The Old Settler at Washington DC's Studio Theatre has just received the fourth, and last, extension of its run. The John Henry Redwood play will now run through Aug. 2.
A drama about Harlem in the 1940s, The Old Settler was recognized with a special citation from the American Theatre Critics Association and won the 1995 Beverly Hills Theatre Guild/Julie Harris Playwriting Award and Virginia Duvall Mann Playwriting Award.
The play, which started previews May 27 and opened June 3, was scheduled to run to June 28 but was extended to July 12 and then July 19 and then July 26 due to audience demand. S. Epatha Merkerson ("Law & Order") left the show July 5 and was replaced by Denise Diggs, who started on July 8. Diggs last appeared in Spell #7 at the Studio.
The Old Settler tells of "two 50-something unmarried sisters, Elizabeth and Quilly, living in a Harlem apartment in 1943. In the parlance of the times, Elizabeth (Merkerson/Diggs) is considered to be an "old settler," a woman of a certain age and few prospects. Sharing a loving if sometimes quarrelsome life together, the two sisters' relationship is put to the test when they take in a young male boarder who has come to New York to search for his lost love.
Playwright Redwood based his story on his mother and aunt, who shared a home after his father died. "I used to watch them bicker about little minor things and they would go on and on," he said. "I wanted to capture the love of these two sisters over time." Merkerson stars opposite Studio Theatre veteran Lynda Gravatt in the production, directed by Seret Scott. Designing the show are James Kronzer (set), Michael Phillippi (lighting), Reggie Ray (costumes) and Mark Andus (sound).
Merkerson's first Broadway show was Tintypes (1982), and she appeared Off-Broadway in Lady Day At Emerson's Bar & Grill, Hospice and Home.
For tickets ($19.50-$34.50) and information on The Old Settler at the Studio Theatre 1333 P St. NW, call (202) 332-3300.