When it comes to theater openings, Christmas week is traditionally the week that wasn't. Looking ahead to January, however, monologuist Bill Talen will open Jan. 4 at Cast-at-the-Circle with his newest work, "Cooking Harry," based on the character of Talen's uncle, claimed to be "King of the outdoor barbecue chefs" (he should get plenty of argument over that).
Around that time too--Jan. 6, to be precise--Craig Lucas' newest work (in collaboration with Craig Carnelia), "Three Postcards," will premiere at South Coast Repertory, with Jane Galloway, Brad O'Hare, Maureen Silliman, Karen Trott and composer/lyricist Carnelia in the cast. Norman Rene directs, as he did with "Blue Window," Lucas' SCR hit last season (which moved to the Mayfair).
Marivaux's "The Game of Love and Chance" will replace Michael Cristofer's "Breaking Up," which was scheduled for a Jan. 9 opening at the Mark Taper Forum's Taper, Too. Cristofer is the latest casualty of the movie industry's encroachment on the theater; he has a film acting commitment and couldn't work out his schedule for "Breaking Up." It's a conflict we hear a lot about these days, and it isn't being managed well--at least on the part of "the industry," where the money is. (If you think a working artist who has mortgage and car payments to meet should be compelled to turn down sweet paydays for art's sake, there's a bridge for sale in New York whose terms you may find attractive.) This is a growing problem to which attention should be paid.
The rest of Taper, Too's season is intact. Vaclav Havel's "Largo Desolato" opens Feb. 13 and Wallace Shawn's "Aunt Dan and Lemon" opens March 20.
Jeff Seymour, who runs the Gnu Theater in Toluca Lake (he lives next door to it and has a hand in virtually every aspect of production), has been quietly earning a reputation among writers as someone who can be trusted to give his all to a play. George Sibbald's "Brothers" has just completed its run there; it, and the plays that preceded it--"Say Goodnight, Gracie," "Best Wishes" and "Loose Ends"--have all enjoyed healthy runs. For 1987, Seymour has achieved a coup of sorts in staging two premieres by well-known playwrights. John Ford Noonan's "Spanish Confusion" opens Jan. 16, followed by John Patrick Schanley's "Italian-American Reconciliations."
Noonan's last work seen here was "A Coupla White Chicks Sittin' Around Talkin'." Schanley, author of "Danny and the Deep Blue Sea," is a very hot screenwriter right now.
"I'm still not sure how to describe the Noonan play," Seymour said recently. "It's about a man and a wife, and how another man comes into their life to take Spanish lessons from her, but offers so much money that their lives are changed. I think the play is about how people behave when they get what they think they want. But it's hard for me to say at this point. I'm not one to superimpose my views on a play. My working technique it to read and learn it and then put it aside when rehearsals begin. A play is never what you think it is when you read it, at least in my opinion. The play comes out of the discoveries you make working hand in hand with your cast."
What an altruistic notion! Maybe that's why he's become popular--the auteur theory wasn't born in the theater.
This is your correspondent's last turn at Stage Week. Over 10 years , one heard a lot of foolishness. ("This play is about relationships.") One also heard from some of the most vigorous and imaginative minds in the theater--many of whose tantalizing digressions never got into print.
For the reader, Stage Week is a description of upcoming theater events. For the artists concerned, it's an expression of perpetual hope--which is a characteristic of theater in general. One could do a great deal worse than pass a decade in that spirit.