Veanne Cox, the actress who has put the "fun" in dysfunction in a gaggle of New York productions, from the Roundabout Theatre's Company to Off-Broadway's The Food Chain, continues her tradition Dec. 16 when Freedomland, her latest vehicle, opens at Playwrights Horizons.
In Amy Freed's dysfunctional-family comedy, Cox plays the artist daughter of a former hippie. Her focus is painting "clown hobos."
Previews for the neurotic, dark comedy at the Anne G. Wilder Theater at Playwrights Horizons (416 W. 42nd St. in Manhattan) began Nov. 27. It continues to Jan. 3, 1999.
The play had its premiere at South Coast Repertory in Costa Mesa, CA, in November 1997. The title is from the name of a Wild West theme park in the Bronx, where Freed grew up. (The park was ultimately torn down in the 1960s to make way for Co-op City, a high-rise housing development.)
"Freedomland [the park] represents a primordial, unquestioning order for me -- a place of safety," said Freed in an interview in the Los Angeles Times. The play, however, is not about the warm, nostalgic world of amusement parks; at its center is a distraught family with deep-seated problems. The father has been abandoned by his first wife; his second wife is a free-love refugee; his two grown daughters -- an avant garde artist and a lost soul who loves to go to Alcoholics Anonymous meetings -- hate each other; and his paranoid son is on the verge of going crazy. Added to Freed's world is a sex therapist, a modern art critic and a simple girlfriend.
Cox has been a constant presence in New York theatre over the past couple of seasons, appearing in Nicky Silver's The Food Chain at the Westside Theatre, Company (a Tony Award nominee, as marriage shy Amy), a summer 1998 reading of Silver's The Altruists at the Drama Dept., Labor Day at Manhattan Theatre Club and The Waiting Room at the Vineyard Theatre. Her films include the recent "Henry Fool."
Joining Cox on stage are Jeffrey Donovan, Heather Goldenhersh, Dakin Matthews, Carrie Preston (The Tempest with Frank Langella, Antony and Cleopatra at the Public), Robin Strasser (TV's "One Life to Live") and Jeff Whitty.
Howard Shalwitz directs. Designers are Loy Arcenas (scenery), Candice Donnelly (costumes), Christopher Akerlind (lighting) and Johnna Doty (sound).
Freed's previous play, the black comedy The Psychic Life of Savages -- a fictionalized look at the poets Sylvia Plath, Ted Morgan, Anne Sexton, and Robert Lowell -- won the New York Arts Club's prestigious $10,000 Joseph Kesselring Award and was a hit two seasons ago at Woolly Mammoth Theatre in Washington (in a production that won a 1995 Charles MacArthur Award for outstanding new play).
Asked about her world view, Freed recently told New York Magazine, "I do feel faintly apocalyptic. As if there's some great cultural shape that's about to change, and we don't know exactly what it is."