Since it is, arguably, a farce, An Empty Plate in the Café du Grand Boeuf is rich in physical activity, emotion and wordplay. Rando recognizes this, and has sought to strike a balance among these elements in his direction. The initial step toward finding that balance was taken at the first reading when Rando and the cast discussed the world of the play, sharing their feelings about the characters and their ideas on how to develop them. "I like to create a positive environment for actors to go to town," says Rando. "I want them to develop the characters the way their instincts lead them. And I want to help them trust those instincts."
Rando has a long list of directorial accomplishments under his belt. A 1992 alumnus of the Drama League's Directors Project, his credits include recent New York productions of Things You Shouldn't Say Past Midnight at the Promenade Theatre and Do Re Mi for the Encores! Series at City Center. Most recently, Rando finished working with Neil Simon on his new play, The Dinner Party, which premiered at the Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles. One of his most frequent collaborators is David Ives, whose plays Ancient History, All in the Timing, Mere Mortals, and The Lives of the Saints have all been directed by Rando.
"Each writer I've worked with has a unique voice and, therefore, a unique way of working on his or her play," Rando says. "Michael Hollinger loves the [theatrical] process; a different kind of personality comes out in his stories. David Ives works in short form, and that poses its own kind of challenges. Neil Simon has yet another approach."
Rando is delighted to be returning to Primary Stages, where An Empty Plate in the Café du Grand Boeuf begins performances on February 23; he directed all of the company's productions of David Ives' plays--most recently, Mere Mortals in 1997. "[Primary Stages] is certainly an interesting environment," he says. "The theater itself is very intimate, 99 seats, so the plays are really in your lap as an audience member. That makes it a lovely place to work. And [Primary Stages artistic director] Casey Childs is great--a wonderful producer, a great lover of actors and theater."
As for An Empty Plate at the Café du Grand Boeuf, Rando hopes that the show's audiences will enjoy the theatrical equivalent of a fine, three-course meal: strong performances, a memorable setting, and a charming production. "I like what the play says about creation and about writing," Rando concludes. "It's interesting for me as a director, because it's a play with two styles: a comic world, as well as the very serious point it's making. That's the kind of play that excites me, and this is a story I'm proud to tell."