After causing press across the country to exhaust every possible underwear-related headline, Steve Martin's The Underpants will open with Classic Stage Company April 4. The comedian and film star's adaptation of late playwright Carl Stenheim's comedy began previews March 21. CSC artistic director Barry Edelstein directs.
The Underpants dropped performances to allow replacements Lee Wilkof (Kiss Me, Kate, Assassins) and Cheryl Bowers some extra rehearsal time. Wilkof steps in for Fisher Stevens (a producer of "In the Bedroom," who begged off the role to do Oscarly and film festival duties), while Bowers replaces Heather Goldenhersh, who took a role in a film version of "Nicholas Nickleby" and had to pull out.
Those losses, however, haven't slowed the interest in the Martin comedy. Variety reported April 2 that commercial producers are considering transferring the play once its Classic Stage run ends. The Variety Arts, currently home to Necessary Targets, was named as a possible home.
The Underpants tells of a man who's mortally embarrassed when his wife's undies fall down during the procession of the King. Two gentlemen notice her predicament and become immediately smitten with her. The Underpants runs March 20-April 28 at CSC (officially opening April 4). Starring in the show are Patrick Boll, Christian Camargo (Kit Marlowe), William Duell, Byron Jennings (The Man Who Came to Dinner), and Kristine Nielsen (Betty's Summer Vacation).
Martin, who made it big as a comedian with the album "Let's Get Small" and has been a movie star since "The Jerk" (followed by such pics as "The Man with Two Brains," "Planes, Trains and Automobiles," "Father of the Bride" and "Pennies From Heaven") made theatrical waves as a playwright in the 1990s with his comedy Picasso at the Lapin Agile. The past couple of years have seen him return to Hollywood and concentrate on films, his art collection and numerous comic essays for the New Yorker, as well as a novella, "Shopgirl." Playwright Sternheim was born in 1878 in Leipzig. After studying philosophy he co-founded "Hyperion" literary magazine and went on to write such plays as The Cassette and The Snob. After encountering moral outrage over some of his writing, Sternheim moved to Brussels and lived there until his death in 1942.
Designing The Underpants are Scott Pask (set), Angela Wendt (costumes), Elizabeth Rhodes (sound) and Russell H. Champa (lighting).
For tickets and information on The Underpants at CSC, 136 East 13th St., call (212) 677-4210, ext. 2.
— By Christine Ehren