Mere hours after Speaking in Tongues bowed in New York at the Roundabout's Gramercy Theater annex, its film version swept up eight of the 13 Aussie Oscars it was up for Down Under. A quarter of those went to the author of the piece, Andrew Bovell; another quarter went to the director (Ray Lawrence) and producer (Jan Chapman) of the film. "I had to make a decision to be here or there," said Bovell at his opening night party at Laura Belle's, obviously quite happy to be between this particular rock and a hard spot, "and I chose New York. I've had more plays done back in Australia but this is my first play in New York, and I'm so excited to be here." Critics here were happy to have him.
The movie version, which just premiered last month in Australia and will open here December 14, is quite a different animal. For starters, it goes under the name of Lantana. "That doesn't actually translate in America," admitted Bovell, "But it has a particular resonance in Australia and England. Lantana is a kind of twisting, tangled vine--which is a bit like the story." (I'll say!) "The problem with Speaking in Tongues as a title is that the movie's producers were concerned that it had a religious connotation."
The play employs four actors twice to tell the same story that the more chronological and linear movie tells with eight actors. The two roles that Kevin Anderson plays on stage won Aussie Oscars for Anthony LaPaglia (as a philandering cop) and Vince Colosimo (as an accused murderer), while the cop's wife and mistress--Oscar work for Kerry Armstrong and Rachael Black--are played here by Margaret Colin and Karen Allen. Director Mark Clements, who is also making his New York debut with Speaking in Tongues, asked his cast to skip Lantana because he felt the play and film, although they told the same story, were so different. "The fact that Andrew was able to write the play and the movie is kinda amazing," says Anderson. "Not everyone can do that, you know."
Anderson, for his part, has a couple of cable flicks on the way. On December 1, he and Angela Bassett will start pouring Ruby's Bucket of Blood on Showtime, and in the spring he'll play John Kennedy in another Showtime movie about JFK's affair with Judith Exner. I wonder if Anderson knows that Colin got a Theater World Award for playing Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis in Jackie? My, my--the back stories must be flying backstage at the Gramercy.
KANDER & EBB, BOILING & BUBBLING
Chicago Tribune's soon-to-depart theater critic, Richard Christiansen, who greeted The Visit with a valentine review, then gave the show a bon voyage column when the John Kander-Fred Ebb-Terrence McNally musical called it a run earlier this month at the Goodman Theater. He even refueled his original enthusiasm for the work with a second visit and reiterated his rave. Plus, he quoted a particularly positive prognosis from the show's producer, Barry Brown: "I'm in the middle of talks with a couple of different scenarios. I don't know exactly where that will lead, but I do know this show will go on....I did not put five years of my life into this show to have it die. Believe me, it will have a life."
There are stirrings of other Kander & Ebbs. Curtains, the backstage murder-mystery that they wrote with Peter Stone some time ago, is about to be hoisted again; Scott Ellis directed a two-day reading of it earlier this year that was so successful, he is now planning to do a full, four-week workshop of the show with the Nederlanders this spring. Deborah Rush, who was in the original Noises Off, and Edward Hibbert, who is in the current revival, are expected to participate; Gregg Edelman should be deep Into the Woods by then, but worthies who did the previous reading, like James Naughton, Debra Monk, and Michelle Pawk, are being waved back on board. The plot is about the murder of a producer during the tryout of a new musical in Boston--not exactly a far-fetched premise, that! Hibbert played one of the suspects--a monstrous English director--without a song during the reading, but K&E were impressed enough to give him his own number.
Then there's Over and Over, which you probably thought was over after its initial Washington run. Mais non! Kander and Ebb's musicalization of The Skin of Our Teeth now looks like it's headed for a new reading during the first couple of weeks of February, directed by Gabriel Barre, who helmed The Wild Party at Manhattan Theater Club and is now directing Summer of '42 Off-Broadway.
The big news on the Kander & Ebb film front is that director Rob Marshall has cast Chicago's dithering sob-sister, Mary Sunshine, unconventionally. The role has previously been played by female impersonators but, in the movie, she's to be Christine Baranski.
AVENUES TO THE MARKETPLACE
The Streets of New York and Sidewalks of New York both opened for business this week. The former is Dion Boucicault's vintage drama, musically spruced up and directed by Charlotte Moore at the Irish Rep; the latter is a multi-charactered flick written and directed by Edward Burns, who co-stars as one of the romantic players. Another is Stanley Tucci, who'll be going extra romantic innings on Broadway this spring with Edie Falco (if their respective cinematic agendas can be unclogged at the same time) for a run at the Belasco in Terrence McNally's Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune.
TALE OF THE TAPES
One of our better stage actors (Snakebit, A Few Good Men), Geoffrey Nauffs, puts on a directorial hat on Monday to begin helming a new stage production of Tape, the play that was the basis for the triangular talkathon currently being untangled on the big screen by Ethan Hawke, Mrs. Hawke (Uma Thurman), and Robert Sean Leonard. Produced by Naked Angels, the show opens at the Jose Quintero during the first week in January, starring Alison West and the two actors for whom Stephen Belber originally wrote the piece: Josh Stanberg and Dominic Fumusa.
And speaking of Leonard, he's going from don (his Tony-winning work as the young A.E. Houseman in The Invention of Love) to con (his current charade as the fake bandmaster of