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Hot 'Tartuffe' Is Warming Up to a Cross-Town Trek; 'King Stag' Will Leap to the Doolittle in October

July 24, 1986|SYLVIE DRAKE | Times Theater Writer

Nothing sells like a hit.

"Tartuffe," the Moliere classic playing at the Los Angeles Theatre Center with Ron Leibman in the title role, is extending to Aug. 24 and there's already talk of moving it--into the Doolittle Theatre.

"It's something we're discussing," confirmed James A. Doolittle, who wants to present it. "We thought it was a brilliant production. Exceptional. So we're probing the possibilities. There are a lot of areas still to work out."

One of them--guess--is money.

"We're exploring the financial realities of that kind of transfer now," echoed Stephen Richard, managing director for the Theatre Center. "We would be providing the physical production. One of the key elements is how the set (a raked stage and a sumptuous collection of gilt-edged Raphaelesque murals by Karl Eigsti) would modify to a proscenium house."

Should the transfer happen, it would be in late August or early September--"some time after the run of (the George Coates Performance Works') 'Rare Area.' "

Is Leibman in accord?

"My understanding," Richard said, "is that we have 100% of the cast. I like that best. You don't want to go back into rehearsal."

Ready to be "Tartuffified"?

MORE MAGIC FARE: Definite at the Doolittle is the stunning Andrei Serban production of "King Stag," based on the play by Carlo Gozzi, to come Oct. 7, 10-12, preceded by Don De Lillo's "The Day Room," directed by Michael Bloom (Oct. 8 and 9). "Stag" has exciting puppets by Julie Taymor and designs by Michael Yergan. Both shows originated at the American Repertory Theatre and will be presentations of the Center for the Performing Arts at UCLA.

So will the Robert Wilson "Knee Plays," coming for one performance only Oct. 18 at 7 p.m. These are the playlets that articulate Wilson's massive "CIVIL warS" and the West Coast's first glimpse at any aspect of the masterwork.

ACTORS ON ACTING: "I'm leery of making announcements and pronouncements because it dissipates the impact," said producer Susan Loewenberg, who would have preferred not to talk about it, but it is a fact--and she confirmed it--that her L.A. Theatre Works has sprouted a new branch called L.A. Classic Theatre Works whose potential is vastly intriguing.

This new low-profile division of her organization consists of 27 high-powered actors ("we will more than likely go to 39") who have banded together as a company and made a strong financial as well as artistic commitment to it.

"Seed money" is how Loewenberg described financial participation by the actors, "a hook" to ensure the seriousness of their involvement. While declining to confirm precise amounts ($3,000 apiece is the hearsay figure), she emphasized that a great deal more will have to be independently raised to finance productions.

Who's involved? Try, alphabetically, Ed Asner, Rene Auberjonois, Georgia Brown, Roscoe Lee Browne, Richard Dreyfuss, Julie Harris, Amy Irving, Stacy Keach, John Lithgow, Marsha Mason, Ally Sheedy, JoBeth Williams and Michael York, to name about half--which Loewenberg did reluctantly when it became apparent that many of these names were no longer a secret. What do they do?

"We're engaged in some pretty serious long-term exploration of classical material," Loewenberg said, adding that the performers are working with directors and writers and that the explorations cover dramaturgy as well as such physical items as voice and speech. The group expects to emerge from its self-imposed shadows in a year or so with a production.

"That's our goal," she said. "The work is very much developmental at this point, but we realized that we have tremendous resources in Los Angeles and no concerted way of doing serious theater. Actors tend to go off and do it in resident theaters around the country, wherever they can find the work. That's not to say that the (Mark) Taper isn't a great place to do it, but it's just not enough."

Judith Auberjonois (wife of Rene) is production coordinator.

"That's how she prefers to call herself," Loewenberg said, "but I feel that she's producing with me.

"We're not interested in faithful revivals," she added. "We're much more iconoclastic than that and, I hope, intriguing. Think of us as the MOCA of the classics."

"CURSE"-ORY SWITCH: "Artistic differences" with director Roxanne Rogers reportedly caused the cast of the upcoming "Curse of the Starving Class" to walk out on the production en masse. Then Rogers walked out too, and the show has started over with Gillian Eaton directing and Andrew Robinson and Carrie Snodgress heading the new company. Opening at the Tiffany is now Aug.1.

THE RUMOR MILL: Watch for a one-woman show based on the late colorful Elsa Maxwell and featuring none other than Lu Leonard to open in late fall. Producer is Frank ("The Wonder Years") Fisher . . .

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