Crossroads Theater

George Street

McCarter Theater

At Paper Mill

The Actors’ NET

Bristol Riverside

Bucks Playhouse

Kelsey Theater

Magnet Theater Co.

NJ Shakespeare Festival

Off-Broadstreet Theater

Princeton Rep

Theater Intime

Corrections or additions?

This article was published in U.S. 1

Newspaper on September 16, 1998. All rights reserved.

Princeton Drama Preview, 1998

The fall is here and once again mailboxes are filling

up with the glossy subscription brochures sent out by our region’s

professional theaters. Will you be influenced by the pitch and fervor

of their ballyhoo, impressed by their computer-enhanced art, and

tempted

by their promises of a season to top all seasons? Like yesterday’s

carnival barkers, the marketing personnel hope to entice you to

subscribe

by emphasizing the rewards that come to those who commit to a full

season.

How can you resist the offer of four, five, six, or seven shows that

have been carefully chosen to offer a balanced dose of laughter,

suspense,

music, and tragedy? In typical fashion, you can expect the classics

of Sophocles, Shakespeare, Moliere, and Chekhov to share the season

with American staples from Tennessee Williams and Sam Shepherd, as

well as lighter fare from the canon of Noel Coward and Brendan Behan.

There are new plays promised from A.R. Gurney and Arthur Laurents,

while such stars as Claire Bloom, Betty Buckley, Anne Meara, Pat

Carroll,

and Zoe Wanamaker will tread the boards.

Of course you may be one of those ardently discriminating

single-ticket

purchasers who insist on picking and choosing shows on an individual

basis. You have to be willing to pay a premium for the privilege,

as well as settling for less than prime seat locations. Subscribers

still get the best deal. Along with flexibility and side benefits,

some subscriptions offer a full season of theater for the price of

one pair of tickets on Broadway.

Once again the area’s resident companies are at the starting gate

with their roster of world premieres, classic revivals, popular hits,

and a sprinkling of special attractions. Notwithstanding the state’s

proximity to New York — still the turbulent epicenter of the

theatrical

cosmos — New Jersey’s professional theaters have become, with

the administrative support of the New Jersey Theater Group (a

statewide

alliance of 20 professional, not-for-profit theaters), a progressive

theater arts community.

As an active, demonstrative artistic collective for almost two

decades,

NJTG continues to do an impressive job fostering growth and attendance

by publishing its own brochures and news and offering a mix-and-match

sampler series, a subscription good at a choice of different theaters.

Despite reductions in state and national arts funding, the arts

message

still gets out. For a quick or last minute reminder of what’s playing

where, the cost, and on how to get there, visit their website at

www.njtheatregroup.org.

In another progressive and welcome move, McCarter Theater this year

institutes a new, model young-audience-building program: $10 for any

play at any time to those under 25 years of age. Replacing the

customary

student prices, this program allows young adults to forget about

student

IDs and graduation dates. After all, the play’s the thing.

Top Of Page
Crossroads Theater

`I didn’t plan to do a full season

of

history plays. It just happened that way. But I think it’s a good

way to end the decade," says Crossroads’ artistic director Ricardo

Khan about the upcoming season, an almost unintentional (he says)

tribute to the rich and turbulent African-American past. Superstar

Muhammad Ali, the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s, the African slave

trade, the birth of the blues, and an 1880s "all-colored"

town in Indiana are all subjects addressed in this, Crossroads’ 26th

season.

The turbulent past can also seem as close as yesterday to Khan, who

unwittingly became a key player in a history-making cultural clash.

This happened as Pulitzer Prize-winning black playwright August

Wilson,

in his 1996 keynote address to the Theater Communications Group, of

which Khan was then president, delivered a powerful jeremiad

supporting

— and demanding — desperately needed funding for

African-American

produced theater in America. The speech set off a nationwide debate

on race and theater.

But Khan, as director of the nation’s preeminent black theater,

eventually

rejoiced when Wilson, after years of submitting all his new plays

to mainstream theaters where diversification was being rewarded with

big grants, finally brought a new (old) work to this major

African-American

institution. In the spring of 1997, a revised version of Wilson’s

early play, "Jitney," became the first Wilson work to be

staged

by Crossroads before a proposed New York premiere which, ironically,

never happened.

