From D'Oh! to Gogh!
Dan Castellaneta, the voice of Homer Simpson on TV's long-running animated "Simpsons" series, is doing an Off-Broadway show for the second time this year. Opening Sept. 20 (after previews starting Sept. 13), Castellaneta stars in his own one-man show, Where Did Vincent Van Gogh at the Riverside Theatre in Chelsea. According to press materials provided by the Pete Sanders Group, the solo questions, "what would happen to an actor if his body was overtaken by an alien as he is in the midst of doing a show about the famous painter?"
What happens is that Castellaneta gets to do dozens of different voices and characters, some for only a few seconds (an Indian cabdriver, a hunchback) while others have an extended monologue. The set-up is that the alien is looking for nine good and interesting people, which the actor, playing Van Gogh, ends up incarnating. Longer pieces include a little girl who tells the story of her psycho dad in words and painted pictures; a man who's devoted his life to becoming a factory foreman for his dad's sake (only to have his dead father complain that he wanted his son to be anything but a factory foreman); and an effete theatre-type pitching a Broadway musical about dog people vs. cat people.
Art Wolff (Accomplice), who's helmed plays by Shel Silverstein and at the late, lamented Manhattan Punch Line, directed Vincent in its June-July 1999 premiere at L.A.'s Acme Comedy Theatre. Riverside artistic director Brian Feehan will oversee the New York mounting, which is based on Wolff's original staging.
For Castellaneta, this is only his second New York acting stint, following last winter's modernized The Alchemist at CSC. *
The second show of Riverside's season will be The Head, a macabre comedy by William S. Leavengood, author of Space Hunter and 17 Black. Staged by Riverside artistic director Brian Feehan, The Head, starting performances Oct. 24, tells of an urbane scientist "who also happens to be a disembodied head. Of course, there is the requisite kidnapping by a dwarf, a giant, and a Pakistani mystic," reads the show's press release.
In recent years, New York has seen Leavengood's Florida Crackers (Circle Rep) and The Preservation Society (Primary Stages), but mostly the playwright has worked regionally, especially in California and Florida, where the American Stage Theatre recently held a season-long reading series of Leavengood's plays. Florida Crackers, 17 Black, the farce, What Is Art? and several one-acts (including Day of the Onandaga and Space Hunter) were published in a Leavengood compilation, "Florida Bound," in 1994, by Holvoe Books. His latest project, the libretto for an epic musical titled Webb's City: The Musical, received its premiere at Ruth Eckerd Hall in Florida in June.
Riverside, which plays out of the Chelsea Playhouse, is devoted to developing and premiering new American plays. Last season they offered Carrin Beginning, by W. August Schulenberg.
The Chelsea Playhouse is at 125 W. 22nd St. Tickets are $35. Call (212) 279-4200 for information or check out their webste at www.riversidestageco.com
-- By David Lefkowitz