The Steppenwolf Theatre Company's extended revival of the 1927 George S. Kaufman-Edna Ferber comedy, The Royal Family, running at the Chicago theatre since April 18, will close on June 22. The original closing date was June 16.
Lois Smith, David New, Sally Murphy and Amy Morton play members of the fabulous Cavendish family, the Barrymore-like acting clan at the center of the play.
The production, directed by Frank Galati, is in the tradition of such lavish Steppenwolf ventures into the American theatrical past as The Man Who Came to Dinner, Harvey and You Can't Take It With You
Smith—a two-time Tony nominee for Buried Child and The Grapes of Wrath, who returns to Steppenwolf for the second time this season after opening the 2001-02 Mainstage line-up in Mother Courage—is family patriarch Fanny Cavendish. Morton is her Ethel Barrymore-ish daughter Julie, while New is Tony Cavendish, recently returned from Hollywood and forever acting out (even by family standards).
Murphy, recently seen Off-Broadway in Brutal Imagination, is Gwen Cavendish. She will soon join the cast of A Man of No Importance at Lincoln Center Theater. Also in the cast are Christopher Innvar as Gilbert Marshall, B.J. Jones as Herbert Dean, Rondi Reed as Kitty Dean and Alan Wilder as Oscar Wolfe. The play inspired a 1930 film starring Frederic March and Ina Claire. A recent West End mounting was headlined by Dame Judi Dench as Fanny.
The current season concludes with a new work by playwright Bruce Norris. Norris is well known as an actor. Most recently, he starred on Broadway opposite Ron Rifkin in the short-lived Wrong Mountain. Other New York credits include Plunge, An American Daughter, Marco Polo Sings a Solo and La Terrasse. His play, The Infidel, enjoyed an extended run at Steppenwolf's Studio space last winter. With his latest work, Purple Heart, running July 5-Aug. 25 (opening July 14), he graduates to the mainstage. Laurie Metcalf stars as a mother trying to go on after her husband is killed in the Vietnam War. Anna Shapiro, who directed The Infidel, returns to Norris' work.
As previously reported, Homebody/Kabul will fill the final Mainstage slot in the Steppenwolf Theatre Company's 2002-03 season in Chicago. The Tony Kushner play will run July 10-Aug. 31, 2003, with an opening on July 20. Frank Galati directs.
Homebody/Kabul premiered Off-Broadway at New York Theatre Workshop last fall, just weeks after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Though Kushner wrote the work before the tragedy, the plot, half set in Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan, proved prescient.
Homebody/Kabul, as the title might indicate, is divided into two fairly distinct parts. The first, Homebody, is a one-hour monologue delivered by an eccentric English woman who has retreated from her family and contemporary life in a fecund fantasy world of books, history and verbiage. Kabul, meanwhile, introduces the Homebody's husband and daughter as they journey to the title city in search of the suddenly vanished, and perhaps dead, woman. There, they encounter a culture and world that upends all their previously held ideas about their lives and themselves.
The Steppenwolf Theatre Company will begin its 2002-03 mainstage season on Sept. 12 with a new revival of William Saroyan's cozy classic, The Time of Your Life. The production continues Steppenwolf's long tradition of unearthing hoary, big cast American chestnuts, such as Harvey, You Can't Take It With You and the current season's The Royal Family.
Tina Landau will direct the play, which takes place in a waterfront bar patronized by the benevolent oddball Joe, who from his bar stool watches life pass by and sagely comments on the goings-on in his small world, as well as the world at large. The play was made into a movie starring James Cagney. Time will run through Nov. 3. Robert Breuler, Amy Morton, and Jeff Perry star.
I Just Stopped by to See the Man by Stephen Jeffreys, running Nov. 14-Jan. 12, 2003, will follow. Marion McClinton (Jitney, Breath, Boom) was previously named as director. Randall Arney will now perform the service. The play follows an English rock band in search of legendary Delta blues singer Jesse Davidson. As the story goes, Davidson sold his soul to the devil in exchange for his skills as a musician. But other stories say that Davidson is not dead at all.
The plot is drawn from the well known rumors and folklore surrounding Robert Johnson, a guitarist who influenced the likes of Eric Clapton. Johnson's story has been the basis of several movies, including 1986's "Crossroads." Jim True-Frost stars.
Breathe by Javon Johnson had been announced for the third slot in the season, with Ron OJ Person directing. Now, that work is only listed as "under consideration," with "a lost classic of the American canon of drama" and "an adaptation of a literary masterpiece" also in contention for the Feb. 6-March 30 timeslot. Whatever the play, the production will be a collaboration between Steppenwolf and the Congo Square Theatre
The fourth position, running April 17-June 15, 2003, is reserved for Richard Greenberg's The Violet Hour, which will have its premiere at South Coast Rep Nov. 5, 2002. The Violet Hour takes place in the small New York City office of John Seaverings Pace, a writer who, having made it through World War I, is ready to get on with the future. Unfortunately, he can't find his theatre tickets, and his decisions during the day will impact the lives of four others: his employee, two budding writers and his friend's fiance. Terry Kinney will direct.
For information, call (312) 335-1650.