Billed as "a comedy of ancient and modern life in 8 scenes," the Wooster Group's long-workshopped version of Eugene O'Neill's The Hairy Ape will have a commercial Off-Broadway run at the newly reopened Selwyn Theatre, March 21-May 25. Willem Dafoe will star as Yank.
O'Neill's 1921 expressionist work tells of a ship's stoker whose sense of power and belonging gets shaken after a confrontation with the daughter of the ship's owner. Elizabeth LeCompte directs this version, which has been designed (by Jim Clayburgh) with movable steel parts that expose structural supports and interior mechanics of the set itself. Also creating the Ape mood will be video (Christopher Kondek) and soundscape, all "developed in relation to the architecture of the space." Jennifer Tipton designed the show's lighting; John Lurie, former member of "The Lounge Lizards," composed the music.
Also appearing in this experimental piece, which started as a work-in progress in 1995 at the Wooster Group's "Performing Garage" home in Soho, will be company members Kate Valk (as Mildred) and Peyton Smith (as Her Aunt). Rounding out the cast are Roy Faudree, Paul Lazar, Scott Renderer and Dave Shelley. The play was performed in Brussels in spring 1996 and will tour to Vienna, Frankfurt, Berlin and Barcelona this summer.
As for the Selwyn Theatre, it was built in 1919 by the Selwyn brothers and remained a legit theatre until 1935 when it was turned into a movie house.
Other plays by Eugene O'Neill (considered by some to be America's greatest playwright) include Ah, Wilderness!, Long Day's Journey Into Night, Desire Under The Elms, Rope, Hughie, Mourning Becomes Electra and The Iceman Cometh. Dafoe has appeared in many Wooster Group pieces but is best known for his film work (The Last Temptation of Christ, Light Sleeper). For tickets ($45-$55) and information on The Hairy Ape at the Selwyn at 229 West 4 2nd St., call (212) 239-6200. The production, part of the 1997 Whitney Biennial, official opens March 27. Frederick Zollo, Nicholas Paleologos, Hal Luftig and Ron Kastner are producing the play along with Wooster Group. Tickets are available by phone now, but the box office won't open until March 17.
--By David Lefkowitz