Another positive result of Wilson’s call, says Khan, is the formation

of the African Grove Institute, a service and trade organization based

at Dartmouth College in Hanover, Massachusetts. Led by Victor Leo

Walker III of Dartmouth, August Wilson serves as chairman of the

board,

and Keryl McCord, Crossroads’ managing director, serves as

vice-president

for programing. The new institute bears the name of the nation’s first

African-American Theater, based in Greenwich Village in the late

1800s,

where African-American actors performed the plays of Shakespeare.

Now what would Wilson, who disapproves casting against race, say to

those actors of yesteryear? "Let’s not point fingers," says

Khan, adding, "let’s just have fun." That sounds good to me.

Khan says that the plays for this season are most notable for being

the work of established writers. Audiences who remember the dramatic

excitement stirred up in Pearl Cleage’s "Flyin’ West," are

looking forward to Cleage’s "Blues for an Alabama Sky," a

play set at the end of the Harlem Renaissance and staged by

"Jitney"

director Walter Dallas.

It’s from Blues to Blues when "It Ain’t Nothin’ But the Blues"

follows on the big stage. This blues musical, Khan says "traces

the cultural journey from the African slaves’ arrival in the United

States to the Rhythm and Blues sound we claim today." Khan says

that it hasn’t been confirmed yet whether audiences will get to see

playwright Geoffrey Ewing as "Ali" (the role he originated),

the biographical one-man tribute to Muhammad Ali. Let’s hope that

whoever stars as the legendary fighter packs a wallop.

Following the Genesis Festival of New Plays, Khan will close the

season

with "Lost Creek Township," a play by Charlotte A. Gibson

that deals with a town that manages, against the face of adversity,

to develop a sense of community, loyalty, pride, and hope for a better

day. Khan is obviously pleased that Gibson’s play, the hit of last

seasons’ Genesis festival of staged readings, closes the season with

a message he says reflects what Crossroads wants to accomplish: to

"nurture a sense of community, friendship, and family."

Crossroads Theater, 7 Livingston Avenue, New Brunswick,

732-249-5560.

Blues for an Alabama Sky, October 1 to November 1. It

Ain’t Nothin’ But the Blues , November 17 to January 3. Ali,

January 28 to March 7. Genesis Festival, March 10 to 22. Lost

Creek Township, April 1 to May 16.

Top Of Page
George Street

David Saint, the new artistic director of the George

Street Playhouse says, "my stomach feels a little queasy."

Hardly surprising, I respond during our phone conversation. This is

Saint’s first season at the Playhouse, which is currently embarking

on its 25th anniversary season. Perhaps that is why Saint, who was

preparing for the first rehearsals for "After-Play," says

"it feels like the first day of school." And that is why he

tells me he has made sure he will be surrounded with "old

friends."

"The older she gets, the more open she gets," says Saint

referring

to his friend and mentor Anne Meara, currently slated to star in her

own play "After-Play," a comedy set in a trendy Manhattan

restaurant where two couples are dining after the theater.

Paradoxically,

the lighting designer Joe Saint (the director’s brother) will probably

do his best to make everyone looker younger than their years.

But getting older and becoming more open are qualities Saint

especially

likes about Meara, as well as two of the other writers coming to

George

Street — Arthur Laurents and A.R. ("Pete") Gurney.

"Both

men later in their careers are suddenly so prolific," says Saint

who saw another of Gurney’s new plays, "The Far East,"

premiere

this summer at Williamstown. "Let’s do one of mine," Gurney

said to Saint, who had recently been named to his post at George

Street

Playhouse and had directed the national tour of Gurney’s "The

Cocktail Hour."

The world premiere of Gurney’s pair of one-act thrillers "Darlene

and the Guest Lecturer," will be staged by "Mere Mortals"

director John Rando; it stars Nancy Opel, who appeared in "Mere

Mortals." The first play is about a mysterious woman who puts

a strain on a suburban couple’s marriage; the second is about a woman

who takes "diabolical steps" to keep a financially strapped

regional theater from going under.

The holiday season offering is Daniel Sullivan’s "Inspecting

Carol,"

a zany comedy that crosses "The Inspector General," with

"A

Christmas Carol." Saint is still not sure whether he will be

directing

Sullivan’s play, a Seattle Repertory Company project created by Saint

and ex-Seattle artistic director Sullivan during their residency days

there.

