You've seen him in The Princess Bride and Clueless and watched him argue with Andre Gregory in My Dinner With Andre, but Wallace Shawn is nearly as prolific a playwright as he is an actor. His oft-staged Marie And Bruce, as well as A Thought In Three Parts and translation of Machiavelli's The Mandrake all played at NY's Public Theatre, and his The Hotel Play was staged at La MaMa in 1981.
Now Shawn's latest, mounted in 1996 at England's Royal National Theatre as a tour de force return to acting for Mike Nichols, will have its American premiere at Chicago's Steppenwolf Studio Theatre.The Designated Mourner, about a future where all the ideals of art and culture are destroyed, is staged Friel-style, as a series of monologues. David Shapiro will star as Jack, one of three voices in the piece, which is set in a fictional future in which intellectuals are rounded up and executed. These include his wife Judy (Martha Lavey) and father-in-law Howard (Nicholas Rudall).
Other works by Shawn include Aunt Dan And Lemon, staged at London's Royal Court, Steppenwolf and the Public Theatre; and the Obie winning The Fever.
Directing Mourner will be Les Waters, who staged Fen and Cloud Nine, and Shawn's Marie And Bruce, at the Royal Court.
Designing Designated will be Dan Ostling (set), Christine Solger (lighting), and Janice Pytel (costumes). Michael Volansky serves as dramaturg. The show begins previews March 19 with an opening set for March 23. The show runs through April 13 at the Steppenwolf Studio on North Halsted St. For tickets ($14.50-$19.50) and information on The Designated Mourner, call (312) 335-1650.
--By David Lefkowitz