the Soho Playouse. Jake Feinberg's play had begun previews Oct. 17, 2000 and opened Nov. 8.

A few cast changes occurred in the comedy, which most recently added Celia Tackaberry, best known for playing the Margaret Dumont-type role in The Cocoanuts a few seasons back. According to a spokesperson at the Tony Origlio office, other performers at the end of the run included Hayden Adams, Mike Bachmann,  Daniel Cantor, Laurie Dawn, Denise Wilbanks, Andrea Powell and Angela Roberts.

For two New York City residents, the only way back to love after a disastrous marriage is through the New York Magazine personals section, or so says Feinberg's comedy, which follows the dating woes of two New Yorkers, middle-aged Jewish lawyer Dan and his next door neighbor Lori, who, at the merciless hands of their friends, reenter the singles scene after their divorces. With help from the New York Magazine personal ads, they kiss a lot of frogs before they find their true loves.

A former stand up comedian, Feinberg received an Honorable Mention at the 1998 McLaren Memorial Play competition and subsequent Equity showcase for Strictly Personal. Actress and choreographer Donna Drake directs. As a performer, she was nominated for an Emmy and received a Theatre World Award. Her credits include the original production of A Chorus Line, Sophisticated Ladies, Woman of the Year, The 1940's Radio Hour and Wind in the Willows. The artistic director of the Illyria Theatre Company, Drake recently directed Splendora at the Chelsea Playhouse.

The design team was George Xenos (sets), Michael Gilliam (lighting) and Carolyn Birks (costumes). Brian Klevan Schneider was the stage manager.

The SoHo Playhouse is located at 15 Vandam Street at Sixth Avenue. Next up at the venue will be a revival of Uncle Bob, Austin Pendleton's 1995 drama. A spokesman for the theatre told Playbill On-Line (March 13) that the production, presented by the Rebellion Theatre Company, will begin rehearsals in late March and start previews April 12.

A company called Rebellion would seem the right troupe to present the provocative Uncle Bob. The taut, two-person drama was a bit of a succes de scandale when the Mint Theatre first produced it in Manhattan in early 1995. The title character is a fiercely intelligent and highly opinionated wash-out who now lives in a small Greenwich Village basement flat on the charity of his brother. Bob's only real connection to his family is with Josh, his jaded, slacker nephew. Between Bob's status as a failed former prodigy now suffering from perhaps willfully contracted AIDS and Josh's propensity to crash new cars and otherwise squander his potential, the two are perfect kindred spirits. Their mutual affection for each other, however, goes a little too far by play's end.

Pendleton is best known as an actor, with credits like The Diary of Anne Frank, Fiddler on the Roof and The Last Sweet Days of Isaac under his belt. He is currently essaying the title role in Richard II at the Frog and Peach company in NYC. He also has directed dozens of productions, including Say Goodnight, Gracie, The Runner Stumbles and The Little Foxes on Broadway.

Uncle Bob is Pendleton's second play. Before it, he wrote Booth, about the Booth theatrical family. His most recent work is Orson's Shadow, which has received productions at Steppenwolf Theatre Company, the Williamstown Theatre Festival and the Westport Country Playhouse. After Uncle Bob played the Mint, it was produced at Steppenwolf, with Pendleton playing the title role.

No cast or director has been announced for the Soho Plahouse production.

- By David Lefkowitz
and Christine Ehren and Robert Simonson