"It’s a small world," says Saint, noting that Sullivan will

be directing the Gurney play at Lincoln Center, and that Helen

Gallagher,

with whom Saint did a scene from "The Sea Gull," for an Uta

Hagen acting class, is featured in "After-Play."

So that brings us up to the next play "The Sea Gull," about

an aging actress trying to sustain her glory, her glamour, and her

youth. Although Saint admits it is "my favorite Chekhov play,"

it will be staged by Mark Nelson (the Princeton graduate of

"Picasso

at the Lapin Agile" and "June Moon," seen at McCarter

and Off-Broadway last season.)

On the 50th anniversary of the blacklisting of the Hollywood 10,

playwright

Arthur Laurents returns to Cold War politics with "Jolson Sings

Again." Taken from a famous news headline — JOLSON SINGS AGAIN

— that appeared the day after the actor Larry Parks (who played

Jolson in the "The Jolson Story") named names before the House

Un-American Activities Committee. As the final offering of the season,

Saint may be hosting his former teacher, Uta Hagen, if she brings

her current New York play, "Collected Stories," to George

Street. If this does not pan out, the theater will present Paula

Vogel’s

recent off-Broadway hit, "How I Learned to Drive."

Every project won’t be on Saint’s shoulders as George Street’s

associate

artistic director Wendy Liscow is preparing to unveil "Next

Stage,"

a series of new plays that will inaugurate the theater’s newly created

second stage, that it calls "George 99." Featuring

stadium-style

seating, the space is located just off the main lobby. Ted Sod will

be in charge of a solo-performance festival called "The Diva

Project."

George Street Playhouse, 9 Livingston Avenue, New

Brunswick,

732-246-7717.

After-Play, September 19 to October 18. Darlene & the

Guest Lecturer , October 24 to November 22. Inspecting Carol,

November 28 to December 27. The Sea Gull, January 16 to February

21. Jolson Sings Again, February 27 to March 28. Collected

Stories or How I Learned to Drive, April 3 to May 2.

Top Of Page
McCarter Theater

There was something about preparing for her son’s bar

mitzvah last year that led McCarter’s artistic director, Emily Mann,

to read the work of Isaac Bashevis Singer. In particular, it was his

novel "Meshugah," about emigres living in the wake of the

Holocaust, that served as the inspiration for her new play. A little

more than a year since its first readings at McCarter, and a lean

10-day workshop production this past summer at the Sundance Theater

Lab, Mann’s "Meshugah" will have its world premiere this fall.

Sophocles’ "Electra," an import from London’s innovative

Donmar

Warehouse (their lauded production of "Cabaret" continues

as Broadway’s hottest ticket), is busy avenging her father’s murder

as we speak. Zoe Wanamaker is recreating her Olivier award-winning

performance in the title role. The David Leveaux production, featuring

a new adaptation by Frank McGuinness, has continued to evolve and

there are hopes for a Broadway move.

Nilo Cruz’s "Two Sisters and a Piano" has long been a favorite

with the artistic staff, according to Mara Isaacs, McCarter’s resident

producer. First heard as part of an evening of short radio plays,

"Two Sisters and a Piano," which is set in Cuba and is about

two women living under house arrest, has been expanded to a

full-length

play. It will also be coming to McCarter following its two and

one-half

week Sundance workshop, under the direction of Brian Kulick, a

resident

director at the Public Theater in New York.

Belgian director Andre Ernotte gets another go-round with Moliere

(he directed a successful "The Misanthrope" in 1996). His

choice is the biting satire (aren’t they all?) "The School for

Wives."

That Marivaux director Stephen Wadsworth has also proved he has a

way with Noel Coward (he directed "Private Lives" at

McCarter).

This time it’s the witty and sophisticated (aren’t they all?)

"Design

for Living," a collaboration with Seattle Repertory.

McCarter Theater, 91 University Place, 609-683-8000.

Electra, September 15 to October 4. Meshugah,

October

20 to November 8. A Christmas Carol, December 6 to 27. Two

Sisters and a Piano , February 16 to March 7. The School for

Wives, March 23 to April 11. Design for Living, May 4 to

23.

New Jersey Theater Group, 17 Cook Avenue, Madison 07940,

973-593-0189; E-mail njtg@nj.com; website

www.njtheatregroup.org.

