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Lowdown On 'High Hopes'

September 28, 1986|JANICE ARKATOV

It's a case of the chicken and the egg and life imitating art for Julianne Gavin, whose "High Hopes," a comedy about two lesbians who decide to have a child, opens Thursday at the Eagle Theatre.

In real life, said the playwright, "My lover and I have a deal that I can start trying to get pregnant (through artificial insemination) next year. So what got me interested in the subject was wanting to have a baby--and also I'd heard a lot of funny stories about people telling their parents they were gay. The play just evolved out of that."

Delicate, soul-baring stuff, no?

"It's funny, because whatever you write, people decide it's you anyway, even when it's not. And these characters are not me, not my mother, not anybody's mother I know. Of course, everybody in the play assumes it's true. Last night, I was telling some cast people how I told my parents (about being gay). Someone must have slipped them how-to-handle-it-when-your-child-tells-you-she's-gay pills, because they were just wonderful. But that would make a boring play."

Still, people will continue to talk.

"I write screenplays for a living (including the next National Lampoon movie), and everyone always assumes I'm one of the characters in the script." This play, too, began as a screenplay "but I've been in this business long enough to know it had no chance of getting made. Plus the story wasn't working; it just didn't fit the screenplay structure. I decided to try it another way, something I'd never done before. So this is my learning-how-to-write-a-play play."

Bruce Weitz, an Emmy winner for his role as Mick ("Freeze, dirt bag") Belker on "Hill Street Blues," will remove his trademark woolen cap long enough to don a new hat: as director of David E. Freeman's "Creeps," which opens Thursday at the 2nd Stage.

Of the play, which had a local run at Theatre/Theater in 1982, Weitz said, "It's both very funny and very moving: about five men who have cerebral palsy, who spend their time at a workshop where they do menial tasks for a minimal amount of money--and to escape the drudgery of the work, they seek seclusion in the men's room. It presents the way the men feel about themselves and the way they think other people feel (about them): that dichotomy."

The involvement also marks a return visit from Weitz, who played the role of Sam in the 1973 premiere production in Washington and New York.

"It's a whole different perspective now," he said. "When one acts, one is concerned mainly with the role he's doing. And actors tend to have a very limited view of the whole. I never had any thoughts about directing it then. But one grows, hopefully, in 13 years, so you bring that experience.

"It's also something to fill my time," he said casually of the directorial debut. "Yes, 'Hill Street' fills my time, but it doesn't satisfy my creative desires. If you'd been doing a series for seven years, you'd say exactly the same thing. Even a great series gets less great as the years go on. I'm not saying I don't enjoy it. But after seven years, one looks for other outlets."

"It's murder," actress Carmen Zapata said cheerfully of her role as "an aging showgirl adrift on a steamer" in Emilio Carballido's two-character "Orinoco," opening Saturday at Theatre/Teatro.

Said Zapata, who will perform the role in English and Spanish--on alternate nights, "When I get up in the morning and I'm working in one language, I can't think in anything but that language. The next day, I think in the other language. In a one-person show, you learn your own lines. In a two-person show, you've got to learn the other person's, too, so you can play off them. Now I'm learning four (sets of lines)."

Add to that the adjustment to two separate co-stars and "I'm not getting a lot of sleep lately."

Following its Spanish-language debut, the English-language version of "Orinoco" opens Oct. 9.

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