Back in summer 1999, Theodore Bikel starred Off Broadway in a play by Arje Shaw called The Gathering. The drama, about three generations of a Jewish family, was so well received that even after Bikel left the production, the show continued a few weeks longer with a new lead. Bikel then appeared in another mounting of the play, Nov. 30-Dec. 26, 1999 at Florida’s Coconut Grove Playhouse.
And that seemed to be that. But now Shaw’s play has found a new life: at Broadway’s Cort Theatre, no less, with Hal Linden to star. As reported by the New York Times and confirmed by the Keith Sherman press office, The Gathering is scheduled to start previews April 10 and open April 24, 2001.
Shaw's drama takes place during the Reagan years and concerns family members clashing over their duties as Americans. Rebecca Taylor, who directed the Off Broadway and Florida stagings, will repeat her duties on Broadway.
Martin Markinson and Lawrence Toppall are producing The Gathering, in association with Diaspora Productions.
The playwright’s agent, Earl Graham, told Playbill On-Line (Nov. 3) The Gathering would play four cities before coming to the Cort. The mini tour starts at Wilmington, DE’s DuPont Theatre (Jan. 19-28), to be followed by four weeks at the Wadsworth Theatre in Los Angeles (Feb. 3 28, 2001), a stint at Fort Lauderdale, FL’s Parker Playhouse (March 7-18, 2001) and a run at the Royal Poinciana in Palm Beach (March 20-April 1, 2001). Designing the show are Andy Stein (set), Susan M. Posner (costumes) and Scott Clyve (lighting). The Gathering is Arje [pronounced “R.G.”] Shaw’s first produced play, and he’s spent much of the year since the Jewish Rep mounting working on his next, Magic Hands Freddy. “Arje is very precise in his writing,” agent Graham told PBOL. “He drafts and redrafts.”
Actor Linden, last Off Broadway in Visiting Mr. Green, won a 1971 Tony Award for playing patriarch Mayer Rothschild in The Rothschilds and has also appeared in the Madison Square Garden A Christmas Carol. He’s best known, however, for starring in TV’s police-station sitcom, “Barney Miller.” Regarding The Gathering, Linden said in a statement, “I am proud to return to Broadway in a vehicle so rich in ideas and emotion.”
Joining Linden on Broadway will be Colmen Zeiglen, Adam Rose, Deidre Lovejoy and veteran regional theatre and voice-over actor, Sam Guncler, who was in the Florida production. Young actor Rose, playing the grandson, was the understudy Off-Off Broadway and also played the role at Coconut Grove. (Rose, Robert Fass, Susan Warrick Hasho and Peter Hermann starred in the original New York production.)
“It’s been a year since I did this role,” Guncler told PBOL (Nov. 3). “I’ve done my best to forget about what I did so I can approach it fresh. It’s a very interesting story about a man and his grandson, who get along great. But I play the father, who’s in the middle, and there’s friction there. The plot takes twists where you have no idea what’s coming up next.”
As to why Bikel didn’t return to the role he’d played Off Broadway, the New York Times speculated that he’s busy starring as Tevye in a national tour of Fiddler on the Roof.
Tickets and information on The Gathering will be available via (212) 239-6200.