Everyone's entitled to a change of mind. At the Mark Taper they do it in a major way--by virtually rethinking the season.
For starters: Scratch Frank Wedekind's "Spring Awakening" slated May 29 to July 13. Replace it with "Green Card," a commissioned new piece by Joanne Akalaitis about Los Angeles immigrants, whose title gives you a fair idea of what this play's about.
For the sixth annual Taper Rep (May 1-June 8 at the Doolittle Theatre), forget Lillian Hellman's "The Autumn Garden" and Shaw's "Heartbreak House." Write in Ibsen's "Hedda Gabler" and the Los Angeles premiere of Tom Stoppard's comedy of modern sexual manners "The Real Thing," which Taper artistic director Gordon Davidson will direct.
Since the rep selections are usually predicated on some internal connection, we asked "Hedda" director Robert Egan what it is that links "Hedda" to "Real Thing."
"Among other factors," Egan said, "both plays deal with a series of marriages. What's interesting about 'The Real Thing' is that you have a group of contemporary individuals for whom the parameters (of behavior) have loosened and changed so drastically that they're constantly searching for those boundaries and attempting to contact that thing we call 'real.' What is it? Can we define it?
"Conversely, in 'Hedda,' you have a group of individuals living in a world where social boundaries--particularly marriage and love and the idea of choice in life--are so rigidly formed that it does a different kind of damage.
"It's two very different looks at the same issue."
Looking at more immediate Taper activities, "Tales That Go Bump in the Night," a handful of stories by Edgar Allan Poe and Ambrose Bierce, adapted and produced by Madeline Puzo, will be coming to the Itchey Foot Feb. 9.
In the past, the Taper themed these cabaret readings to its main stage plays--a policy that apparently has been abandoned. Any relation to "Romance Language," opening tonight at the Taper, may be chalked up to sheer luck.
Meanwhile, the " 'night Mother" that follows "Romance Language" (March 27 to May 11) promises to be a thrust-stage clone of the New York production. Staged by Tom Moore, it will feature Kathy Bates and Ann Pitoniak, all of whom did it on Broadway.
KID STUFF: We don't all recall the world as we saw it through 5-year-old eyes, but some of us think we do, and one of us--playwright Patrick Smith--has reconstructed those memories in "Driving Around the House," a play seen through the eyes of a 5-year-old, opening Friday at South Coast Repertory's Second Stage.
"This idea was always percolating around under some basic level of consciousness," Smith said Tuesday. "A teacher at graduate school (New York University) felt that my plays didn't really tap my deepest self. I was afraid to fall into bathos or a real emotional style.
"I thought, I do know how people love each other and make each other crazy. I knew there was a lot of that in my childhood and I was myself approaching the same age my parents were when I was 5, so it all combined to send me back to this material. I probably wouldn't have been able to write about it until I was myself a little bit older," Smith added from the pinnacle of his 27 years.
Between 5 and 27, Smith grew up in Middletown, Ohio (where the play is set), observed his mother and father and little sister and grandfather and Uncle Billy (all in this play), studied acting at Carnegie Mellon, got his BFA at Columbia and switched to an MFA in dramatic writing at New York University. What made him veer to playwriting?
"I just got tired of limiting myself to conservatory training. I had something to say and wanted to bring my own ideas to the stage."
Is writing easier than acting?
"No," he said with a laugh. "It's a lot harder, but more rewarding.
"I still act, and writing in a room alone can be as terrifying as stepping out on a stage in front of hundreds of people. But as a playwright you're master of the universe. You create your own clockwork universe and set it in motion."
ENJOY, ENJOY: If you speak Yiddish (and a little English) and have a free afternoon, Lea Koenig and Zvi Stolper of Israel's Habbimah Theatre (they are husband and wife) will be glad to entertain you with a selection of Jewish humor, satire and music at the Temple Beth Am sanctuary, 1039 S. La Cienega Blvd., 2 p.m. today. For those of you who work, they'll repeat it at 7:30 p.m.
DIS-"CONCERT"-ING: It's not just Salome Jens who's going-going-gone from "Request Concert" at the Cast Theatre (she's replacing Geraldine Page in Sam Shepard's "A Lie of the Mind" Off Broadway). Alternate Sandy Martin, who was to replace Jens in the Thursday-through-Sunday slot, has also been lured away (by a movie). So? So Edith Fields replaces both starting next Thursday.
WHAT'S IN AN AGE?: Emlyn Williams, who turned 80 last November, spent last week as Charles Dickens at the Westwood Playhouse showing the world how young 80 can be. Friday it's happy birthday to Los Angeles-based German director Walter Wicclair, who turns 85. They're not getting older--just maintaining their lead on the rest of us.