The Geffen Playhouse has a long track record of presenting film stars acting in real time -- and in this economic downtime the Westwood stage company is turning up the name-appeal spigot for its 2009-10 season.
Of the four plays announced for the five-show main-stage season, three feature Hollywood stars, with Matthew Modine playing himself, Laurence Fishburne going solo as Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, and Annette Bening taking a belated turn as a feminist author in a tale based on a bizarre episode from the life of Germaine Greer.
"Matthew Modine Saves the Alpacas" (Sept. 16-Oct. 18) is a new work by Blair Singer that satirizes celebrity do-gooders by having the actor play himself attempting a fictional comeback via calculated humanitarianism.
"The Female of the Species" (Feb. 10-March 14, 2010), by Australian playwright Joanna Murray-Smith, originally was scheduled for its American premiere at the Geffen in February 2008 but was delayed when Bening withdrew from the production. Now she and it are back -- Bening playing a renowned author who gets held at gunpoint by a young woman who blames her problematic upbringing on the writer's feminist teachings.
Fishburne will solo at the Geffen in George Stevens Jr.'s "Thurgood" (July 7-Aug. 8, 2010), about the civil rights hero who became a U.S. Supreme Court justice. Fishburne performed the play on Broadway last year, earning a Tony nomination for best actor.
Also on the season is the premiere of "Nightmare Alley" (April 21-May 23, 2010), Jonathan Brielle's new musical based on a 1946 novel by William Lindsay Gresham, set in the world of traveling carnivals. Geffen Producing Director Gilbert Cates will direct the show, which was announced for the 2008-09 season, then delayed for financial reasons.
A show in the Nov. 18-Dec. 20 slot will be announced.
A Geffen spokeswoman said it remained uncertain whether it can muster the money to produce a 2009-10 season in the smaller Audrey Skirball Kenis Theater. The space is currently earning revenue as a rental house for film director Taylor Hackford's "Louis & Keely: Live at the Sahara."