stage revival of Peter Shaffer's Equus, directed by Stephen Rayne, and starring James Black as psychologist Martin Dysart and Ben Nordstrom as his patient, Alan Strang. On the Alley's Neuhaus Arena is Synergy, a new comedy by Goodman Theatre playwright-in-residence Keith Reddin. Just announced is an Alley co-production with the University of Houston School of Theatre in April of Arthur Miller's All My Sons, staged by school director and Alley associate artist Sidney Berger. According to Berger, this should be the first of several co-productions with the Alley, with current plans for two more in the 2001-02 season.
Austin's Zachary Scott Theatre Center has caught the prevailing Williams wave, with a new co-production with Actor's Repertory Theater of A Streetcar Named Desire, directed by Marc Masterson and starring Joe York as Stanley Kowalski (Feb. 1-March 11). Mid-winter also marks the return of the eighth annual "FronteraFest" of Frontera/Hyde Park Theatre, featuring a month of nightly medleys of experimental as well as traditional works at the company's home stage and other venues all around town (through Feb. 17). And the State Theater Company delivers a premiere production of Cyndi Williams' Southwestern family saga, A Name for a Ghost to Mutter, through Feb. 24.
Last year ended with a millenium-worthy bang for the Denver Center Theatre Company, which had two world premieres, Tantalus and The Laramie Project, named to Time magazine's 10 best plays of 2000.
The 10-play-10 hour Tantalus, based on the legends of the Trojan War, written by John Barton and directed by Sir Peter Hall, was presented by the DCTC and the Royal Shakespeare Company, Oct. 21-Dec.2. It opens Jan. 27 in Manchester, England, on a U.K. tour that concludes at London's Barbican Theatre in May.
Tantalus cost at least $8 million to produce, brought in only $2 million, and ruined the 50-year friendship of Barton and Hall. At the same time, Tantalus enjoyed priceless publicity and worldwide attention. Eager ticket-buyers traveled to Denver from 44 states and 12 countries, including the United Kingdom, Germany, Japan, France, Australia, Belgium, Greece, Canada, Italy, New Zealand, Colombia, and Hungary. Additionally, the production was seen by more than 160 critics from seven countries who wrote mostly positive reviews.
The Laramie Project, about the reactions of Laramie, Wyoming residents to the murder of gay college student Matthew Shepard, successfully premiered at the DCTC last February. When the play by Moises Kaufman and the Tectonic Theatre Company transferred to New York, it was equally well-received, and is now being made into an HBO movie.
Stop Kiss, Diana Son's gem of a play about the events leading up to, and the aftermath of, two young women's first kiss, enjoyed a stellar regional premiere, presented by Theatre Group at the Phoenix Theatre (closed Jan. 27.) It showcased two inspired young actresses, Hilary Blair and Maura Barclay Gingerich, directed by Billie McBride.
Relative newcomer Promethean Theatre got the jump on Fox Searchlight Pictures' Quills, which opened in Denver in December. Promethean weighed in three months earlier with a well-done regional premiere, starring C. J. Hosier, of Doug Wright's drama about the Marquis de Sade, and one of the fiercest battles ever to take place over freedom of expression versus censorship.
Sandra C. Dillard
All the jolly remains of Tiny Tim, the ebullient HOHO's and the sweet sentimentality of O Henry have been carefully packed away until next Christmas, and Tar Heel theatres are getting back to serious business.
In Raleigh, Burning Coal Theatre is continuing its High Noon at the Rialto series of new works in development. The program, made possible by a grant from the North Carolina Arts Council, is presenting a staged reading of Talk about the Passion by British playwright Graham Farrow. Directed by Jerome Davis, the story of the grief-stricken father of a murdered child (by a serial killer) features Lynda Clark and Jim Fleming. It will play Feb. 3 only.
This innovative company starts its regular season in the new year with an adaptation of the famed Uncle Tom's Cabin. This dramatization is by Randolph Curtis Rand and Floraine Kay. Rand will direct the production, which plays March l-18.
