Theatre West is turning 40, its founding member Betty Garrett is turning 83 and the Los Angeles-based company wants to celebrate with a revival of their Spoon River Anthology, a production that transferred to Broadway in 1963. Garrett and Joyce Van Patten will direct the episodic play with Lee Meriwether in a featured role. Spoon River Anthology runs May 17-June 23 at Theatre West with an opening on Garrett's birthday, May 23.
Charles Aidman, co-founder of Theatre West, adapted Spoon River Anthology from Edgar Lee Master's famous collection of poems that serve as autobiographical epitaphs for the 244 residents of a rural Illinois town. Dialogue and monologue is interspersed with musical numbers by Emmy nominee Naomi Caryl, including "He's Gone Away," "I Am, I Am," "The Water Is Wide" and "Times Are Gettin' Hard."
At first a beauty queen (she served as a Miss San Francisco, Miss California and Miss America), Meriwether went on to a career in TV and theatre. Although she is remembered for her roles on "Barnaby Jones" and "Mission: Impossible," she has often appeared on stage including an earlier Theatre West Spoon River, Aesop in Central Park with Richard Dreyfuss, Ladies of Hanover Towers with Carroll O'Connor, Follies, A Little Night Music and The King and I with George Chakiris.
Also in the cast are Bridget Hanley ("Here Comes the Bride," "Harper Valley, P.T.A."), Drew Katzman, Jane George, Abbott Alexander and Andy Taylor.
A veteran of 1940's and '50's musical movies, director Garrett most recently performed on Broadway in the Roundabout Theatre's starry Follies. Director Van Patten, sister of TV's Dick Van Patten, is a stage vet whose credits include creating roles in new work by Neil Simon, A.R. Gurney, Jon Robin Baitz and Elaine May. Theatre West is located at 3333 Cahuenga Boulevard. For reservations, call (323) 851-7977. Theatre West is on the web at http://www.theatrewest.org.
— By Christine Ehren