Paul Newman will step on the stage for the first time in perhaps decades when he appears with his wife, Joanne Woodward, in A.R. Gurney's Ancestral Voices, at the Westport Country Playhouse in Westport, CT, July 17-22. David Saint will direct a cast that also includes James Naughton and Paul Rudd.
Though Woodward has gone back and forth between film and theatre during her career, Newman has forged a career almost exclusively in film since starring in "The Silver Chalice" in 1955. He won his first film contract after being seen in William Inge's Picnic, his Broadway debut. Among his more notable films are "Hud," "Cool Hand Luke," "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid," "The String," "The Verdict," "The Hustler," "The Color of Money" and "Mr. And Mrs. Bridge."
Woodward's most recent theatre work was filling in for Eileen Heckart in the Williamstown Theatre Festival production of The Waverly Gallery in 1999. At Westport, she will also direct W. Somerset Maugham's The Constant Wife. Her many films include "The Three Faces of Eve" and "Mr. and Mrs. Bridge."
Ancestral Voices premiered last fall at Lincoln Center Theater and will have its first regional mounting at New Jersey’s George Street Playhouse this spring. A flexible piece, along the lines of Gurney's Love Letters, in which actors read from scripts, Voices concerns an older woman's divorce from a man and her subsequent marriage to his best friend.
As at LCT, the Westport production will feature a changing line-up. July 10-15, the play will feature Jason Robards and Frank Converse. *
The Constant Wife will open the Westport season. The 1926 play tells of a well-heeled marriage woman who challenges the double standard against her sex. Woodward directs. No cast has been selected.
Next up is Austin Pendleton's new play, Orson's Shadow, June 26- July 8. Since bowing at Steppenwolf Theatre Company's Garage space earlier this year, the drama, Pendleton's third, has become a hot property, landing productions at Williamstown Theatre Festival and the Old Globe Theatre. The play is widely speculated to land in a major New York theatre sometime this fall. Orson concerns the imagined interactions between theatre legends Orson Welles, Laurence Olivier, Vivien Leigh, Joan Plowright and Kenneth Tynan as they rehearse a 1960 London production of Ionesco's Rhinoceros.
The remainder of the season runs as follows:
• Triangles for Two by David Wiltse, July 24-Aug. 5, a premiere comedy which asks whether men and women speak the same language.
• Morphic Resonance by Katherine Burger, Aug. 7-19, a comedy/drama about thirtysomethings in love in Manhattan, directed by James Naughton.
• Nicolette and Aucassin, book and lyrics by Peter Kellogg and music by David Friedman, Aug. 28-Sept. 9, a premiere musical of a 12th Century fable, featuring Bronson Pinchot.
Tickets are $10-$38. The Westport Playhouse is located off Route 1 in Westport, CT. Call (203) 227-4177 or contact the website at www.westportplayhouse.com.
--By Robert Simonson