Zoe Caldwell to bring play to Mechanic


August 26, 1991|By J. Wynn Rousuck

Coming from Zoe Caldwell -- one of the theater's most heralded actresses -- the comment was unexpected, and unlikely:

"Unless I botch it up, I think it will be really swell," she said of Israel Horovitz's "Park Your Car in Harvard Yard," which she was in town to discuss on Friday. But Ms. Caldwell will only direct, not star in, the production that makes its pre-Broadway debut at the Morris A. Mechanic Theatre Oct. 1.

The play is about "a year in the life of a man and a woman. The man is a highly educated [Jewish] native of Gloucester, Mass.; the woman is a not-so-educated 40-year-old Irish Catholic native of Gloucester, Mass.," she told reporters at a press conference also attended by two of the show's producers -- her husband Robert Whitehead and Baltimorean Kathy Levin.

The two-person show, which will star Tony Award-winners Jason Robards and Judith Ivey, has been a long time coming. In 1984 Mr. Whitehead attended a workshop production at the Manhattan Theatre Club starring Burgess Meredith and Ellen Burstyn; it didn't seem quite right to him, but he remained interested. Since then, the play was rewritten and in June the Whiteheads and Ms. Levin attended a reading by Mr. Robards and Miss Ivey.

"It finally found its production point in terms of its writing and who could make it live," Mr. Whitehead recalled.

Between 1984 and now, Mr. Whitehead said "Park Your Car" has gone from approximately 18 fragmented scenes to a more fluid structure consisting of two acts of two scenes each. Although changes are still being made -- he and Miss Caldwell admitted to working on revisions during the train ride to Baltimore -- "the heart is there," the producer said.

After its Mechanic run, the play is scheduled to open at Broadway's Music Box Theatre on Nov. 7. Rehearsals officially begin in New York Sept. 3, but the actors -- currently on opposite coasts -- have been "rehearsing for a couple of weeks on the telephone," Mr. Whitehead kidded.

"Park Your Car in Harvard Yard" won't be the first play Miss Caldwell has directed at the Mechanic, although it will be the first she has directed from the start. In 1981 she was brought in to work on the James Earl Jones-Christopher Plummer "Othello"; and in 1988 she lent a hand to the Christopher Plummer-Glenda Jackson "Macbeth," following its Baltimore run.

Acknowledging that she is best known as an actress, Miss Caldwell said that after two years of touring in William Luce's one-woman show about Lillian Hellman, she had "gone off acting for the moment."

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