Even a jaded theatregoer is likely to perk up at the list of notables announced for the 1998 Williamstown Theatre Festival in Massachusetts' Berkshires area, through Aug. 30. Eleven plays are being done in 11 weeks, plus a late-night cabaret.
Currently on the Mainstage, June 24-July 5, is Tennessee Williams' early masterpiece, The Glass Menagerie, directed by Neel [sic] Keller, current artistic associate at La Jolla Playhouse. Dana Ivey (Sex and Longing, Driving Miss Daisy) stars as faded belle Amanda Wingfield. Eric Stoltz (Our Town, Tony Walton's Off-Broadway mounting of The Importance of Being Earnest) co-stars as Amanda's unhappy son, Tom. Jenny Bacon plays Laura, Tate Donovan is the Gentleman Caller.
Designing the season opener are Hugh Landwehr (set), David Murin (costumes), Rui Rita (lighting) and Kurt B. Kellenberger (sound).
On the smaller, 96-seat Nikos Stage (recently renamed for founding director Nikos Psacharopoulos) is The Big Knife, Clifford Odets' look at a movie star who compromised his talent for an empty life in Hollywood. Joanne Woodward, who has recently staged numerous Odets plays, directs, June 17-28.
Upcoming on the second stage, July 1-12, will be the latest from Paul Rudnick, The Most Fabulous Story Ever Told. Christopher Ashley directs this comedy by the author of Jeffrey and I Hate Hamlet. Fabulous, in retelling the story of Adam and Eve, tackles such issues as the existence of God, the need for belief, and "the impact of Olivia Newton John as a religious icon." Starring are Jessica Hecht (The Last Night of Ballyhoo), Alan Tudyk (Bunny BunnyNine Armenians), Michael Wiggins, Peter Bartlett, Michi Barall, Becky Ann Baker and Bobby Cannavale. Designing the show are Rui Rita (lighting), Marion Williams (costumes) and Michael Brown (set).
[The show is scheduled for the upcoming season at New York Theatre Workshop -- which could make for some interesting times in Manhattan, what with Rudnick's reworking of Genesis in Fabulous and Terrence McNally (reportedly) featuring a gay Jesus in his latest, Corpus Christi, at Manhattan Theatre Club.]
After Glass Menagerie on the mainstage, Williamstown audiences will then say "Hello, Dolly" to actress/comedienne Andrea Martin, who stars as Dolly Levi in Thornton Wilder's The Matchmaker, July 8-19.
Martin, whose solo Nude, Nude, Totally Nude raised big laughs at the Public Theatre a couple of seasons ago, will be joined by Lewis J. Stadlen (Olympus On My Mind, Mizlansky-Zilinsky) as Horace, Marian Seldes (Three Tall Women) as Flora, and comedian Lewis Black (Black Humor) as Joe, alongside Kate Burton (Jake's Women), Tom Bloom, Christopher Fitzgerald, Katie MacNichol, Rod McLachlan, MichaelJohn [sic] McGann and Adam Trese. Designing Matchmaker are Michael Krass (costumes), James Noone (set) and Kenneth Posner (lighting). Williamstown resident director Nicholas Martin will stage this comedy about a widow who tries to fix up a wealthy bachelor -- with herself.
The very first season at Williamstown (1955), founding artistic director Nikos Psacharopoulos staged N. Richard Nash's comedy/drama, The Rainmaker. Now Scott Ellis, who recently reaped plaudits for Broadway's 1776 revival, will stage The Rainmaker at WTF, July 22-Aug. 2. Later made into the Jones/Schmidt musical 110 in the Shade, Rainmaker tells of a town hit by drought -- and bowled over by a handsome conman.
Roger Rees, last on Broadway in The Rehearsal, directs Richard Brinsley Sheridan's farce, The Rivals, Aug. 5-16. No word on who'll play the verbally cacaphonous -- er, calamitous, Mrs. Malaprop.
And what is Hecuba to Williamstown and Williamstown to Hecuba? We'll find out Aug. 19-30 when Timberlake Wertenbaker's adaptation of Euripides' tragedy travels to WTF from San Francisco's American Conservatory Theatre. Carey Perloff directs, with Olympia Dukakis starring.
On the Nikos stage, July 15-26, Williamstown travels to Far East - Former Seattle Rep artistic director Dan Sullivan helms the latest play by A.R. Gurney (The Cocktail Hour, Love Letters). Set in the 1950s, Far East tells of a young naval officer looking for fun in Japan before Voice of America calls him home.
Also due for the second stage:
Evolution -- From the author of Women and Wallace, Jonathan Marc Sherman, comes this comedy about a Harvard student who knows nothing about popular culture yet becomes a hot property in Hollywood. Nicholas Martin directs, July 29-Aug. 9.
Corners -- A man's free sex life gets him into trouble in this drama by David Rabe, author of Hurlyburly and A Question of Mercy. Scott Ellis, who helms the aforementioned Rainmaker, directs, Aug. 12-23.
Also at the Williamstown Fest, family audiences can enjoy Carlo Gozzi's The Blue Demon (July 23-Aug. 1), directed by Dark Tresjnak. This fairy tale, based on The Arabian Nights, features dance, masks and puppetry.
A special late-nite Cabaret (July 2-Aug. 14) and the Greylock Theatre Project for disadvantaged youth also comprise the Festival, as do a site specific piece by Act I Company and New Play Readings in consideration for next year's Fest. Michael Ritchie serves as producer of the Festival.
Williamstown Festival tickets went onsale June 10 at the box office or by calling (413) 597-3400. WTF's 24-hour information line is (413) 597 3399.
-- By David Lefkowitz