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FALL PREVIEW | CRITIC'S EYE THEATER

Pulitzer winners face off and the world visits

September 14, 2003|Don Shirley | Times Staff Writer

Mark the beginning of October on your calendars.

Tony Kushner's "Homebody/Kabul" opens Oct. 2 at the Mark Taper Forum. Initially scheduled there a year ago, it was postponed for rewrites -- which have continued even since Chicago's Steppenwolf Theatre's version closed two weeks ago.

Of course, a play set in Afghanistan might not seem quite as prescient now as it did in 2001, when "Homebody/Kabul" opened in New York three months after Sept. 11. And Kushner is in the unenviable position of living up to the wild acclaim that greeted his "Angels in America" at the Taper in 1992.

His "Slavs!," a short one-act seen at the Taper in 1995, was a mere hiccup. And that was after the Taper canceled a 1994 production of his "The Heavenly Theatre." Taper audiences were told that Kushner would do more work on "The Heavenly Theatre," but it has yet to surface. The Taper's Kushner fans have been waiting a long time for something new to chew on -- although if they go to New York this fall they might catch "Caroline, or Change," his new musical (with composer Jeanine Tesori), opening off-Broadway and set in 1963 Louisiana.

Cuban emigre Nilo Cruz is almost as fashionable now as Kushner was a decade ago. Cruz won the Pulitzer Prize this year for "Anna in the Tropics," a play set in a 1929 Florida cigar factory, where the Cuban workers listen to "Anna Karenina" as they work.

South Coast Repertory, where "Anna in the Tropics" opens on Oct. 3, is one of three prominent U.S. theaters staging it within the next three weeks. South Coast announced its production before the Pulitzer board announced its prize.

UCLA Live opens its fall theater season Oct. 1 with two productions in adjacent theaters: the Belgian "uBUNG," in which children mimic the adults they're watching in a silent film, and the British solo show "Jewess Tattooess," which is said to be inspired by Yiddish theater and carnival sideshows. If nothing else, they're certainly contenders for the fall's most unusual titles -- but then, so is "Homebody/Kabul."

Those who prefer new Broadway musicals in New York will have to wait a little later. "The Boy From Oz" (as in Australia), starring Hugh Jackman as Peter Allen, opens Oct. 16, to be followed by "Wicked" -- based on a prequel to "The Wizard of Oz" (the one that's emerald green) on Oct. 30. "Taboo," with music and lyrics by Boy George and a book by Charles Busch, opens Nov. 13. The "Swing Time"-inspired "Never Gonna Dance," whose producers had scheduled it for an Ahmanson tryout and then promptly withdrew it, opens Dec. 4.

Three plays that premiered in the Southland are scheduled for Broadway: "Six Dance Lessons in Six Weeks," with Polly Bergen and Mark Hamill, on Oct. 29; "Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All," with Ellen Burstyn, on Nov. 3; and "The Violet Hour" on Nov. 6.

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