Newly added to the roster of shows in Playwrights Horizons' 1998-99 season is a world premiere comedy by new American playwright Evan Smith. The Uneasy Chair, set in Victorian London, tells of a miserly spinster who owns a boarding house and sues her crotchety tenant over a breach of promise. Though they can't stand each other, they're practically married to each other. The show is scheduled to open the Playwrights Horizons season in the fall.
Two (out of three) other plays were also recently announced for the 1998-99 season at the Off-Broadway venue:
After a lengthy lay-off from playwriting, Christopher Durang has been working double-time the past couple of years, bringing a show to Broadway (Sex and Longing), and one-acts to such venues as Ensemble Studio Theatre and Manhattan Theatre Club (Durang Durang). Now he'll premiere a new full-length comedy, Betty's Summer Vacation. The titular protagonist rents a summer house to get away from it all, only to discover her flat-mates work at scandal mongering tabloids.
Other works by the playwright, whose comedies often push the dark limits of farce, include Beyond Therapy, Sister Mary Ignatius Explains It All For You, The Actor's Nightmare, Nina in the Morning, Wanda's Visit, A Stye of the Eye, Mrs. Sorken and History of the American Film.
Also on tap for Playwrights Horizons' 28th season will be the Pulitzer nominated Freedomland by Amy Freed. This darkly satiric comedy had its premiere at South Coast Repertory in Costa Mesa, CA, Nov. 1997.
The play takes its title 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 a recent 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 postal.
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 McArthur Award for outstanding new play).
Come autumn, Tim Sanford will begin his fourth season as artistic director of Playwrights Horizons, 416 West 42nd St. For ticket and subscription information call (212) 279-4200.
-- By David Lefkowitz