The WPA Theatre begins its 22nd season of three world premieres Sept. 22 with previews of Edward Napier's West Virginia-set drama, 'Til the Rapture Comes, directed by Pamela Berlin.
Napier's story of two brothers and their haunted parents in small-town, 1970s-era West Virginia (where the author's roots are) begins a season of four productions (one yet to be announced) at the award-winning, nonprofit Off-Broadway theatre. The Official opening of Rapture is Oct. 6. WPA publicist Tom D'Ambrosio said (Sept. 22) the run is scheduled through Oct. 25.
Rapture marks the Off-Broadway debut of Napier, a Kenova, WV., native and Columbia University graduate. The play features Pamela Payton-Wright as the addicted former Army nurse mother of Willy Walker, a Bible-beating 11-year-old (played by Jase Blankfort) and his reckless teenage brother (Zack Schaffer). Cynthia Darlow and Richard Poe also appear. The season also includes:
*Spread Eagle, Jim Luigs' terrifying comedy about an English actor (Brian Murray) who leaves the London and New York stage for Mexico, beginning performances Nov. 24. Luigs is author of the cult musical favorite, Das Barbecu.
*Blood on the Dining Room Floor, beginning performances May 17, a musical by composer Jonathan Sheffer based on Gertrude Stein's A Murder Mystery, written in 1933 when she shared a home in France with Alice B. Toklas. Excerpts from the Toklas cookbook are incorporated into the musical. Sheffer, a conductor and composer, wrote the film score to "Bloodhounds of Broadway" and "Encino Man," among others, and co wrote the musical comedy Going Hollywood with lyricist David Zippel. *A production to be announced, slated for 1999.
The nonprofit Off-Broadway WPA Theatre (Workshop of the Players Arts Foundation, Inc.) is dedicated to the development of new American plays and musicals and the revival of neglected works. Of its 90 plays produced in 21 seasons, Nuts, Steel Magnolias, Little Shop of Horrors and Jeffrey, among others, sprang to national commercial attention. The WPA is currently represented with Off Broadway commerical productions of Stupid Kids and Dinah Was.
The WPA Theatre is located at 519 West 23rd Street. Tickets (at $30) and information are available by calling (212) 206-0523.
-- By Kenneth Jones