The 1998-99 season at New Haven's Long Wharf Theatre looks to be an interesting one, with performances by Martha Plimpton and Jim True, new plays by Theresa Rebeck and Chay Yew, and reworking of old works by Stephen Schwartz and Wendy Wasserstein among the many highlights.
Recently, the scheduling of two shows was reversed. Stephen Schwartz's musical Working, which was to bow in November, will now run in spring 1999, and the play which had that slot, Rebeck's new Abstract Expression, has been moved up to November. The switch was chalked up to artist availability.
Working (Mar. 5-Apr. 4, 1999) is a reworking, so to speak, of the 1978 musical based on Studs Terkel's book. The updated version was given a showing at Arlington, VA's Signature Theatre last fall. The musical was adapted by Stephen Schwartz and Nina Faso, and the score includes songs by Craig Carnelia, Micki Grant, Susan Birkenhead, Stephen Schwartz, and James Taylor.
After the Virginia production, there was some speculation that the show would travel to New York, but so far nothing has materialized. The Long Wharf version will differ from the Signature mounting. No director has yet been selected.
Abstract Expression (Nov. 13-Dec. 13) is about a jaded, bitter painter whose sudden rediscovery sends his life into a tailspin. Greg Leaming will direct. Rebeck's other plays include View of the Dome and The Family of Mann. She has also written extensively for TV, particularly "NYPD Blue." The Long Wharf season will open with Douglas Hughes' production of John Synge's Playboy of Western World (Oct. 2-Nov. 1), which recently ended a run at Chicago's Steppenwolf Theatre Company. Jim True and Martha Plimpton, the stars of the Steppenwolf production, will travel to New Haven.
True plays the title role, a young man who gains fleeting fame when he reveals his belief that he has slain his father. True has previously enjoyed noted success in another Irish play, Brian Friel's Philadelphia, Here I Come!, which was produced at New York's Roundabout Theatre Company in 1994. True was most recently seen on Broadway as Vince in Steppenwolf's lauded 1996 revival of Sam Shepard's Buried Child.
Plimpton, who plays Pegeen Mike, has appeared in such films as Running on Empty, Another Woman, Parenthood, and I Shot Andy Warhol. New York stage productions include Pericles at the Public Theatre.
The season continues with Chay Yew's Red (Jan. 8-Feb. 7, 1999), about a father and daughter caught up in China's Cultural Revolution. The father is involved in the Bejing Opera, while his offspring decides to join the revolution. When political forces begin to use the opera as a pawn, tragic consequences ensue.
Long Wharf's final offering will be a Hughes-directed production of Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing (Apr. 30-June 6, 1999).
Meanwhile, Wendy Wasserstein is busy doing some rewrites on her play An American Daughter, which will grace Long Wharf's Second Stage Mar. 30-May 9. Daughter is the playwright's most recent full-length work. It had its premiere on Broadway last spring, but earned some of the poorest reviews of Wasserstein's generally rosy career, and closed within a few months. The play concerns a Washington, D.C., doctor who is nominated for the office of surgeon general, setting off of media maelstrom. No director has been connected to the project.
Also slated for the Second Stage season are The Gimmick (Oct. 27-Dec. 6), a new one-person show by Dael Orlandersmith directed by Jaye Austin Williams; and Tim Blake Nelson's The Grey Zone (Jan. 26-Mar. 7), directed by Hughes.
-- By Robert Simonson
and David Lefkowitz
and Sean McGrath