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Tandy Catches Her Breath for 'Foxfire'; Playwright Gray to Take Up Residence

December 19, 1985|SYLVIE DRAKE | Times Theater Writer

Jessica Tandy's fainting spell on the Ahmanson stage Dec. 10, during the first act of "Foxfire," caused a ripple of consternation, followed by a sigh of relief when the problem was found to be minor. Correct medication and a couple of nights at Good Samaritan Hospital helped.

"I have a cardiovascular problem," she explained Tuesday, "and I felt my heart rhythm getting fast (that night), which is not unusual, so I asked my dresser to bring me the medicine in my dressing room."

In the shuffle, Tandy, 76, took nitroglycerin instead of the medication she usually takes for this problem. Fainting was the result.

"Then I fainted again the next day," while being tested in the hospital, Tandy said--which prompted doctors to keep her there a bit longer than intended.

Now everything's back on track.

Tandy has been reunited on stage with husband Hume Cronyn since Friday, and the curtain's going up with the restored regularity of her heartbeat.

FIDDLE BANJO AND BASS: Speaking of "Foxfire," its master Bluegrass musicians--Kenny Kosek, Tony Trischka and Roger Mason--will make a rare appearance at Carlos' n Charlie's on the Strip Dec. 30 at 8:30 p.m. With them will be another "Foxfire" performer: Keith Carradine.

UNCOMMON PURSUIT: Actors for Themselves at the Matrix is off on a new tangent. It will do the West Coast premiere of Simon Gray's "The Common Pursuit" and, for the first time in its 10-year history, will have a playwright in residence: author Gray, 49, better known here for "Butley," and "Otherwise Engaged." Kristoffer Siegel-Tabori will direct.

"I read 'Pursuit' in Vancouver while I was making a movie and liked it a lot," said Actors For Themselves producer Joe Stern. "I had heard very little about it and started my usual search."

The play, which the playwright has said he thinks "is about friendship . . . English, middle-class, Cambridge-educated friendship," was done in London in the spring of 1984, with Gray's friend, Harold Pinter, directing. "It's an ensemble show, not perceived as particularly commercial," Stern said, "and Gray was not entirely satisfied."

In a comedy of errors, Stern went through a series of wrong agents for Gray. By the time he reached the right ones early this year, New Haven's Long Wharf had mounted a successful production of "Pursuit." Impressed by reviews of Stern's 1982 production of Pinter's 'Betrayal,' Gray's agents (who also handle Pinter) struck a deal--but not until Gray and Siegel-Tabori had met and decided that they liked each other.

Gray, who'd done some rewrites during the English run and later for Long Wharf, came to Los Angeles Dec. 1 with a new draft.

"Characters had changed, certain events had changed," Stern said, "but it's one of the best rewrites of a play I've ever seen. It's become more passionate."

Gray returns to Los Angeles in January and chances are there's more refining ahead. Stern says it's become his most ambitious production to date, with two turntables on stage and "a real commitment to pulling this thing off."

Wayne Alexander, Clancy Brown, Judy Geeson, Jim Piddock, Christopher Neame and John DeLancie form the cast. Russell Pyle will light the show, with Cliff Faulkner doing the set and Barbara Cox the costumes. Previews start Jan. 16. Official opening is Feb. 1.

NO "GREEKS" TO US: The Back Alley has rescheduled its production of "The Greeks" from January to early April. The reason is simple.

"It's the biggest, most ambitious project we've ever done," said producer Laura Zucker. "We could have gone up on the original date, but it would have been a mess.

"It was a tough decision. Ten plays. Sometimes I think it's crazy and then I sit in on a rehearsal and get very excited. This is a stylistic stretch for us. You get real tired of doing naturalistic material."

So what's replacing "The Greeks"? Neo-naturalism. L.A. Theatre Works, in association with the Back Alley, will present John Patrick Shanley's "Danny and the Deep Blue Sea," a two-character fable about deeply damaged low-life types who manage to negotiate a healing courtship.

"Danny" features Didi Conn and Paul Lieber (who both recently performed it for the Salt Lake City Acting Company) under the direction of June Stein. Stein originated the woman's role at the Actors' Theatre of Louisville and also played it at New York's Circle Rep. Watch for previews starting Jan. 22 and an opening Feb. 1.

"FOOLS" RUSH OUT?: "Fool for Love"--the play--closes Sunday at the Los Angeles Theatre Center, but it's not the last you'll see of Sam Shepard's work there.

Talk of a production of "Curse of the Starving Class," was confirmed Tuesday by "Curse's" New York producer Patricia Daily.

LATC artistic producing director Bill Bushnell was more specific: "It looks like we'll do it in the spring--in our classics series."

Modern classics? Should it happen, there's a chance at least one member of the original New York cast would reprise her role here: Kathy Bates, currently in "The Normal Heart" at the Las Palmas.

Meanwhile, Bushnell is also talking with producer Lewis Allen about staging the Los Angeles premiere of Shepard's latest hit, "The Lie of the Mind," with Robert Woodruff directing.

"It could happen as early as next summer," Bushnell said, "and certainly no later than next fall."

"It's what we're aiming for," Allen confirmed from New York. "I've talked to Sam about it. There are actors we'd like to have do it there, Aidan Quinn and Will Patton. We'll need a very wide stage.

"(The Taper's) Gordon Davidson called. He wants to do it too. Where we go will depend on the appropriateness of the theater."

Intriguing thought: If "Lie of the Mind" goes to LATC, producer Daily says she'd welcome a production running in rep with "Curse."

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