Lily Tomlin won a Tony Award for creating a world of characters in Jane Wagner's The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe in 1985, and on Nov. 16 she opens in a return visit of the solo show on Broadway. The doors to the Booth Theatre, the intimate house that proved pure gold for Dame Edna last season, opened for previews Nov. 11.
The play, in which Tomlin plays a collection of offbeat, heartbreaking, hopeful and humorous characters, is directed by Wagner.
Designers on board to help create the skewed worlds of the seriocomic monologue-playlets are Klara Zieglerova (scenic), Ken Billington (lighting), G. Thomas Clark and Mark Bennett (sound). Tomlin had something of a tryout for the returning Broadway run: She toured a trim concert version of the play to 30 cities between September and December 1999. Fall 2000 dates at Seattle Repertory Theatre (Sept. 6-Oct. 7) and McCarter Theatre in Princeton, NJ (Oct. 17-Nov. 5) played before Broadway. The limited engagement continues to Jan. 21, 2001.
The Search for Signs is produced by Tomlin and Wagner Theatricalz. Tickets range $50-$65. The Booth is at 222 W. 45th St. between Broadway and Eighth Avenue. Call (212) 239-200 for information.
* Tomlin, known for her quirky characters on TV's "Laugh-In" and "Murphy Brown," and in films such as "Nashville" and "9 to 5," won a Best Actress Tony Award in 1985-86 for playing Wagner's varied series of scenes and characters. The script is loaded with incisive seriocomic observations about post 1960s cultural attitudes, expectations and consequences. Wagner, her longtime collaborator, failed to get a nomination. The script of the play, however, became a best-seller and has been re-released by Harper Collins to coincide with the Broadway run.
The show set out on a successful national tour in 1990-91. In the original, Tomlin played a punker teen, a wise bag lady, hookers, a fitness freak, a husband, a lesbian editor and more.
One of the more celebrated lines of the play had a character named Lynn, struggling to be a superwoman, observing, "If I had known what it would be like to have it all, I might have settled for less."
The 1999 tour was considered an exploratory reapproach to see how the material played more than a decade after it premiered. The tour was a Delsener Slater production, produced by Tomlin.
Tomlin is a Detroit native who rose to fame on late 1960s TV and graduated to films such as "All of Me," "Incredible Shrinking Woman," "Moment by Moment" (directed by Wagner), "Nashville" and, recently, "Tea With Mussolini."
Her previous Broadway show, Appearing Nitely, in 1977, earned her a Special Tony Award.