British actress Janie Dee makes her New York stage debut in the role that won her London's Olivier, Evening Standard and Critics Circle awards, playing a futuristic robot-actor in Alan Ayckbourn's dark comedy, Comic Potential, opening Nov. 16 at Manhattan Theatre Club.
John Tillinger directs the new work on MTC's Stage I (where previews began Oct. 24), helming a cast that includes Alexander Chaplin ("Spin City"), John Curless, MacIntyre Dixon (Getting & Spending), Carson Elrod, Peter Michael Goetz (Brighton Beach Memoirs), Mercedes Herrero (The Laramie Project), Robin Moseley (The Sisters Rosensweig), Kristine Nielsen (Betty's Summer Vacation) and Kellie Overbey (Betty's Summer Vacation).
The play, set in the future, offers a world where actors and "actoids" are indistinguishable. An aspiring screenwriter gets more than he bargained for when he finds himself smitten with his almost-human leading lady.
Designers are John Lee Beatty (set), Jane Greenwood (costumes), Brian MacDevitt (lighting) and Bruce Ellman (sound). Janie Dee also received the Olivier Award for her performance as Carrie in the Nicholas Hytner production of Carousel at the Royal National Theatre.
MTC produces the New York premiere of Comic Potential by special arrangement with Michael Codron.
Ayckbourn is the author of over 50 plays, most of which received their first performance at the Stephen Joseph Theatre in Scarborough, England, where he is artistic director. His works include House and Garden, Things We Do for Love, Relatively Speaking, Absurd Person Singular, The Norman Conquests, Bedroom Farce, Just Between Ourselves, A Chorus of Disapproval, Communicating Doors, Man of the Moment and, with Andrew Lloyd Webber, the musical By Jeeves (which gets an American staging in spring 2001 at Pittsburgh Public Theater).
Comic Potential is the fourth play by Ayckbourn at MTC following Absent Friends, Woman In Mind and A Small Family Business.
Tillinger's directing credits include Broadway's Night Must Fall, Getting & Spending, The Sunshine Boys, Inherit the Wind, Broken Glass, The Price, Three Men on a Horse, Sweet Sue, Loot!, Corpse!, The Golden Age and Solomon's Child, as well as Off-Broadway's The Exact Center of the Universe, The Memory of Water; Dealer's Choice; Sylvia, A Perfect Ganesh; The Last Yankee, Lips Together, Teeth Apart, After the Fall, Breaking Legs, The Lisbon Traviata, Urban Blight, The Film Society, Another Antigone, Little Murders; The Perfect Party, It's Only a Play, Serenading Louie, Entertaining Mr. Sloane.
Tickets are $55. MTC Stage I and II are at City Center, 151 W. 55th Street. For information, call (212) 581-1212 or visit the web site at www.comicpotential-mtc.com or www.manhattantheatreclub.com.
Currently playing on MTC's Stage II is A Class Act, a new musical based on the life of quirky New York songwriter Ed Kleban, using songs he wrote over the years.
— By Kenneth Jones