Call or write for the 1998-’99 calendar and for the three-theater

sampler order form.

Top Of Page
At Paper Mill

As we speak, those strippers with "a gimmick"

are bumping and grinding their way through the 40th anniversary

production

of "Gypsy" at Paper Mill Playhouse. Betty Buckley stars as

Mama Rose under the direction of Mark Waldrop ("When Pigs

Fly")

in the show that runs through October 25. Is there another side to

"Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde"? We will find out when Richard

White,

in the title role(s), is loose in London after dark in a new musical

version by Phil Hall (music) and David Levy and Leslie Eberhard

(lyrics),

November 4 to December 13.

Opening the new year is an original Jimmy Webb musical revue, "Up,

Up and Away," conceived and directed by Robert Johanson, January

6 to February 7. Spurred by the warm response to his adaptations of

"Jane Eyre" and "Great Expectations," Johanson has

adapted another Bronte novel, "Wuthering Heights," possibly

the greatest of them all, playing February 24 to April 3.

"Crazy for You" has replaced the previously announced revival

of Jerry Herman’s "La Cage Aux Folles," April 14 to June 6.

The Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice collaboration, "Joseph and

the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat," closes the Paper Mill season,

beginning June 16.

— Simon Saltzman

Top Of Page
The Actors’ NET

The Actors’ NET, Delmorr Avenue, Morrisville,

215-295-3694.

I Remember Mama, September 25 to October 11. Manly Men,

October 16 to November 1. Murder at the Vicarage, November 20

to December 6. Christmas Presents, December 18 to 19. Of Mice and

Men , January 22 to February 7. Sherry!, February 12 to 28.

Laughter on the 23rd Floor, March 12 to 28. Criminal

Hearts,

April 9 to 25. Man of La Mancha, May 14 to 30.

Top Of Page
Bristol Riverside

Bristol Riverside Theater, Bristol, 215-785-6664. The

Killing of Michael Malloy , October 13 to November 1. She Loves

Me, December 1 to 20. The Cherry Orchard, February 9 to 28.

A Sunbeam, March 30 to April 18. Brigadoon, May 18 to

June 6.

Top Of Page
Bucks Playhouse

Bucks County Playhouse, New Hope, 215-862-2041. The

Music Man , October 1 to 18. Tommy, October 22 to November

1. Crazy for You, November 5 to 22. She Loves Me, November

27 to December 6.

Top Of Page
Kelsey Theater

Kelsey Theater, Mercer County College, 609-584-9444.

Lend

Me a Tenor , October 2 to 10. Lost in Yonkers, October 17

to 25. Short Shorts I, November 7 & 8. Oliver, November

27 to December 6.

Top Of Page
Magnet Theater Co.

Magnet Theater Company, Mill Hill Playhouse, Trenton,

609-392-5589. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, October 2 to 18.

Classic

Christmas Stories , December 18 to January 3. Festival of

Irish Theater, February 19 to March 21. I Am a Camera, April

29 to May 16.

Top Of Page
NJ Shakespeare Festival

New Jersey Shakespeare Festival, F.M. Kirby Theater, Drew

University, Madison, 973-408-5600. King Lear, to October 4.

Sweet Bird of Youth, November 3 to 22. A Child’s Christmas

in Wales , December 8 to 27.

Top Of Page
Off-Broadstreet Theater

Off-Broadstreet Theater, 5 South Greenwood Avenue,

Hopewell,

609-466-2766. Smoke on the Mountain, September 18 to October

31. Sylvia, November 6 to December 12.

Top Of Page
Princeton Rep

Shakespeare in the Square, Palmer Square, 609-921-3682.

Much Ado About Nothing, Saturday and Sunday, October 10 and

11. A week of free workshops for children and adults lead up to the

performances.

Top Of Page
Theater Intime

Theater Intime, Murray-Dodge Hall, Princeton University,

609-258-4950. I Hate Hamlet, September 24 to October 3. Arms

and the Man , October 15-24. Tartuffe, November 12-21.

Extremities,

December 3-12. Moustrap, February 11-20.

How I Learned to Drive, February 25 to March 6.

One-Act

Double Bill , March 25 to April 3. Arcadia, April 15 to 24.


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