Joanne Woodward returns to the Williamstown Theatre Festival to direct Arthur Schnitzler's La Ronde, newly translated and adapted by Steve Lawson, running Aug. 13 - 24 at the Other Stage.
When Woodward was not content with the available translations of Schnitzler's 1897 drama, WTF commissioned Lawson, who had previously worked with Woodward, to write a new one. La Ronde explores human sexuality in 10 scenes, combining cynicism with sexuality. Two characters are in each scene, with one character carried over to the next scene, eventually bringing a series of trysts full circle, something that Lawson told Playbill On-Line made translating the play, "rather easy, it simplified things." He completed his first draft in only two weeks.
This production is set in turn-of-the-century Vienna, but Lawson said the play, "is really eternal and timeless. It speaks to the ages." One major change in this translation is the change of the character of the whore to a male hustler. Though in tune historically, Lawson said the change "gives it a slightly more contemporary ring."
Lawson said most of his work was, "to freshen up the sound. We wanted something more speakable (than previous translations) and juicier language." He said he's added, "more of a flavor than anything else."
Over the past two weeks of rehearsal Lawson has been fine-tuning his translation and said that director Woodward, "really manages to coax great performances" from the actors. Last season at WTF Woodward directed Odets' Rocket to the Moon. In his 29th season at WTF, Lawson has previously adapted the works of Moliere, Fielding, Dickens, Twain, Brecht and Kafka. He is currently working on an original screenplay about Robert Frost and adapting Michael White's novel, A Brother's Blood, as a television movie for CBS.
The cast of La Ronde includes Gretchen Cleevely, Scott Cohen, Alex Draper, Edmond Genest, Thomas McCarthy, Gabriel Macht, Allison Mackie, Angie Phillips, Lisa Renee Pitts and Stephen Barker Turner.
Set design is by Troy Hourie, costumes by Mattie Ullrich, lighting by Russell Champa and sound by Jerry Yager.
On the WTF mainstage is a revival of Charles MacArthur's Johnny On A Spot, a satire of American politics with its portrayal of a brilliant campaign manager whose Senate candidate is not altogether there -- even on election day. James Naughton (Chicago) stars and directs. Also starring in Johnny On A Spot are Bruce MacVittie, Lee Wilkof, Lewis Black, Tom Brennan, Rod McLachlan, Joe Ponazecki, Linda Purl, Dana Reeve and David Schramm. Designing the show are Hugh Landwehr (sets), Laurie Churba (costumes), Rui Rita (lighting) and Darron L. West (sound). Johnny On A Spot runs to Aug. 17.
Currently on the Other Stage is Dreading Thekla (July 30-Aug. 10), by Albert Innaurato (Gemini). Thekla concerns an unusual love triangle involving a writer, her gay best friend, and the title character. (See separate story on that show.)
The Mainstage will also host the American premiere of Misha's Party, Aug. 20-31, co-written by American playwright Richard Nelson and Russian playwright Alexander Gelman, which received major productions at both the Royal Shakespeare Company and Moscow Art Theatre. The serio-comic season finale takes place in Moscow, 1991, one night when a family tries to reconcile problems in the home, while outside, a putsch occurs.
For tickets or more information, please call the 24-hour information line (413) 597-3399, the box office (413) 597-3400, or refer to the Williamstown Theatre Festival summer theatre listing on Playbill On-Line.