In Chapel Hill, Playmakers Repertory Company starts 2001 with the Tony Award-winning celebration of jazz, Warren Leight's Side Man. Directing will be Drew Barr, and the cast includes guest artists Jack Marshall, Christopher McHale, Jennifer Rohn, and Ken Strong, as well as resident company members Jeffrey Blair Cornell, Ray Dooley, and Julie Fishell. Dates are Feb. 3-25.
Durham's Manbites Dog Theatre stages The Monogamist by Christopher Kyle. Described as a satire on art, love, and politics in an age where the rules for each of them no longer apply, the production plays Feb. 1-11.
Temple Theatre of Sanford is offering The Complete History of America (Abridged) by Adam Long, Reed Martin, and Ausstin Tichenor. This comedy will be directed by Tim Morrisey and features Stephen Wilson, Craig Degel, and Tony Rudessell. Dates are Jan. 26-Feb. 11.
Charlotte Repertory Theatre is producing the world premiere of Benedictions by Judy Simpson Cook. The play was well received when given a staged reading as part of the 2000 New Play Festival. It is described as "a play about faith, family, loss, and our common humanity." Directed by Steve Umberger, it plays Jan. 24-Feb. 4.
North Carolina Theatre in Raleigh is off to magic land with The Wizard of Oz. Direction and choreography is by Tee Scatuorchio, with musical direction by McCrae Hardy. Joanna Pacitti stars as heel-clicking Dorothy, and Ira David Wood camps it up as the Wicked Witch of the West. Production is scheduled for Feb. 9-18.
The big news in Providence is something that is not going to happen: Oskar Eustis, Trinity Rep's artistic director and the man who has turned the theatre around, has announced that he will not be moving to New Haven to be head of the Yale Rep and Dean of the Yale drama school.
Saying that he loves Providence, and has not finished his rebuilding of Trinity, Eustis told his company on Jan. 22 that he was withdrawing from the Yale positions. Actors and others responded with a standing ovation and cheers at a noontime meeting. Thirty-year Trinity actor Timothy Crowe called the news "fabulous" and veteran actress Anne Scurria pronounced herself "ecstatic."
For the several weeks after news of the 42-year-old Eustis's negotiations with Yale leaked, the Providence arts scene had hardly another conversational subject. "Will he or won't he go?" everyone asked. "How can he not?" was the usual reply. After all, people pointed out, having left home at 15, Eustis has just a high school diploma, and here he was reckoning with being a Dean at one of the world's top universities.
But the artistic director came down on the side of finishing the job at Trinity. Before his arrival in 1994, the theatre had endured decades of debt, and had nearly closed a couple of times, being bailed out at the last minute by the city of Providence. In the seven years of Eustis, Trinity has regained the black side of ledger and has raised $15 million of a proposed $19 million fund. A third stage is in the works, the old house is being spiffed up, and Eustis is moving ahead on an endowment to raise actor salaries.
Perhaps closest to his heart is enriching the theatre's training arm, The Conservatory. He wants it to get to the point where "people will turn down Juilliard, Yale, and NYU to come here," Eustis told the Providence Journal, which put his staying on page one. In return, the theatre's board gave him a salary raise ahead of schedule, and, more importantly, he said, reaffirmed its commitment to helping the theatre achieve the goals he has set.
"The right time to leave Providence is when what I have to offer can be done better elsewhere," Eustis said. "We haven't come close to the top at Trinity."
And, yes, there was some theatre to talk about. A world premiere at Trinity, Henry Flamethrowa received generally good notices. John Belluso's play takes off from a real-life story of a girl in a coma who, some think, performs miracles.
Henry Flamethrowa (that's the New England pronunciation of "Flamethrower") eventually becomes a treatise on good and evil, looking into how those two mix and match. Directed by Lisa Peterson (who will direct Rhode Island native Belluso's next work The Body of Bourne at the Mark Taper this spring), Henry Flamethrowa got fine onstage work from Trinity newcomers Michael Esper, as a troubled teenage boy, Joanna P. Adler, as a perfidious journalist, and Trinity vet, Fred Sullivan Jr., as the father of the girl.
Like his first play, Gretty Good Time, Belluso's work could stand some sharpening and better characterization. But he is proving himself a young writer to keep an eye on.