New plays by Richard Nelson, Jeffrey Hatcher, Tom Donaghy, Arthur Kopit and Edwin Sanchez, plus a new musical by Christopher Durang, will provide several of the many highlights to be found in the 2002 summer season of New York Stage & Film, at Vassar College's Powerhouse Theatre.
Durang, the author of such ribald satires as Betty's Summer Vacation and Sister Mary Ignatius Explains It All for You, penned the book and lyrics to Adrift in Macao, a musical send-up of film noir. The story takes place at the "Casablanca"-esque Macao Surf and Turf Nightclub Gambling Casino, which is overseen by one Rick Shaw. There, sex, blackmail, danger and romance transpire. Peter Melnick wrote the music. Sheryl Kaller will direct.
Durang's interest in spoofing musical theatre extends to the mock cabaret act, Christopher Durang and Dawne, which he performs from time to time.
Jeffrey Hatcher and Mitch Albom have adapted Albom's popular book "Tuesdays with Morrie" into a stage work. The book was previously transformed into a successful television movie starring Hank Azaria as a fast-paced sportswriter who suddenly sees life is passing him by, and Jack Lemmon as the dying mentor who leads him back to a saner, more humane view of existence. David Esbjornson (The Goat) will direct. Hatcher is the author of such plays as The Compleat Female Stage Beauty and Three Viewings.
Left, the third and last Mainstage production, is the latest work from the hyper-prolific Richard Nelson. The drama concerns two gatherings, 40 years apart, between three friends. As is the author's wont of late, Nelson will direct his own work. Nelson's Franny's Way was seen Off-Broadway last season. The above three will all be mounted on the Powerhouse stage.
Shorter presentations of four new plays will take place in the Susan Stein Shiva Theater. The series leads off with a new play by Boys and Girls author Tom Donaghy, in which a family and a house undergo restorations. Michael Wilson (The Carpetbagger's Children) directs. Arthur Kopit provides Discovery of America, about an encounter between the Spanish conquistadors and native Americans in the 16th century. Kopit drew on a personal journal of the time for his story.
Next up is The Violence Project, a new work conceived of and directed by Elizabeth Swados. The play, about the "roots and consequences of violence," will be performed by kids from New York City public and private schools.
Finally, Melia Bensussen (The Turn of the Screw) will direct Diosa by Edwin Sanchez. The play, once on Hartford Stage's 2001-02 roster, draws its inspiration from the life of movie star Rita Hayworth. Hayworth was the child of Spanish-born dancer Eduardo Cansino and "Ziegfeld Follies" girl Volga Hayworth. She began her career dancing in Mexican clubs before being discovered by a Fox executive at the age of 17. The show is described as being very dance intensive.
The NYS&F season also offers two series of readings.
The complete line-up is as follows:
• Tuesdays with Morrie by Jeffrey Hatcher and Mitch Albom, directed by David Esbjornson, June 21-July 6
• Adrift in Macao, book and lyrics by Christopher Durang, music by Peter Melnick, directed by Sheryl Kaller, July 10-20
• Left, written and directed by Richard Nelson, July 24-Aug. 4
Susan Stein Shiva Theater:
• A New Play by Tom Donaghy, directed by Michael Wilson, June 28-30
• Discovery of America by Arthur Kopit, July 5 7
• The Violence Project conceived and directed by Elizabeth Swados, July 19-21
• Diosa by Edwin Sanchez, directed by Melia Bensussen, Aug. 2-4
Reading Festival #1, June 21-23:
• In Film by Chris Denham
• Kitchen Drama by Lee Kalcheim
• No Such Thing by Brian Tanen
• Summer Winds by Frank Pugliese
• String of Pearls by Michelle Lowe
Reading Festival #2, July 26-28
• A Perfect Dinner Party by Alexandra Gersten and Theresa Rebeck
• Picasso's Closet by Ariel Dorfman
• Rosemary and I by Leslie Ayvazian
• Wilderness or Mirrors by Charles Evered
For tickets, please call (845) 437-5599.
The 18-year-old New York Stage & Film is particularly hot right now. Always a popular training ground for new plays, the troupe's 2001 season produced a high amount of success stories. Three productions—Mr. Goldwyn with Alan King, Donaghy's Boys and Girls and Jessica Goldberg's Good Thing—made it to New York City stages this season. Another show, David Henry Hwang's Largo, will be staged at Trinity Rep in Rhode Island in the coming season.
—By Robert Simonson