Williamstown Theatre Festival in Williamstown, MA, launched its 1997 season June 25 with Jon Robin Baitz' 1985 drama The Film Society, starring Tony-winner Cherry Jones. The star-power continues with its opening tonight, July 10, of Sidney Kingsley's Dead End.
Kingsley's 1937 Broadway drama about the wharf rats on New York's seedy riverfront eventually led to a Humphrey Bogart movie, then the East Side Kids, and then (in a completely comic vein) the Bowery Boys B-movie series.
The cast features a gaggle of NY theatre notables: Robert Sean Leonard (Arcadia, Candida), Campbell Scott (Long Day's Journey Into Night), Julie Dretzin (The Sisters Rosensweig), Marian Seldes (Deathtrap, Off-Broadway's Three Tall Women), Hope Davis (The Food Chain), Lee Wilkof (She Loves Me), Tom Brennan (Prelude To A Kiss), Bruce MacVittie (American Buffalo), Rod McLachlan (Holiday), Jennifer Schelter, Amy Van Nostrand and Scott Wolf.
Dead End began previews July 9, and runs to July 20.
Williamstown's 43rd season also includes premieres by Albert Innuarato and Donald Margulies, plus a production that is the fruit of a collaboration between American and Russian playwrights. The directors selected include a mix of old time Williamstown directors such as Joanne Woodward, and newcomers like Roger Rees, who has directed Jones in The Film Society. Playwright Jon Robin Baitz said, "What drew me to Williamstown in the first place and why I'm going back this summer is that it provides an opportunity to reconnect to a play that has been sitting dormant and to share it with an audience who is interested and charitable."
Baitz's The Film Society runs through July 6 on the Mainstage. It is set at a South African school for boys in 1970. The play is directed by Rees (Nicholas Nickleby, The Rehearsal) and features Tony winner Jones (of The Heiress Goodnight Desdemona, Good Morning Juliet and Night Of The Iguana fame). Also starring are Carole Shelley (Show Boat, The Elephant Man, The Odd Couple), David Aaron Baker (Once Upon A Mattress), Tom Bloom (The Lights), John Benjamin Hickey (Love! Valour! Compassion!) and Denis Holmes.
Designing The Film Society are Neil Patel (set), Willa Kim (costumes), Frances Aronson (lighting) and Kurt Kellenberger (sound).
Margulies (Sight Unseen) will unveil Broken Sleep: Three Plays on WTF's Other Stage. The production, running July 16-27, will feature underscoring and songs written by Michael John LaChuisa (Hello, Again).
Also on the Other Stage is Dreading Thelka (July 30-Aug. 10), by Innaurato (Gemini) is about an unusual love triangle involving a writer, her gay best friend, and the title character.
The Mainstage will host the American premiere of Misha's Party, Aug. 20-31, co-written by American playwright Richard Nelson and Russian playwright Alexander Gelman, which received major productions at both the Royal Shakespeare Company and Moscow Art Theatre. The serio-comic season finale takes place in Moscow, 1991, one night when a family tries to reconcile problems in the home, while outside, a putsch occurs.
A play with music (by Machado and Geri Allen), Stevie Wants To Play The Blues is set in the 1940s. A woman disguises herself as a man to play with a blues band -- but she falls in love with the lead singer, leading to drugs, racial strife and a reconsideration of her lifestyle change. Jim Simpson directs the piece, which features sets by Michael Brown, costumes by Marion Williams, lighting by Jeffrey Nellis and sound by Kurt Kellenberger. Rodney Kendrick seres as musical director.
Starring as Stevie is Christy Baron, who appeared on Broadway in Les Miz. Other cast-members include Yvette L. Cason (Dreamgirls), Thom Christopher, Robert LuPone (Getting Away With Murder), Terumi Matthews, John Ore, Jeremy Blynn, Charles Davis. Additional music was contributed to the show by Ore, Davis, Kendrick and director Simpson.
Other works by Machado include Cuba And The Night, Once Removed, Kissing Fidel and Three Ways To Go Blind. He's currently directing his own screenplay, Exiles In New York. Stevie plays at Williamstown July 2-13.
Mainstage programs also include George Bernard Shaw's Arms and the Man(July 23-Aug. 3), directed by Barry Edelstein, who last summer directed the WTF production of Arthur Miller's All My Sons, currently being produced at Broadway's Roundabout Theatre. Dead End, a 1936 drama written by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Sidney Kingsley, explores the stark chasm between the luxurious lives of the wealthy and the hopeless lives of the impoverished (July 9-20).
Johnny On a Spot by Charles MacArthur is the fifth Mainstage production, which satirizes American politics with its portrayal of a brilliant campaign manager whose Senate candidate is not altogether there. James Naughton will leave Broadway's hit Chicago to direct this Mainstage show, Aug. 6-17.
WTF favorite Joanne Woodward returns to the Other Stage to direct it's season finale La Ronde, Aug. 13-24, Arthur Schnitzer's sexually charged ensemble play. Last year at WTF, Woodward received critical acclaim for her direction of Odets' Rocket to the Moon.
For tickets or more information, please call (413) 458-3200, or refer to the Williamstown Theatre Festival summer theatre listing on Playbill On-Line.