Jewels in Center Stage season


Lineup: A cabaret-styled `Hostage' and the premiere of `Griller' are highlights of the 1999-2000 schedule.

April 26, 1999|By J. Wynn Rousuck | J. Wynn Rousuck,SUN THEATER CRITIC

A large-scale production of the Irish tragicomedy, "The Hostage," and the East Coast premiere of Eric Bogosian's new play, "Griller," will highlight the 1999-2000 season at Center Stage.

Written by Brendan Behan in 1958 and set in a Dublin pub, "The Hostage" will be presented in the Head Theater, which will be re-configured into a cabaret format. "It's sort of free-flowing in the sense that the waiters and waitresses in the cabaret setting will probably be extras," said Center Stage artistic director Irene Lewis in announcing the season.

Among the cast will be composer/musician Karen Hansen and hearing-impaired Baltimore actor Willy Conley, a Center Stage associate artist who has received a $60,000 grant from Theatre Communications Group/Pew Charitable Trusts to support his work at the theater over the next two seasons.

"The Hostage" is funded in part by a $50,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. In her application for the grant, Lewis called "The Hostage" an extraordinary entertainment. "To my mind, it has a mix of everything that makes great theater: grit, politics, song, the bleak humor of the Irish, a hair-trigger sense of danger, and an anarchic, thoroughly theatrical spirit."

"Griller" grew out of one of the monologues Bogosian delivered at Center Stage in 1995 in his solo show, "Pounding Nails in the Floor With My Forehead." An account of a dysfunctional suburban family whose middle-aged patriarch takes great pride in his backyard barbecue grill, the play made its debut at Chicago's Goodman Theatre last season. The author, who does not appear in the play, has worked on the script since then and will probably continue revising it here, according to resident dramaturg James Magruder.

The Center Stage lineup:

"An Ideal Husband," by Oscar Wilde, Sept. 24-Oct. 24 (Pearl- stone Theater). "The political resonance for today, without being exact, was too delicious to pass up," Magruder says of this comedy about a politician threatened by a blackmailer who has evidence of past malfeasance. Lewis will direct.

"Griller," by Bogosian, Nov. 18-Dec. 19 (Pearlstone). The cutting-edge performance artist-turned-playwright examines the dark underbelly of 1990s suburbia.

"for colored girls who have considered suicide/when the rainbow is enuf," by Ntozake Shange, Jan. 7-Feb. 13 (Pearlstone). Shange's 1974 "choreopoem" about seven African-American women will receive a new interpretation under the direction of Broadway veteran George Faison.

"The Hostage," by Behan, Feb. 18-March 26 (Head Theater). A Dublin pub becomes embroiled in politics and terrorism when the regulars are joined by an IRA splinter group, holding a British soldier hostage. Lewis directs a dozen actors in the play Behan called "an uproarious tragedy."

"Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" by Edward Albee, March 31-April 30. Resident director Tim Vasen will stage this searing account of a troubled marriage set against the backdrop of a small college town. Center Stage was producing "Woolf" when its former North Avenue theater was destroyed by fire in 1974.

A sixth show, yet to be selected, will also be produced in the Head Theater, possibly a one-person piece by a well-known performer or a musical, according to Lewis. The Off Center Festival, which was on hold this season, returns Oct. 29-31 and Nov. 5-7. Performers and prices will be announced this summer.

Subscriptions to the regular six-play season are $66-$214. Call 410-332-0033.

Ayckbourn's `Farce'

"You can tell a great deal from people's bedrooms," a character says in Alan Ayckbourn's "Bedroom Farce." Indeed, one of the more impressive elements of the Vagabond Players' production is that designer Carol Oles has managed to cram three bedrooms onto the Vag's small stage. And those bedrooms do say something about their occupants.

One bedroom belongs to Malcolm (Ryan Whinnem) and Kate (Leanna Foglia), a pair of practical jokers who delight in hiding everything from hairbrushes to shoes in the bed. Across the stage is the domain of Jan (Lesley Malin) and Nick (Carlos del Valle), the latter suffering from a bad back that has left him completely bedridden -- a predicament that expressive del Valle portrays with high comic style.

The central bedroom, with its fussy, matching boudoir lamps, is that of Ernest (Paul Craley) and Delia (Linda Kent), the type of comfy, long-married couple whose idea of being wicked is eating in bed.

Their lumpish son, Trevor (William Stewart), and his daffy wife, Susannah (Melissa Blue), are the play's final couple. Theirs is the only bedroom not on stage. How- ever, the way they upset the order in everyone else's is the crux of the plot.

The game cast, under Miriam Bazensky's breezy direction, provides a diverting evening, which leaves you smiling, but without a serious thought in your head -- and that's not always such a bad thing.

Show times at the Vagabond Players, 806 S. Broadway, are 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, and 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Sundays, through May 9. Tickets are $10. Call 410-563-9135.

More `Lords' a-leaping

Performing Arts Productions has scheduled five extra performances of "Lord of the Dance," which opens a one-week run at the Lyric Opera House May 4. The additional performances are 8 p.m. June 25, 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. June 26, and 2 p.m. and 7: 30 p.m. June 27. Tickets to both the May and June performances range from $19-$62.50. Call 410-481-7328.

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