PLAYBILL.COM'S THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, Jan. 25-31: Arena Stage Gets Political and Renée Fleming Will Play Williamstown

By Robert Simonson
January 31, 2014

The Arena Stage has exhibited some very canny casting for its upcoming production of the world premiere of the historical drama Camp David.



Ron Rifkin has been tapped to play Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin, and Richard Thomas will portay President Jimmy Carter in the four-person play. Penned by Pulitzer Prize winner Lawrence Wright, the play follows the historic 13-day meeting between Carter, Begin and Egyptian President Anwar Sadat at Camp David that led to a landmark peace accord between Egypt and Israel. The agreement was the crowning achievement of the Carter administration, and the peace agreement stands to this day.

No casting has been announced yet for the roles of Sadat and First Lady Rosalyn Carter. Molly Smith will direct the piece, which begins performances March 21, continuing through May 4 in the Kreeger Theater.

Of the four historical characters, only the Carters survive. Sadat was assassinated in 1981, largely due to his having forged peace with Israel. Begin died in 1992.

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The Williamstown Theatre Festival is stepping up in class.

The festival's 2014 main stage season will include an appearance by opera superstar Renée Fleming. Fleming will star in Living on Love, a new musical by Joe DiPietro (who's living) and Garson Kanin (who's quite dead).

In the show, based on Kanin's play Peccadillo, Fleming will play Rachel DeAngelis, a celebrated diva who — when her husband, egomaniacal maestro Vito DeAngelis, becomes enamored with the lovely young lady hired to ghostwrite his long-delayed autobiography — retaliates by hiring her own male ghostwriter to write up her life as an opera star.

The season will also include a new production of Ring Lardner and George S. Kaufman's classic satire of the songwriting business, June Moon, directed by Jessica Stone. The play's most recent notable staging was 1997, when it proved an early hit for the Off-Broadway troupe The Drama Dept.

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In 2012, the Rattlestick Playwrights Theater presented David Adjmi play 3C, a dark satirical riff on the 1970s sitcom "Three's Company." The copyright owner of that bubble-headed show didn't like it, and lawyers sent Adjmi a cease-and-desist letter that cited copyright infringement, listing 17 points of similarity between the play and the sitcom. While Adjmi didn't agree to anything, he did shut the production down, and there have been no new productions since.

Adjmi went to federal court this week to try and salvage the fate of his play. According to the New York Times, "Mr. Adjmi’s lawyers, citing the First Amendment and the legal doctrine of fair use, argue that 3C is an original parody that only borrows some elements from the sitcom to examine its premise, character types, and homophobia and sexism in that era."

Among the examples of fair use doctrine that Mr. Adjmi’s lawyers cited were Dog Sees God, a parodic spin on Peanuts cartoon characters, and Mr. Burns, which drew on "The Simpsons" for inspiration.

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Chalk up another victim of the winter doldrums.

Mary Bridget Davies
photo by Joan Marcus

The Broadway production of A Night With Janis Joplin, which began previews Sept. 20, 2013, prior to an official opening Oct. 10, will play its final performance Feb. 9 at 7 PM at the Lyceum Theatre.

The production, which will have played 22 previews and 141 regular performances on Broadway, will move to a new home in New York City in March — where, hasn't been announced yet.

A Night With Janis Joplin arrived in New York following engagements at Portland Center Stage, Cleveland Play House, Arena Stage, Pasadena Playhouse and Milwaukee Repertory Theater.

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Dick Cavett, it seems, never tires of his own life.

Abingdon Theatre Company will present the world premiere of Hellman v. McCarthy, Brian Richard Mori's drama about authors Lillian Hellman and Mary McCarthy, with performances beginning March 14. The fight began Jan. 25, 1980, when McCarthy appeared as a guest on "The Dick Cavett Show" and declared that "every word [playwright Lillian Hellman] writes is a lie, including 'and' and 'the.'" Hellman went ballistic and sued McCarthy for libel.

Roberta Maxwell will play Lillian Hellman, and Marcia Rodd will play Mary McCarthy. Who will play Cavett? Well, Dick Cavett, of course.

Sometime in the near future, expect Cavett to appear somewhere regaling an audience with the droll tale of the time he played a past version of himself in a play.