Anne Jackson will be the title character in the Colleagues Theatre Company's Off-Broadway staging of The Madwoman of Chaillot, Oct. 2-28, taking over for Eileen Brennan, who withdrew from the production.
The multiple Tony Award nominee will join Academy Award winner Kim Hunter and Catherine Wolf in the trio "madwomen" — addled eccentrics and devoted romantics — who attempt to rescue Paris from the greedy capitalists planning to drill for oil in the heart of the city.
The Jean Giraudoux play will be presented at The Neighborhood Playhouse in Manhattan. Roy B. Steinberg, who directed The Colleagues Theatre Company's recent production of Second Summer, will direct.
Jackson, who plays Countess Aurelia, the madwoman of Chaillot, studied at The Neighborhood Playhouse and made her stage debut in Eva LeGallienne's production of The Cherry Orchard. She received Tony Award nominations for her work in Summer and Smoke, Oh Men, Oh Women and Paddy Chayefsky's Middle of the Night. Her New York credits include Luv, Waltz of the Toreadors, Brighton Beach Memoirs and Lost in Yonkers. Most recently she starred on stage in Twice Around the Park and Down the Garden Paths. Her memoir, "Early Stages," was recently published by Little, Brown. Jackson succeeded Geraldine Page as Aurelia in the Mirror Repertory staging of The Madwoman of Chaillot in 1984-85.
The nonprofit Colleagues Theatre Company's mission is presenting work for "mature" actors — say, over the age of 50. Hunter, of course, was the original "Stella" of Broadway's A Streetcar Named Desire, and an Oscar winner for the same role in the film version. Hunter recently appeared on Broadway as Lady Markby in An Ideal Husband and also appeared on Broadway in Darkness at Noon, The Tender Trap and more. She was the sympathetic-to humans ape, Dr. Zira, in the "Planet of the Apes" movie series. She'll play Mlle. Gabrielle, The Madwoman of St. Sulpice.
Wolf, Colleagues' producing director, will play Mme. Constance, The Madwoman of Passy.
The large cast for Madwoman features 11 roles for actors over the age of 55. Official opening is Oct. 3. The cast includes Alvin Epstein as the Ragpicker, Sloane Shelton as Josephine, Ben Hammer as the Sewerman and Roger Serbagi as the President. Additional casting will be announced.
Madwoman was adapted by Maurice Valency and first presented in New York in 1948 with Martita Hunt as Countess Aurelia, Estelle Winwood as Constance and Nydia Westman as Gabrielle. A film version starred Katharine Hepburn, and Jerry Herman turned the story into a musical, Dear World.
Colleagues was founded in 1995 by Catherine Wolf to commission, revive and produce plays that celebrate "the richness of the mature life experience; to provide performance opportunities for seasoned artists, and to create a two-year scholarship training program in theatrical craftsmanship for gifted high school graduates from underserved communities."
Designers are Gail Hecht (costumes), Drew Francis (sets), Jeff Fontaine (lights) and David Gilman (sound).
The Madwoman of Chaillot tickets are $19. The Neighborhood Playhouse is at 340 E. 54th Street. Performances play 8 PM Tuesday-Saturday and 3 PM, Saturday-Sunday. The opening night performance and party on Oct. 3 will be a benefit for the company with $100 tickets available by calling (212) 362-0312. For regular seats for all performances, call the Neighborhood Playhouse box office at (212) 308-6866.
— By Kenneth Jones