STAGE TO SCREEN: Dribs n' Drabs, Angels n' Tongues

STAGE TO SCREEN: Dribs n' Drabs, Angels n' Tongues In the absence of juicy new projects to discuss, I decided to do the Larry King thing this week. You know, string a bunch of short items into one semi-cohesive column. I’ll try to keep the shameful plugs to a minimum, unlike The Suspendered One, but a few of my favorites do pop us this time. Here goes:

In the absence of juicy new projects to discuss, I decided to do the Larry King thing this week. You know, string a bunch of short items into one semi-cohesive column. I’ll try to keep the shameful plugs to a minimum, unlike The Suspendered One, but a few of my favorites do pop us this time. Here goes:

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The biggest news, in my opinion, is the fact that Mike Nichols has his cast lined up for the six-hour “Angels in America” miniseries on HBO. Patrick Wilson (as Joe) and Jeffrey Wright (the only Broadway holdover) will manage to juggle filming around their Broadway roles in Oklahoma! and Topdog/Underdog, respectively. Al Pacino, Emma Thompson and Meryl Streep are the headliners, and they’ve been joined by a very promising group of young theatre actors.

If you thought Mary-Louise Parker and Ben Shenkman had some sexual tension in Proof, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet. Shenkman plays Louis, who hauls Joe out of the closet and into some scenes that should test HBO’s boundaries a bit. Parker plays Joe’s ozone-obsessed wife, Harper. And my concerns about the role of Prior have been assuaged somewhat by the news that Justin Kirk, who has made a bit of a specialty out of emotionally and/or physically fragile gay men (Love! Valor! Compassion!, Ten Unknowns), will take on the role. Good luck, gang: This play ain’t easy, and people will be watching.

* As you’ve undoubtedly heard, the Roundabout production of The Women will air on PBS May 29. Except for the gratuitous bit of full frontal nudity, it’s a good match for the small screen: Three of the stars - Cynthia Nixon, Kristen Johnston and Rue McClanahan -- are all best known for their TV work. And as Playbill On-Line reported, look for PBS to film “Copenhagen” at some point this spring.

What you may not have heard is that the PBS series “Stage on Screen,” which will present “The Women,” also plans to air two evenings of the much-anticipated Beckett movies. (There’s the first plug.) Given the wildly varying lengths of the 19 Beckett films, it’s unclear how many would make their way into the broadcast. But after almost two years of dribs and drabs, isn’t it time to get the whole Beckett batch into one place? If Michael Colgan could get them all on stage in both Dublin and New York, how hard can it be?

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Speaking of the Roundabout, I was fairly late getting to Speaking in Tongues. Now that I’ve finally seen it, however, I can actually make a statement I don’t get to make very often: The film -- “Lantana,” opening Jan. 25 in several cities -- is better. Andrew Bovell’s play gets a solid, well-acted production, but what occasionally comes across as implausible on stage comes to intricate life in his superb screenplay. Sure, Bovell removed one major point of convergence from the play -- but he added another, arguably more coincidental one. Seeing the play made me want to run out and catch “Lantana” again, just to see how he did it. (It also gives me hope that Bovell will perform similar alchemy on his next project, the film adaptation of Arthur Miller’s problematic A View From the Bridge.) We’ll see if I have a similar reaction when I catch the revised revival of Tape this weekend.

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I don’t have much to add to the news that Neil LaBute is bringing his The Shape of Things to the big screen with the original cast, except to marvel over the amazingly fast turnaround. To everyone who grumbles when we “lose” theater people like Julie Taymor to Hollywood, bear in mind that LaBute would never be able to put something like this together so quickly with the help of a major studio if it weren’t for his tight relationship with Universal. Bear in mind that Angels in America opened on Broadway in 1993; The Shape of Things opened in New York three months ago. Not only do the great ones come back, but they bring their clout with them.

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Cutting-Room Floor: The “Chicago” movie has a Go-to-Hell Kitty, and she’s a doozy. I’m not sure if I can say who it is: If I get confirmation, I’ll drop it in the next column. ... Kenneth Lonergan (my second and final plug) is supposedly working on a screenplay on the cult classic “Time and Again” for Robert Redford, who would act but not direct. Lonergan’s latest script, “Gangs of New York,” will hit screens July 12. ... Two Broadway-bound performers -- Alan Bates (Fortune’s Fool) and Laura Linney (The Crucible) -- can be seen in “The Mothman Prophecies” (Jan. 25), which some critics have singled out as the one potential quality release in the traditionally horrendous month of January. And “Birthday Girl” (Feb. 1), starring probable Oscar nominee Nicole Kidman, marks the return of playwright Jez Butterworth (Mojo) to the screen. This title has apparently been kicking around Miramax for quite a while, though, so we’ll see.

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My Favorite Thought: Craig and Philip had these suggestion for biopics worth making:

Craig: “I would love to see a bio-movie made of the career of David Merrick. I am not sure which actor today would be able to capture his essence, since I have seen very little footage of him and was not alive during his heyday. However, I would love to see Tim Robbins be connected to it somehow. I thought his direction of ‘Cradle Will Rock’ was wonderful. Or maybe Woody Allen?”

Philip: “I would like to see a biopic of Shelley Winters. Her two autobiographies are the stuff that make up a great biopic. She's won two Oscars. She had affairs with Marlon Brando and Burt Lancaster, among others. Marilyn Monroe was her roommate in Hollywood. She wound up in a men's restroom with Prince Philip. She wandered around Communist Russia alone at daybreak. The actress that played her would definitely have to be able to portray Winters' moxie.”

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Your Thoughts: Fine suggestions, both. I’m suggesting Alfred Molina and either Kate Winslet or Megan Mullally. Who’s got better ideas? Also, I feel like I pretty much covered all the bases about upcoming projects, but did I miss anything? What are your thoughts on the “Angels in America” project? (Note: Don’t forget the new e-mail address. A few regular respondents appear not to have gotten the message.)

Eric Grode is New York bureau chief of Show Music magazine, assistant editor of The Sondheim Review and a theatre critic for Back Stage. He can be reached at egrode@hotmail.com.