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Nielsen to Star as Durang's Miss Witherspoon, Rashad and Amos to Headline Wilson's Gem at McCarter in Princeton

By New York City
Christopher Durang
Christopher Durang
Kristine Nielsen, Lynda Gravatt, and Jeremy Shamos head the cast of Christopher Durang's Miss Witherspoon, which will have its world premiere engagement at Princeton's McCarter Theater from September 9 through October 11. To be directed by Emily Mann, artistic director of the McCarter, the production will then move to Playwrights Horizons where it will play from November 11 through December 18.

Miss Witherspoon (Nielsen's role) is a persnickety woman forced to reincarnate against her better judgment. The show's cast also includes Colleen Werthmann and Mahira Kakkar; the production will feature scenic design by David Korins, costume design by Jess Goldstein, lighting design by Jeff Croiter, and sound design by Darron L. West.

A multiple Obie Award winner and Tony Award nominee, Durang has written such plays as A History of the American Film, Sister Mary Ignatius Explains It All For You, Beyond Therapy, and The Marriage of Bette and Boo. The Philadelphia Theatre Company will present the world premiere of his new musical Adrift in Macao, written with Peter Melnick, October 19-November 20. Emily Mann's Broadway credits include Anna in the Tropics, Having Our Say, and Execution of Justice.

Nielsen has performed in many of Durang's plays, most notably in Betty's Summer Vacation. Her other New York credits include Omnium Gatherum, The Green Bird, and the recent revival of A Streetcar Named Desire. Among Gravatt's stage credits are Crowns, King Hedley, 45 Seconds from Broadway and Intimate Apparel. Shamos was most recently seen on Broadway in the Lincoln Center Theater production of The Rivals and the Manhattan Theatre Club production of Reckless; he received a 2005 Obie Award for his work in Engaged.

Following Miss Witherspoon, the McCarter will present two-time Pulitzer Prize winner August Wilson's Gem of the Ocean with Phylica Rashad reprising her Tony-nominated role. The production will also star John Amos. Set in 1904, Gem is the ninth play (and the first chronologically) in Wilson's 10-play cycle chronicling the African American experience through each decade of the 1900s. The Broadway production received fiveTony nominations including Best Play; the McCarter production will run October 11-30.

The play begins on the eve of Aunt Ester's 285th birthday. Citizen Barlow, a man in spiritual turmoil, arrives at her house in Pittsburgh's Hill District and is soon set off on a spiritual journey to find the mythic City of Bones, leading him to startling discoveries and setting him on a course of duty and redemption. Rashad won the 2004 Tony Award for A Raisin in the Sun and is best known to TV viewers as Claire Huxtable on The Cosby Show. Amos's TV credits include Good Times, Roots, and The West Wing. Actor and playwright Ruben Santiago-Hudson, an original Broadway cast member of Gem, is slated to direct the McCarter production.


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