July 10 will find A.R. Gurney's Ancestral Voices opening at the Westport Country Playhouse, and, as usual with the Gurney piece, in which actors read from scripts, a cast of estimable theatre names has been collected. During the first week of the two-week run, July 10-16, Fritz Weaver, Elizabeth Wilson, Frank Converse, Jane Curtin and Neil Patrick Harris will star, under David Saint's direction.
Harris, the star of the television series "Doogie Hauser, M.D.," has appeared in Rent, among other theatrical ventures. Curtin is best known for her television work, first as an original cast member of "Saturday Night Live," then as a regular on "Kate and Allie." Both Weaver and Wilson are theatre veterans, boasting decades of experience. Weaver's last Broadway role was in Ring Round the Moon, while Wilson was seen this past season in Waiting in the Wings.
July 17-22, Paul Newman will step on the stage for the first time in perhaps decades. He will appear in Voices with his wife, Joanne Woodward, as well as James Naughton, Swoosie Kurtz and Paul Rudd.
Though Woodward has gone back and forth between film and theatre during her career, Newman has forged a career almost exclusively in film since starring in "The Silver Chalice" in 1955. He won his first film contract after being seen in William Inge's Picnic, his Broadway debut. Among his more notable films are "Hud," "Cool Hand Luke," "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid," "The String," "The Verdict," "The Hustler," "The Color of Money" and "Mr. And Mrs. Bridge."
Woodward's most recent theatre work was filling in for Eileen Heckart in the Williamstown Theatre Festival production of The Waverly Gallery in 1999. Her many films include "The Three Faces of Eve" and "Mr. and Mrs. Bridge." Ancestral Voices premiered last fall at Lincoln Center Theater and had its first regional mounting at New Jersey’s George Street Playhouse this past spring. A flexible piece, along the lines of Gurney's Love Letters, Voices concerns an older woman's divorce from a man and her subsequent marriage to his best friend.
Tony nominee Jayne Atkinson (The Rainmaker) and Jeffrey Jones will star in Triangles for Two by David Wiltse, July 24-Aug. 5. Joe Grifasi will direct. The world premiere comedy asks the question, Do men and women speak the same language?
Atkinson is currently enjoying a moment in the sun: her performance in the Roundabout Theatre Company's production of The Rainmaker won her a Tony Award nomination. Her other credits include Ivanov at Lincoln Center Theater and The Skriker at the Public Theater.
Jeffrey Jones is a familiar face to film audiences. Among his many supporting turns are roles in "Amadeus," "Ferris Bueller's Day Off," "The Crucible," and "Beetlejuice."
Director Grifasi is primarily known as an actor, with film credits including "Presumed Innocent," "Money Train" and "One Fine Day."
Also set for this season at Westport are:
• Morphic Resonance by Katherine Burger, Aug. 7-19, a comedy/drama about thirtysomethings in love in Manhattan, starring John Cunningham directed by James Naughton.
• Nicolette and Aucassin, book and lyrics by Peter Kellogg and music by David Friedman, Aug. 28-Sept. 9, a premiere musical of a 12th Century fable, featuring Bronson Pinchot.
The Westport Country Playhouse was founded in 1931 by Laurence Langer, the co-founder of the Theatre Guild. The 1830 barn Langer selected was converted into a theatre by architect Cleon Throckmorton, who had also designed the Cape Playhouse in East Dennis, MA. The stage was given the same dimensions at Broadway's Times Square Theatre, in order to better serve the transfer of plays from Westport to New York.
Appearing in the theatre's early years were such actors as Helen Hayes, Eva Le Gallienne, Jessica Tandy and Henry Fonda. The Playhouse also occasionally hosted play tryouts, which went on to success on Broadway, including Blue Denim, Come Back, Little Sheba and Butterflies Are Free.
Tickets are $10-$38. The Westport Playhouse is located off Route 1 in Westport, CT. Call (203) 227-4177 or contact the website at www.westportplayhouse.com.
--By Robert Simonson