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Spinning Into Prominence...

Charles Nelson finds REBECCA GILMAN spinning into prominence, tracks Seussical, and makes sure the Misbegotten are not forgotten. logo

Spinning Into Prominence

From Boy Gets Girl
Out in the Midwest, in what you might call Mamet-land (i.e., Chicago), a new theatrical voice appears to be taking hold and, ever so slowly, spreading eastward. Rebecca Gilman, 35, hails originally from Trussville, Alabam', so you could with some justification call her work "Southern Gothic." Her first play, Always Open--written when she was 18--concerns a group of disgruntled Krispy Kreme doughnut-shop workers who kill their manager by dumping him into a vat of dough. The die--er, dough--was pretty much cast for this playwright back then. Gilman's latest, which just opened at the Goodman--Boy Gets Girl--is less romantic than it sounds, pushing infatuation into obsession and dealing with the issue of stalking.

With this play, Gilman is said to have gone even darker than in her previous efforts. Which is really saying something, given that The Glory of Living, the play that established her in Chicago (and also got her a production at London's Royal Court and won her the Evening Standard award as most promising playwright), chronicles the bloody trail of two young serial killers. Not to mention Gilman's The Crime of the Century, which bowed at suburban Chicago's Forest Park last December, recounting Richard Speck's grisly murders of eight student nurses in July 1966. Finally, the playwright's most acclaimed and controversial hit--Spinning Into Butter--won her the 1999 Joseph Jefferson Award for best new work staged in Chicago, and this is the opus that will introduce her to New York audiences come July 17 at Lincoln Center's Mitzi Newhouse Theatre. The inestimable Dan Sullivan will direct, with Hope Davis (of Ivanov and The Food Chain) set to star as a liberal East Coast college dean who delivers an unsettling second-act monologue in which she articulates her buried racial rage.

The Bluesical and Seussical
At least half the cast of the recent John Latouche musical revue Taking a Chance on Love knows what their next job will be: Eddie Korbich will be executing The Lorax portion of the program in the Dr. Seuss musical Seussical, slated for next season at the Richard Rodgers (following its world-premiere August 27 at Boston's Colonial), and Terry Burrell has landed a role in Thunder Knockin' at My Door, a "bluesical" moving into the Minetta Lane this June 11 (with previews beginning May 12). Sez Burrell: "It's about a family in the South, and into their home comes a mysterious stranger by the name of Mr. Thunder. All kinds of delicious things happen when he's around." Written and directed by Keith (no relation to Danny) Glover, Thunder has songs by Grammy-winning Keb' Mo' and Anderson Edwards. It has already played Arena Stage, the Guthrie, and the Old Globe, and will stop April 25 through April 30 at the Stamford Center for the Arts before heading Off-Broadway. Joining Burrell will be Doug Eskew, Peter Jay Fernandez, Marva Hicks, and Kevyn Morrow.

Also soon to Seuss up is Kevin Chamberlin, who has a particularly busy time ahead of him. First, he'll play the men in Mae West's life this season in the Broadway transfer of Dirty Blonde, bowing May 1 at the Helen Hayes, and then, next season, will be Horton the Elephant in Seussical. Chamberlin even has time for a workshop--this one at Manhattan Theater Club in a yet-to-be-titled satirical look at NYC, written by Glenn Slater and Steve Weiner, directed by Christopher Ashley, and co-featuring Pam Isaacs and Norm Lewis.


The Misbegotten Are Not Forgotten
"Actors are awfully stupid creatures. They tend to judge the success of anything by the volume of laughter, and that isn't always so. Hard laughter really takes you out of the play. I think, when you're really in the play, you don't need that much laughter." That's Roy Dotrice, rationalizing the understated opening-night audience for A Moon for the Misbegotten. The morning reviews pumped up the volume, and Dotrice may well find himself Tony-nominated; he gets plenty of laughs (especially for an O'Neill play), and he does a drunk scene that's dangerously disorienting. After the opening, Dotrice looked very much the patriarch, surrounded at Tavern on the Green by friends and family from London, Los Angeles, and Philadelphia. Heading the California contingent was daughter Karen Dotrice, who says she happily retired from acting at age 26, having begun as one of Mary Poppins' charges and ended on the road as Desdemona to James Earl Jones' Othello.

Cherry Jones and
Gabriel Byrne in
A Moon for the Misbegotten
Gabriel Byrne, meanwhile, in his Broadway debut as the haunted James Tyrone, Jr., found none of it easy: "It's kinda like doing the New York Marathon and somebody says, 'Are you enjoying the marathon?' when you have another 12 miles to go. I think the enjoyment comes on the last night of the last performance, when you can say, 'I climbed the mountain. I did it.'"

Co-star Cherry Jones seconded the feeling of constant chaos in getting this Moon to shine on Broadway: "Our last Saturday matinee was the first relaxed performance we've had--and, basically, the only relaxed performance we've had. It gave us hope for where we can go now. Now that the pressure of opening has been alleviated, we can just do the play."


The First Widows' Club
Producers Liz McCann and Nelle Nugent are pointing toward Broadway next season a new play by Michelle Lowe, Smell of the Kill, about three women plotting to murder their husbands. Christopher Ashley is set to direct.

...Data and Errata...

A scene from
The Waverly Gallery
Josh Hamilton, currently hanging in The Waverly Gallery, is avoiding the movie of The Cider House Rules. He was in the six-hour stage adaptation of John Irving's novel on the West Coast--only the first half was done in New York--and he knew he couldn't sit still for a quick cinematic skim-read that runs a little over two hours. "I'd put so much into the play version that I knew the movie would bother me. I knew I wouldn't be able to concentrate on it, so I skipped it."...

...Auditions have started for the new Tom Sawyer musical, which will world-premiere at the Kennedy Center in January, under Scott Ellis' direction. Ken Ludwig (Lend Me a Tenor, Moon Over Buffalo) did the adaptation; the songs are by country-western singer Don Schultz...

...Mizlansky/Zilinsky is currently getting a West Coast airing, directed by Nicholas (The Time of the Cuckoo) Martin, with Michael Lerner and David Groh in the roles done for the Manhattan Theatre Club production by Nathan Lane and Lewis J. Stadlen, both of whom have now moved on to Roundabout's The Man Who Came to Dinner revival this summer...

...Director Martin will also do another Jon Robin Baitz opus this summer at Williamstown: an adaptation of Hedda Gabler, with Kate Burton in the title role. There's also the possibility that Martin will gear up Betty's Summer Vacation for an open-ended Off-Broadway run. "We're hoping to have back the whole original cast," says author Christopher Durang. "I wouldn't want to do it without Kristine [Nielsen]." Since Nielsen won an Obie for her performance, who can blame him?


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