Though Off-Broadway's Jean Cocteau Repertory has made its mainstay Greek tragedies, Shakespearean dramas and international theatre classics, in recent times, the company has been moving towards more modern works. Last season they offered Joe Orton's What The Butler Saw, and earlier this season the company staged Robert Shaw's Man In The Glass Booth.
Now Cocteau Rep will offer a rarely-staged Lanford Wilson drama, Talley and Son, the 1985 reworked version of A Tale Told, which premiered at the now-defunct Circle Repertory Theatre in 1980. Producing artistic director Scott Shattuck will stage Wilson's drama, May 22-June 14, in which two family businesses in post-War America are rocked by scandal. The play is narrated by the ghost of a grandson killed on his way home from the Pacific.
Wilson's other Talley tales were Talley's Folly and The Fifth of July, which Shattuck hopes to stage in rep with Talley and Son one day. Other plays include Moonshot and Cosmos, Burn This, The Hot L Baltimore and Lemon Sky.
Director Shattuck says of Talley and Son, "Like some of Wilson's other best work, it's Chekhovian," with economic forces registering strongly on the world of the characters. "It's about how we assess our lives. Is it a cold accounting of our achievements and acquisitions, or a holistic embrace of...love, creativeness and integrity?"
Starring in the show, which officially opens May 24, are Cocteau Rep veterans Craig Smith, Harris Berlinsky and Elise Stone, alongside Christine Hall, Mary Ellen Taylor, Tracey Atkins, Patrick Hall, Christopher Black, Charles Parnell, Sabrina Veroczi, Tim Deak and Sidney Marcus. Designing Talley are Brian Aldous (lighting) and Susan Soetaert (costumes). *
In other Cocteau Rep news, The Imaginary Invalid has extended its repertory run past a May 8 close to May 15. The show began previews Mar. 13 and opened Mar. 15. In Moliere's farce, protagonist Argan proves to be "as wealthy as he thinks he is unhealthy," making him the target of charlatans and an avaricious wife. Luckily, Argan's maid is the smartest one in the household.
The aforementioned Smith (Tartuffe, What The Butler Saw, Lulu) stars, alongside Taylor, Atkins, Parnell and Stone. Designing Invalid are Peggy McKowen (set), Jonathan Polgar (lighting) and Patrick Heydenburg (set). Producing artistic director Shattuck directs, with Loi Leabo choreographing.
Founded in 1971, Jean Cocteau Repertory uses a resident company of actors to bring American and European classics to Off-Broadway. The company is located in the olde-timey Bouwerie Lane Theatre on New York's Lower East Side. For tickets ($20-$29) and information on the season, call (212) 677-0060.
-- By David Lefkowitz