By David Lefkowitz
28 Sep 1999
When David Hirson's new comedy, Wrong Mountain, has its world premiere at San Francisco's American Conservatory Theatre, it will have a number of recent Broadway performers on board, among them Ron Rifkin, Daniel Jenkins (Big) and Ilana Levine.
The date has been announced for Mountain's Broadway opening: Dec. 14 at the Eugene O'Neill Theatre. Previews begin Dec. 3, according to a spokesperson.
Wrong Mountain will premiere at ACT Oct. 21-Nov. 21 (opening Oct. 27), with Richard Jones directing. As previously reported, Pine (Bus Stop at Circle in the Square) and Tom Riis Farrell (1776) are in the cast, alongside Beth Dixon, Bruce Norris, Reg Flowers, Pippa Pearthree, Danny Davis, Jody Gelb, Anne Dudek and Mary Schmidtberger.
Rifkin, a veteran stage and television actor, saw his career accelerate after his acclaimed performance in The Substance of Fire. Since then he's won a Tony for his work in the Roundabout's Cabaret. His other Broadway roles include A Month In The Country and Broken Glass.
Actress Levine was relatively unknown until she was picked to play Lucy in last season's revival of You're A Good Man, Charlie Brown. She also appeared on Broadway in Alfred Uhry's The Last Night of Ballyhoo.
Designing Wrong Mountain are Giles Cadle (set and costumes), Jennifer Tipton (lighting) and John Gromada (sound).
The A.C.T. press release describes The Wrong Mountain thusly: "With touches of surrealism and hints of science fiction (a 40-pound, intestine eating worm and an intoxicating elixir called `lithia water' figure prominently in the plot), the story...concerns an utterly pretentious obscure poet [Rifkin], his ex-wife's new husband, a fabulously successful, lightweight playwright; a new-plays festival situated in the middle of nowhere, and the absolute horror and pleasure of unwanted, yet coveted, overnight success."
In 1991, La Bete, a rare contemporary verse comedy about an acting troupe forced to compromise its artistic integrity, brought playwright Hirson to Broadway. Reviews were generally good but the play, directed by Jones, had difficulty finding an audience. Commercial theatre has heard little from Hirson since, but interest in Wrong Mountain seems to be changing that.
Dodger Endemol Theatrical Productions sponsored a reading in early August 1998 in midtown Manhattan. Among the actors: Tony winner Alan Cumming, Joyce Van Patten (Labor Day) and the aforementioned Rifkin and Pine.
Unlike La Bete, Wrong Mountain is set in modern times and is not in verse. Actor Pine told Playbill On-Line (Aug. 6, 1998), "The play is about an unrecognized poet and his intellectual family. There's also this famous Broadway playwright, who's married to the poet's ex-wife. The playwright bets the poet $100,000 he can't write a play, but the poet does -- and it turns out to be really good."
Asked in August 1998 about The Wrong Mountain's future prospects, Pine said, "Well, this is the next step. The first readings we did, the play was 178 pages long. Now its 149 pages. I figure once it's in the 110 range... This is honestly the best play I've read since Angels in America."
For information on the A.C.T. season call (415) 749-2250.