OFF-BROADWAY NEWS -- January 1997
TWILIGHT'S LAST GLEAMING: Playwright Jonathan Tolins got the last laugh on the New York critics who tried to drive a stake through the heart of his controversial drama, Twilight of the Golds, and how sweet it is! It became a movie anyway, opening the Chicago Film Festival to something resembling raves.
Directed by Ross (Rapture) Marks, the film version stars Jennifer Beals, Brendan Fraser, Faye Dunaway, Garry Marshall, Jon Tenney and Rosie O'Donnell. Rather than a theatrical distribution, it is to premiere in March on Showtime as an exclusive presentation of the Showtime Entertainment Group, a company that has embarked on a program of filming some too-often short-lived stage efforts. Upcoming case-in-point is a film version of August Strinberg's The Father, which would preserve Frank Langella's Drama Desk Award-winning performance of last season. (It is, to understand, a long way from his Present Laughter.)
Three of the theatre world's top directors are currently marking very distinguished film-directing bows, bringing to the screen a trio of prize-winning Off-Broadway works: Jerry Zaks via Marvin's Room with Meryl Streep, Leonardo DiCaprio, Diane Keaton, Robert DeNiro, Hume Cronyn and Gwen Verdon; Joe Mantello via Love! Valour! Compassion! with the entire Off-Broadway cast (save for Nathan Lane, whose part was taken by Jason Alexander) and Daniel Sullivan via The Substance of Fire, which elaborates on Ron Rifkin's Obie-winning performance.
Before getting into Craig Lucas's God's Heart at Lincoln Center and Neil Simon's next one at Ahmanson, director Mantello played production mentor for Tim Pinckney's comedy about love and less-than-love in the contemporary gay culture, Message to Michael. Rattlestick Productions decided, on the basis on enthusiastic audience response, to extend the Message deeper into January at Theatre Off Park. A MEAD AMONG ARMENIANS: There is a scene in Leslie Ayvazian's Nine Armenians when the characters go into overtime trying to name some Famous American-Armenians and all they can come up with are Cher and Margaret Mead's son-in-law. Only after the play went into rehearsal at Manhattan Theatre Club did Ayvazian learn that the actress cast as the author's quasi-autobiographical self was in reality the daughter of that son-in-law: Sevanne Martins, making her Off-Broadway debut. . . . Donald Margulies's Collected Stories, upcoming at MTC, may bring with it a Tony- and Oscar-winning star absent too long from the stage: Anne Bancroft.