By Harry Haun
06 Sep 2012
Photo by Joan Marcus
"The sixth character is maybe the closest to Chekhov. It's Nina next door — definitely Nina of The Seagull in Act One when she's still young and fresh and looking forward to life. She comes in because she's such a big fan of Masha the movie star."
Director Nicholas Martin has outfitted the play with seasoned Durang regulars. Sigourney Weaver, the glamorous Masha, has been doing Durangs since their second week at Yale School of Drama. Runner-up in the muse department is stepsister Sonia, Kristine Nielsen, marking her fifth Durang. And the Vanya of the event, the easily exasperated David Hyde Pierce, made his Broadway debut — suddenly — as a very funny sight-gag in Durang's 1982 Beyond Therapy (i.e., the perpetually paged waiter who doesn't show up until a gun goes off — and then he's there like a shot!).
A topic to steer clear of with Durang is Robert Altman's film facsimile of Beyond Therapy. "No, I didn't like what Altman did to that," he is quick to admit. "He rewrote it a lot, and, in rewriting it, the psychology of the characters got more than a little fuzzy. They just seemed to be running around being crazy all the time, but there wasn't any logic to it. It certainly had good actors, but it wasn't very good."
Durang's an impudent imp famous for fun-poking Brecht, Catholicism, cinema, marriage, parenting, et al — but he has his limits, as I recently learned with I rushed into print an urban myth that had been stuck in my head a good quarter of a century — to wit, I swore he once wrote an Amadeus spoof set at The Public Theater, with Joe Papp as the emperor, Elizabeth Swados as Salieri and Marvin Hamlisch as Mozart. Durang asked that the reference be cut from a Playbill.com piece that I wrote about Hamlisch's recent passing. The playwright said that never wrote such a playlet, but he had to admit, "it sounds like something I might have written."