Unique pairings of actors are expected to perform some of Neil Simon's choicest material at the June 26 Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS benefit, The Playwright's the Thing II: Neil Simon at the Neil Simon.
Rosemary Harris and Julie Kavner, on stage together? Playing mother and daughter? Simon says.
Tony Award winner Jennifer Ehle (The Real Thing) and Leigh Lawson will play Nina and The Voice, from The Good Doctor, Robert Klein and Marsha Mason will be Mel and Edna Edison in Prisoner of Second Avenue and Bebe Neuwirth and Jean Smart will be Florence and Olive in The Female Odd Couple, three of the 13 pieces expected to be part of this literary revue, directed by Walter Bobbie. A complete list of performers and plays represented, as of June 22, follows.
Tony and Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Simon has personally selected and adapted pieces from his many plays for a varied cast that will act in service of BC/EFA. It all happens at the Broadway theatre that bears the writer's name.
Among plays represented are Laughter on the 23rd Floor, Fools, Plaza Suite, The Good Doctor, God's Favorite, I Ought to be in Pictures, Proposals, Last of the Red Hot Lovers, The Odd Couple, The Prisoner of Second Avenue, Biloxi Blues, Chapter Two and Lost in Yonkers. Performers from stage, film and TV include Hank Azaria, Roger Bart, Mark Blum, Charles S. Dutton, Jennifer Ehle, Calista Flockhart, Rosemary Harris, Kristin Johnston, Julie Kavner, Robert Klein, Nathan Lane, Leigh Lawson, Robert Sean Leonard, Eugene Levy, Natasha Lyonne, Marsha Mason, Debra Monk, Bebe Neuwirth, Bronson Pinchot, John Ritter, Ron Rifkin, Lynne Thigpen, Mary Louise Wilson and more.
Tickets for the benefit run $50-$1,000 and support programs of Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS.
Top ticket-price payers attend a pre-performance cocktail reception at 5:30 PM and a VIP dinner at Dish of Salt following the show. The Neil Simon Theatre is at 250 W. 52nd Street.
The 1999 event, showcasing works of Christopher Durang, Terrence McNally and Wendy Wasserstein, raised over $250,000.
"The response from the community last year was overwhelming," said producer Kevin Duncan. "People were so responsive to an event that celebrated the spoken word; it was a first of its kind. Once we presented 'Playwrights' last year the other opportunities to continue and expand on this idea just seemed to start popping up."
Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS bills itself as the nation's leading industry-based, not-for-profit AIDS fundraising and grant-making organization. By drawing on the talents, resources and generosity of the theatre community, BC/EFA has raised millions of dollars for AIDS related causes across the United States.
The show will include:
The Good Doctor
Jennifer Ehle (Nina), Leigh Lawson (The Voice)
Mark Blum (Joe Benjamin), Nathan Lane (Sidney Lipton)
Prisoner of Second Avenue
Robert Klein (Mel Edison), Marsha Mason (Edna Edison)
Lynne Thigpen (Clemma), Roc Dutton (Lewis)
John Ritter (George Schneider), Calista Flockhart (Jenny Malone)
Robert Klein (Dr. Zubretsky), Mary Louise Wilson (Lenya), Robert Sean Leonard (Leon), Calista Flockhart (Sophia)
The Female Odd Couple
Bebe Neuwirth (Florence), Jean Smart (Olive), Bronson Pinchot (Jesus), Hank Azaria (Manolo)
Last of the Red Hot Lovers
Eugene Levy (Barney), Julie Kavner (Jeanette)
I Oughta Be in Pictures
Ron Rifkin (Herb), Natasha Lyonne (Libby)
Lost in Yonkers
Julie Kavner (Aunt Bella), Rosemary Harris (Grandma)
Tony Roberts (Jesse Kiplinger), Debra Monk (Muriel Tate)
Robert Sean Leonard (Eugene), Mark Feuerstein (Selridge), Roger Bart (Carney), Christine Ebersole (Rowena)
Laughter on the 23rd Floor
Nathan Lane (Max Prince), Robert Klein (Milt), John Ritter (Brian), Bebe Neuwirth (Carol), Hank Azaria (Kenny), Eugene Levy (Val), Mark Feuerstein (Lucas)
For ticket information call Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS at (212) 840-0770 or visit www.broadwaycares.org.
-- By Kenneth Jones