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World premieres on the marquees

Geffen Playhouse and South Coast Rep will each feature new Donald Margulies plays.

June 06, 2007|Mike Boehm | Times Staff Writer

Donald Margulies' fans can catch two new plays next season by the Pulitzer Prize-winning writer of "Dinner With Friends." The Geffen Playhouse and South Coast Repertory will premiere new shows they've commissioned from Margulies during 2007-08. In addition, Annette Bening and Christine Lahti will take starring roles in two other plays at the Geffen.

Margulies is known for chronicling dashed modern relationships in such dramas as "Sight Unseen," "Brooklyn Boy" and "Dinner With Friends," which won the 2000 Pulitzer for drama. With SCR's premiere of "Shipwrecked! An Entertainment: The Amazing Adventures of Louis de Rougemont (As Told by Himself)" (Sept. 28-Oct. 14), he turns to old-fashioned adventure yarn-spinning a la Robert Louis Stevenson or Daniel Defoe. The play will be staged by former Evidence Room artistic director Bart DeLorenzo, but no word yet whether Gregory Itzin and Charlayne Woodard will be back after delivering a crowd-pleasing staged reading of the piece during the recent Pacific Playwrights Festival.

The Geffen, which, like SCR will have three world premieres on its two stages, features a contemporary Margulies drama: "The Elephant in the Room" (June 25-July 27, 2008) concerns a news photographer trying to get back to normal after she's been wounded covering a war.

Bening will star in "The Female of the Species" (Feb. 13-March 16), the American premiere of a satiric comedy by Australian writer Joanna Murray-Smith. Bening's character, said to be based on Germaine Greer, is a feminist author confronted by a young woman who blames the writer for leading women, especially her own mother, down a path to misery.

Lahti also plays a feminist, this one a politically correct professor who takes an instinctive dislike to one of her students, a blueblood with the Roman numeral III after his name, in the previously announced "Third" (Sept. 19-Oct. 21), the final play by the late Wendy Wasserstein.

Laurie Metcalf, who last appeared at the Geffen in this season's "All My Sons," will star in Jane Anderson's "Quality of Life" (Oct. 10-Nov. 18), a Geffen-commissioned premiere in the smaller Audrey Skirball Kenis Theater. Her husband is terminally ill, their home has burned and they're living in a yurt, and now house guests arrive who have their own crosses to bear. The other Skirball Kenis production is the solo show "Emergence-See!" (dates TBA) by Daniel Beaty, who plays 40 roles in a fantasy about a slave ship rising from the Hudson River in contemporary New York.

The Geffen's third world premiere, "Atlanta" (Nov. 28-Dec. 30), is a musical about a Yankee soldier trying to survive behind Confederate lines during the Civil War. The songs are sonnets and soliloquies of William Shakespeare set to a bluegrass-country score by Marcus Hummon, with a book by Hummon and Adrian Pasdar. A fifth main stage play will be announced.

At SCR, where revivals of Broadway musicals are a once-in-a-generation occurrence, Stephen Sondheim and Hugh Wheeler's "A Little Night Music" opens the Segerstrom Stage season (Sept. 14-Oct. 7), followed by John Patrick Shanley's Pulitzer- and Tony-winning drama, "Doubt" (Oct. 26-Nov. 18), Oscar Wilde's "The Importance of Being Earnest" (Feb. 15-March 9), "Taking Steps," the ninth Alan Ayckbourn comedy to be done at SCR (May 23-June 15, 2008), and a world premiere to be announced.

On the Argyros Stage, Margulies' play opens the season, followed by "A Feminine Ending," (Jan. 11-27), Sarah Treem's romantic comedy about a woman's attempt to write a symphony; "Culture Clash in AmeriCCa," (March 21-April 6), and another world premiere to be announced.

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