S. Epatha Merkerson, a Tony nominee for The Piano Lesson and a longtime cast-member of TV's "Law & Order" will appear April 5 in a new Off-Broadway play by Eugene Lee, author of 1994's East Texas Hot Links. Fear Itself, about a young football star (Eric LaRay Harvey) with a unique gift for poetry will be directed by ubiquitous film and TV actor Joe Morton (Lone Star, Speed, Miss Evers' Boys).
Also appearing will be Count Stovall, currently finishing up the run of Bill Irwin/Mark O'Donnell's Scapin, and Sharon Washington.
Lee -- not to be confused with the famous set designer of the same name -- has worked mostly as an actor. He originated the role of Corporal Cobb in the Negro Ensemble Company's A Soldier's Play and received the NAACP Theatre Award for Best Supporting Actor for his work in Samm Art Williams' Woman From The Town.
A Tony winner for Raisin, Morton's other credits include Oh, Brother and Honky Tonk Nights on Broadway. Merkerson's first Broadway show was Tintypes (1982), and she appeared Off Broadway in Lady Day At Emerson's Bar & Brill, Hospice and Home. First read at the Met Theatre in Hollywood (1993) and then at NJ's Crossroads (1994), Fear Itself received a W. Alton Jones Foundation grant for its 1996 Crossroads premiere.
Fear Itself is part of a new series of works by black writers called "African-American Poets As Playwrights," produced by Playwrights' Preview Productions. PPP is extremely active this Off-Broadway season, since they also develooped Minor Demons (now at the Century Center Theatre) and Men On The Verge Of A His-Panic Breakdown (at the 47th Street Theatre). (See separate Playbill On-Line stories on both those productions.)
Also part of the African-American Poets As Playwrights series will be a one-woman poetry/performance piece titled Confirming The Search: That Girl's Still Here Somewhere. Nadine Mozone takes the audience through "the coming of age of a dynamic, triumphant African-American woman." Ben Harney, winner of a best actor Tony for Dreamgirls, directs Search, which has bass accompaniment by Don Pate.
Confirming The Search runs April 5-27; Fear Itself runs April 9-27, both at the Ubu Rep space on West 28th St. For tickets ($15 per show) and information call (212) 421-1380.
--By David Lefkowitz