Waverly Gallery, Eileen Heckart, Take Their Final Exit, May 21

News   Waverly Gallery, Eileen Heckart, Take Their Final Exit, May 21 Kenneth Lonergan's latest, The Waverly Gallery, will close Off Broadway May 21, and with it, so will the stage career of Eileen Heckart.
The end of career:  Eileen Heckart with Keir Dullea in Butterflies Are Free and opposite Josh Hamilton in Waverly Gallery.
The end of career: Eileen Heckart with Keir Dullea in Butterflies Are Free and opposite Josh Hamilton in Waverly Gallery. (Photo by <i>Waverly</i> photo by Joan Marcus)

Kenneth Lonergan's latest, The Waverly Gallery, will close Off Broadway May 21, and with it, so will the stage career of Eileen Heckart.

The drama officially opened it doors for business at the Promenade Theatre March 22 (after previews from March 3) and received generally positive notices, particularly for star Heckart. The veteran actress has made it clear that The Waverly Gallery will mark her final stage appearance. The theatre community, in reaction to both this announcement and the fineness of her performance, has lauded her with every conceivable honor. To date, she has collected a Drama League Award, Drama Desk Award, Outer Critics Circle Award, Lucille Lortel Award and a special Tony Award for Excellence in Theatre.

Heckart, 81, began her stage career at New York's Blackfriars Guild in 1943, in a play called Tinker's Dam. Broadway soon followed, with a string of roles in important and/or successful play, including William Inge's Picnic in 1953; The Bad Seed in 1954; Arthur Miller's A View from the Bridge and A Memory of Two Mondays in 1955; The Dark at the Top of the Stairs in 1957 (critic Kenneth Tynan, seeing this, called Heckart "the best thin actress alive"); and Arthur Laurents' Invitation to a March in 1960. She toured in Laurents' The Time of the Cuckoo in 1964. Heckart received Tony nominations for The Dark at the Top of the Stairs, Invitation to a March and Butterflies Are Free. She won an Oscar for the 1973 film version of the latter, and claimed an Emmy Award for her performance in "Save Me a Place at Forest Lawn" in 1967. More recent credits include Terrence McNally and Jon Robin Baitz's House at the Bay Street Theatre.

* The cast much resembles the original Williamstown Theatre Festival production. Joining star Heckart is Maureen Anderman, Anthony Arkin (Power Plays), Mark Blum (Lost in Yonkers) and Josh Hamilton (As Bees in Honey Drown). Hamilton recently starred in Sexual Perversity in Chicago at the Atlantic Theatre Company.

Scott Ellis will direct. Anita Waxman, Elizabeth Williams and Randall L. Wreghitt produce.

The Waverly Gallery premiered this past summer at the Williamstown Theatre Festival. In the play, aged owner Green (Heckart) fights to hold on to her gallery, even as Alzheimer's disease takes possession of her mind.

Lonergan's biggest success to date was This Is Our Youth, which opened Off-Broadway (starring Hamilton) to great acclaim under the aegis of The New Group, and then remained in limbo for over a season while it waited to reopen in a commercial, Off-Broadway house. Lonergan also contributed to the screenplay of the film, "Analyze This."

-- By Robert Simonson