As NY's Joseph Papp Public Theatre gears up for its summer season of Shakespeare in the Park (The Skin of Our Teeth and Cymbeline), three shows have recently been announced for the company's 1998-99 roster: William Shakespeare's Pericles, Diana Son's Stop/Kiss, and Ellen McLaughlin's Tongue of a Bird.
McLaughlin provided one of the most memorable theatre images of the 1990s, playing the angel in Angels in America, before turning to playwriting. She debuted her latest drama, Tongue of a Bird, at Seattle's Intiman Theatre and then brought it to London's Almeida in November 1997. The upcoming mounting, commissioned and co-produced by L.A.'s Mark Taper Forum, will play first at the Taper in early 1999 before coming to the Public in the spring. (One unusual aspect of the aforementioned Seattle production: everyone in the cast, design and production team was a woman, led by director Lisa Peterson.)
Tongue of a Bird is described as "the powerful and poetic story of a search-and-rescue pilot who hunts for an abducted girl, while trying to come to terms with the loss of her own mother. . . about one woman's lost child, and another's lost childhood."
The play was developed in Seattle in a February 1997 reading on the "New Voices at Intiman" series. The mainstage premiere was made possible by a grant from "AT&T OnStage."
McLaughlin's other plays include "Iphigenia and Other Daughters," "A Narrow Bed," "Infinity's House" and "Days and Nights Within." *
Few details are available on Pericles except that Brian Kulick will stage the comedy/drama. Kulick's credits include a 1995 Amphitryon at Off-Broadway's Classic Stage Company.
As for Stop/Kiss, author Son is currently swimming with the Fishes, her play at Off-Off-Broadway's New Georges Theatre. Jo Bonney, Eric Bogosian's wife and frequent collaborator (Pounding Nails in the Floor With My Forehead), will direct Stop/Kiss, which received a staged reading at the Public's New Works Now series in May.
Other works by Son include Boy, which was directed by Michael Grief at CA's La Jolla Playhouse. Previews are tentatively scheduled to begin Nov. 6.
Also expected from the Public is the return of On The Town, with rehearsals getting underway in August for performances starting Oct. 20 at the Gershwin Theatre, recently vacated by 1776. Artistic director George C. Wolfe will again direct as he did at the Delacorte. Keith Young, a former principal dancer with the Twyla Tharp company, choreographs.
Right now, the Public's main focus is on The Skin of Our Teeth, which opened the Shakespeare in the Park season at Central Park's Delacorte Theatre. Set to start previews June 12, Skin didn't begin until June 13 because of a rainstorm. The June 17 show was also canceled due to inclement weather, and, according to spokesperson Bill Coyle, nearly every day since Teeth began, rain has been a factor at some point during the day. The production opens June 28 for a limited run through July 12.
John Goodman, burly star of TV's "Roseanne," who had a busy winter starring in a spate of film releases including The Borrowers and The Big Lebowski, plays Mr. Antrobus. Previous stage appearances by Goodman include Huck Finn's father, Pap, in the original Broadway production of the musical Big River. He can be heard singing "Guv'mint" on the original cast album.
Co-starring with Goodman in The Skin of Our Teeth are Frances Conroy as Mrs. Antrobus and Kristen Johnson of TV's "Third Rock From the Sun" as Sabina. Irene Lewis, artistic director of Baltimore MD's Center Stage, directed the piece.
The Wilder fantasy is one of two plays being offered as part of NYSF's annual program of free plays at the Delacorte Theatre, several of which have moved to Broadway (Pirates of Penzance, The Mystery of Edwin Drood, The Tempest) or are in the process of doing so (On the Town).
Wilder's surreal drama follows the Antrobus family, representing the family of Man, as it struggles to survive the Ice Age, marital infidelity and a hurricane that could presage the end of the world. The Pulitzer winning play also is being adapted as a musical by John Kander & Fred Ebb. .
The second 1998 Central Park production will be Andrei Serban's mounting of Shakespeare's Cymbeline. Casting is expected by late June for the Aug. 4-30 production.
For more information on shows at NYSF/the Public Theatre call (212) 260-2400.
-- By David Lefkowitz