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STAGE WATCH

LATC Plans Mixture of Old, New, Experimental, Traditional; Pizza-Loving Letter Writers Sought as Campaign Volunteers

November 20, 1986|SYLVIE DRAKE | Times Theater Writer

Actors Tyne Daly and Rene Auberjonois, directors Stein Winge and Tony Richardson, playwrights Milan Kundera and William Mastrosimone are some of the familiar and not-so-familiar names that will people the Los Angeles Theatre Center's six-play spring/summer 1987 season.

In typical fashion, the LATC will deliver a mix of the old and the new, the outrageous and the classic, the revered and the revisionist.

Director Charles Marowitz, revisionist par excellence (or par long-established habit), kicks off the proceedings with his interpretation of Oscar Wilde's "The Importance of Being Earnest" (Theatre 2, March 20-May 10; previews start March 6). It will feature the irrepressible Auberjonois as Algernon. Expect a homosexual subtext, a boozing Lady Bracknell and a sex-crazed Chasuble. Hmmmm?

"Cat's Paw" follows in Theatre 3, March 27-May 17 (previews March 13). This is a play about terrorism by Mastrosimone, whose "Tamer of Horses" opens tonight at the Center. "Cat's Paw," which originated at the Seattle Rep and played San Diego's Old Globe last March, will undergo considerable rewriting before its Los Angeles premiere, according to LATC artistic producing director Bill Bushnell, who'll be staging.

Third on the spring schedule is a revival of the William Inge classic, "Come Back Little Sheba," with "Cagney and Lacey's" Tyne Daly returning to the stage after a two-year absence to play Lola.

"I'm anxious to get in front of live human beings again," said Daly, whose list of local stage credits includes a lot of Mark Taper productions. "I miss the audiences. They're so generous. The last show I did ("Skirmishes" at the Matrix) was more an exercise than a play. What's nice about 'Sheba' is it's really a play. A little old-fashioned, but I'm 40 and I feel it's time for me to do the great roles. I'd love to do 'Long Day's Journey,' but 'Sheba's' a good place to start."

Daly and director Ray Danton initiated the project, which they then brought to Bushnell and season producer Diane White. "Sheba" will play in the Tom Bradley Theatre April 24-May 24, with previews starting April 10.

June 5-Aug. 2, "Ma Rainey's Black Bottom" by August Wilson moves into Theatre 2. This zinger of the 1984/85 Broadway season (which starts previews May 22) jumps with jazz and backstage politics during a 1927 recording session that, subtextually, reads like a guide to racial inequality.

Potentially the hottest play of this whole season, however, will pop up in Theatre 3 June 12-Aug. 2, when Norwegian director Stein Winge (whose track record at the LATC includes this season's "Barabbas" and last season's "Three Sisters") will tackle Milan Kundera's "Jacques and His Master."

This "variation" by Kundera of the Diderot novel, "Jacques, Le Fataliste," will have undergone one more "variation" by the time it reaches us: a translation by Simon Callow. Previews start May 29.

"It's a great Rabelaisian piece," Bushnell elaborated, "done in double time: the present and the past. It happens this evening, but we're also in another century."

Finally, a non-traditional "Antony and Cleopatra," starting in Ancient Egypt and marching through time to Fascist Italy, will be the work of director Tony Richardson in the Tom Bradley Theatre July 3-Aug. 2, with previews beginning June 19.

Announcing the new season, Bushnell noted that none of the plays next year is brand new. Part of the reason is that after March, the LATC will give up producing in its flexible space--the 85-seat Theatre 4--because of increasingly tight money and a renegotiated (costlier) contract with Actors' Equity.

"This eliminates a bunch of experimental plays you could do for 85 people a night that you can't do for 300," Bushnell said.

Tight money has also forced the LATC to abandon its music and dance programs, though it will retain its poetry readings.

"It's all a question of priorities," Bushnell explained, adding that he is exploring other possibilities for Theatre 4, including a special developmental ethnic series or rental to outside producers.

Meanwhile, for the first time, the Center is offering a sort of businessperson's beat-the-traffic special subscription: a series of 6:30 p.m. Tuesday preview performances ($60) or Wednesday regular performances ($90).

Between now and March it is also offering its Festival of World Premieres as a mini-package of five plays that includes "Tamer of Horses," "Beyond the Fringe" (see review on Page 3), "The Film Society," "The Glass Menagerie" and "Teatro Esperanza's "La Victima." With programming so relentlessly iconoclastic, we asked Bushnell if he'd ever matched names and plays by pulling them out of a hat.

Said he: "It's not that logical."

WHAT PRICE NON-GLORY?: In keeping with its aggressive new group approach to fund raising, the LATC is seeking volunteers for a letter-writing campaign to friends of the Theatre Center.

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