Ever since New York Theatre Workshop and the Royal Court Theatre got into a trans-Atlantic war of words last spring over the former's decision to not present the latter's hit production of the political solo play My Name Is Rachel Corrie, theatre watchers have been waiting and watching to see which Gotham company or producer would pounce on the headline-grabbing title. This week the answer came. And the champions of free speech, or gluttons for punishment (take your pick) are: Dena Hammerstein and Pam Pariseau for James Hammerstein Productions. They will present the work at Off-Broadway's Minetta Lane Theatre Oct. 15 for a limited engagement of (count 'em) 48 performances. Actor Alan Rickman, who is one of the authors of the piece, will direct.
The London solo drama is about the death of the titular American protestor, who was killed in the Gaza Strip in 2003 by an Israeli bulldozer. The tragic occurrence has drawn wrath from both sides of the politically fueled fence — some saying the death was accidental and others contending it was not. The text is concocted using her journals and emails.
The season may have just ended, but nobody told Off-Broadway. Not only have there been openings a-plenty over the past week or so, but they've been significant openings, including a major new musical, a new play by Diana Son in nearly a decade, a new Richard Greenberg play and veteran actor Alvin Epstein's stab at that career-capper, King Lear .
The musical was the Duncan Sheik-Steven Sater rocker Spring Awakening which, as was noted last week, excited critics enough to earn an extension through Aug. 5 and talk of a commercial transfer. Son's work, Satellites , was deemed likable, accessible and incisive when it opened at the Public Theater on June 18. Greenberg's new The House in Town received considerably fewer plaudits when it was unveiled at Lincoln Center Theater on June 19, though critics singled out lead actress Jessica Hecht for praise. And Epstein was applauded for taking a human, intimate, low-key approach to a play that usually looms over its audience. ***
La Jolla Playhouse 's on-again, off-again artistic director Des McAnuff is off again. The Jersey Boys director announced that he will end his term with the California company when his contract ends in 2007. McAnuff served as artistic director of La Jolla from 1983 to 1994, then returned in 2001, making him sort of the Grover Cleveland of the La Jolla White House. (If you don't get it, go check your history books.)
Before Des leaves, he will stage the Playhouse's upcoming re-imagining of The Wiz and a workshop production of Aaron Sorkin 's The Farnsworth Invention.
Some of the top stage stars of our day have jumped at the opportunity to play 19th century Russia's top intellectuals. Either that, or they were just excited about appearing in a new Tom Stoppard play. The work is the huge, three-parter The Coast of Utopia , and it will star Billy Crudup, Richard Easton, Jennifer Ehle, Josh Hamilton, David Harbour, Ethan Hawke, Brían F. O'Byrne and Martha Plimpton.
The thesps will work hard for their meal ticket. The three parts, called Voyage, Shipwreck and Salvage , will open on Nov. 5, Dec. 21 and Feb. 15, 2007, respectively. During the final three-and-one-half weeks of the production's run, audiences will have the opportunity to see all three parts in succession. Also, on three Saturdays—Feb. 24, March 3 and March 10—theatregoers will be able to see all three plays in one-day marathons beginning at 11 AM. Hope those guys get Sunday off on those weekends.