Vera Stark, Ready for Her L.A. Close-Up, Opens Sept. 26; Sanaa Lathan Stars

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26 Sep 2012

Sanaa Lathan
Sanaa Lathan

Sanaa Lathan reprises her New York City role of a maid-turned-movie star in Lynn Nottage's satiric comedy By the Way, Meet Vera Stark, opening Sept. 26 following previews from Sept. 18 in its West Coast premiere at Geffen Playhouse in Los Angeles.

The tale about race, friendship, fame and film history is again directed by Jo Bonney, who staged the Off-Broadway world premiere at Second Stage Theatre. Lathan starred in the TV movie "A Raisin in the Sun" (repeating her Broadway work as Beneatha Younger) and the film "Contagion." She plays Mona Fredricks, a community advocate and mayoral aid, on the TV series "Boss."

Nottage won the Pulitzer Prize for her play Ruined. Her work also includes Fabulation, or The Re- Education of Undine; Crumbs from the Table of Joy; Las Meninas; Mud, River, Stone; Por'knockers; and Poof! She is the recipient of the 2007 MacArthur Foundation "Genius Grant," the National Black Theatre Festival's August Wilson Playwriting Award, the 2004 PEN/Laura Pels Award and many other honors.

Lathan reunites with original cast member Kimberly Hébert Gregory (Spike Lee's "Red Hook Summer"), reprising her role as fellow aspiring African-American actress Lottie. Broadway vet and Geffen alum Merle Dandridge (Spamalot, Rent, Aida) plays Anna Mae (who fakes a Brazilian accent for a slice of fame), and former leading lady of ABC's "Man Up," Amanda Detmer, plays Gloria Mitchell, the white starlet — aka "America's little sweetie pie" and Vera's first employer.

The cast also includes Kevin Carroll ("Paid in Full," "Being John Malkovich"), Spencer Garrett ("Iron Man 3," "Air Force One") and Geffen alum Mather Zickel ("Extraordinary Chambers," "Rachel Getting Married").

Here's how Geffen bills the play: "It's Hollywood's heyday and the streets of Los Angeles are filled with glitz, glamour and the chance at stardom — that is as long as you have the 'right' look. But when former maid Vera Stark lands a groundbreaking role in a new Southern epic, she turns Hollywood on its head and paves the way for future generations of black actresses. More than five decades later, Vera's influence on race, film and feminism has seeped its way into pop-culture. But who is the real Vera Stark? Part comedy and part commentary, By the Way, Meet Vera Stark uses today's fascination with celebrity and controversy to get to the truth behind the legend."

By the Way, Meet Vera Stark plays the Gil Cates Theater at the Geffen Playhouse to Oct. 28.

For more information, visit geffenplayhouse.com.