After running throughout the fall at off-Broadway's Century Center Theatre, Joan Vail Thorne's gentle comedy-drama, The Exact Center of the Universe, will end its run Jan. 9, with 143 performances under its belt. The show had a critically-embraced, nonprofit April 1999 run at Women's Project & Productions Theatre, before beginning its run at the Century Theatre Sept. 8.
Frances Sternhagen stars in the piece, alongside Stephen Skybell (who took over for Reed Birney Dec. 14), Marge Redmond, Tracy Thorne and Sloane Shelton. Bethel Leslie, an original cast member at WP&P, recently passed away. John Tillinger directs.
Vail Thorne's warm, Southern-fried family comedy concerns a matron unsettled by her son's romance. Sternhagen, who has won two Tonys over her long career, plays Vada Love Powell, a matriarch from the Deep South whose small world is rocked when her son, Apple (played by Birney), marries without her consent. Gossip flares, barbs are tossed and secrets are revealed.
Details about an upcoming Boston production are in the offing, according to production spokespersons at Springer/Chicoine.
Among Sternhagen's most recent credits is the award-winning Lincoln Center Theatre revival of The Heiress starring Cherry Jones. Skybell's recent credits include Dream True Off-Broadway and The First Picture Show at the Mark Taper Forum in L.A. The initial non-profit run was produced by Women's Project & Productions March 30-May 2 at WPP Theatre (formerly Theater Four) on West 55th Street. Elsa Daspin Haft, Martin Markinson, Judith Resnick, Sheilah Goldman, Jerome Rosenfeld and Allen M. Shore are producers of the commercial run.
Designers for Exact Center of the Universe are Michael Brown (sets), Carrie Robbins (costumes), Brian McDevitt (lighting) and Laura Grace Brown (sound).
With theatres scarce, many potential productions are jockeying for the Century Center space, though the inside track seems to belong to Allan Knee's romantic drama, Syncopation. After a successful run at Connecticut's Long Wharf Theatre, Syncopation embarks on the second half of its world premiere, with previews beginning Jan. 8 at New Jersey's George Street Playhouse. The Long Wharf/George Street co production officially opens in NJ Jan. 12 for a run through Feb. 6. A New York mounting is almost certain to follow, but will it be at the Century Center? Producer Daryl Roth told Playbill On-Line (Jan. 5), "We're talking about it, but nothing is firm."
Playwright Thorne's latest project is the libretto for the world premiere of Summer, for Berkshire Opera Company.
The Century Theatre is at 111 East 15th Street. Tickets are $17.50 $47.50. Call (212) 239-6200 for information on The Exact Center of the Universe.
--By David Lefkowitz & Robert Simonson