England's David Leveaux has only directed four plays on Broadway, but three of those four have been heavy Tony contenders: last year's Electra, Roundabout's Anna Christie of a season or two ago, and the last Broadway revival of A Moon for the Misbegotten, starring Kate Nelligan. The fourth play, Tom Stoppard's The Real Thing, now looms large as the play to beat in this year's race to win the Tony for Best Revival of a Play. And, what's more, could it be too soon to predict that another Leveaux show will be back in that same category next year after his upcoming revival of Desire Under the Elms hits the boards? Desire is simply ripe for a Leveaux look-see, and the director is already casting it with care: At the sexual center of this father-and-son tug of war will be Mary Louise Parker.
In the meantime, Parker is grappling with a different kind of papa problem--the early demise of her father, a noted mathematician played by Larry Bryggman, in David Auburn's Proof, which Daniel Sullivan is directing at Manhattan Theatre Club. Johanna Day plays her sister, and Ben Shenkman is her suitor. Parker is also the only Yank in the Canadian cast of The Five Senses, a fascinating little film about people with diminished senses. She plays a caterer whose cakes have no taste. The film opens July 14.
SEE JANE WRITE:
The FedEx truck was just coming up the road as Jane Alexander typed the last chapter of the final edit of her book. Being a very persuasive Tony-winning actress, she managed to talk the guy into waiting five minutes, and, because he waited, she met her deadline. The results will be in bookstores in June. Command Performance: An Actress in the Theatre of Politics chronicles her four years (1993-1997) as the Clinton-appointed Chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts--a rocky ride that Alexander freely talks (and writes) about. "I'm burning all my bridges," she says with some glee. "That's why I wanted to write the book. I figured there's nobody like me--a person who doesn't give a damn about going into politics ever again--so it will be a new kind of book." Alexander, who returned to Broadway with Honour last year, had a role in The Cider House Rules and just finished up at the McCarter in The Cherry Orchard.
OLYMPIA PLUCK, AUDITION LUCK, MOONSTRUCK:
As things now stand, Olympia Dukakis could become the first Greek actress to win the Oscar as an Italian (Moonstruck) and the Tony as a Jew (Rose). Martin Sherman, who wrote the latter work now playing at the Lyceum, made this casting leap in a single bound: "It was very simple: We asked her. Nancy [director Nancy Meckler] and I thought of her instantly. We sent her the script, and she said yes." Life should be so simple.
Meanwhile Dukakis' actor-husband, Louis (She Loves Me) Zorich has been working on a book about auditions for eight years. "I have more than 200 audition stories," he says. "A lot of them--most of them--are from actors, mostly from people just starting out." He calls the book What Have You Done? And why does Zorich call it that? Because, we're told, when Roscoe Lee Browne was sixteen and first starting out in the acting world, he was asked that very question, to which he replied, "To whom?" If you have any audition additions to make, contact Zorich at LouZorich@aol.com.
Zorich isn't alone as the latest theatrical scribe. It seems that even the ticket-taker at the Lyceum is writing a book and soliciting stories. Michael Knowles is requesting that anyone who knew, or worked with, the late great Hattie McDaniel to contact him at Manhattan Plaza. He's working on the definitive biography of the first black person ever to win an Academy Award (as Best Supporting Actress of 1939 for Gone With the Wind). And, finally, did you hear that Moonstruck is striking again--as a Broadway musical? John Patrick Shanley, another Moonstruck Oscar winner, has completed the first draft. The music and lyrics are by Henry (Dreamgirls) Krieger and Susan (Jelly's Last Jam) Birkenhead.
SAFETY IN NUMBERS:
Actress-author Leslie Ayvazian, who wore both hats for her play Nine Armenians, is about to don both hats again for Twenty Four Years, her contribution to Series A in this year's Ensemble Studio Theatre Marathon 2000 of one-act plays, running May 3 through May 14. Victor Slezak will co-star, and EST artistic head Curt Dempster will direct. Another EST two-hatter, Peter Maloney, is wearing only his actor hat for Series A (in Romulus Linney's Madmen) and then his author hat for Series B (Accident). New one-acts by Edward Allen Baker (The 17th of June), David Ives (Polish Joke), and Stuart Spencer (The Rothko Room) are also on the card for Series B, running May 17 through May 28. This town's longest-running celebration of theatrical brevity, the EST Marathon is in its 23rd year, and it has proved to be a consistently engaging outlet for cutting-edge talents. The concluding Series C, running May 31 through June 11, for handy example, includes a new work by Warren Leight, The Final Interrogation of Ceaucescou's Dog.
Speaking of Leight, the playwright has been much in demand since his Side Man collected a Tony last year for Best Play. It just opened in London with its original dream cast (Kevin Geer, Tony-winner Frank Wood, Michael Mastro, Angelica Torn, Emmy winner Edie Falco--plus TV's Jason Priestley). Priestly, relays Leight, "took over for Andrew McCarthy because Andrew just got married and didn't want to leave his wife for four months right after getting married. I don't know what that's about." Leight's latest opus, Glimmer, Glimmer and Shine, is set for another workshop in May in New Jersey followed by another go-round at the Mark Taper Forum in January in a production directed by Evan (Three Days of Rain) Yionoulis. Since the show will be L.A.-based, it could star Friends' David Schwimmer, who got some excellent notices when the play was launched last year at Williamstown. If so, it's not science fiction to speculate that Schwimmer might spend his spring hiatus on Broadway. Meanwhile, Leight's other outing--the book for The Big Street, Alan Menken's musicalization of Damon Runyon's Little Pinks (which starred Henry Fonda and Lucille Ball on film) just finished one workshop and is headed for another. "The good-paying job," says Leight, making a paragraph, "is the screenplay. I'm writing a sequel to The Commitments, picking up on that band ten years later in Dublin." There's even hope that the original cast will reunite. Yet will director Alan (Evita) Parker return as well? "Not that he knows of," quips the ever-ready Leight.