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WTF's Nikos Stage Plays for 2004

The Festival prefers not to have plays in this 66-seat house reviewed by publications read outside the area. However, the plays, casts and playing schedules are included in our Summer Index and in somewhat greater detail here. All at Williamstown Theatre Festival, Nikos, 1000 Main Street, Williamstown, MA (413/597-3400)
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Cranwell Resort
Dedication or The Stuff of Dreams
Playwright: TerrenceMcNally
Director: Scott Ellis
Cast: Boyd Gaines (Lou Nuncle), Debra Monk (Jessie, Lou's partner) Kellie Overbey (Ida Head, Jessie's daughter),Darren Pettie (Toby Cassidy, Ida's boyfriend), Larry Pine (Arnold Chalk, Lou and Jesse's tech director), Marian Seldes (Annabelle Willard, R. E. Rodgers (Annabelle's driver).
What it's about: When Debra happens to meet Annabelle Willard, wealthy owner of a grand old theater that is gathering dust while the children's theater company she and Lou Nuncle run is struggling to survive in a mall location, she persuades the ill and eccentric woman to let them use the unused space. Like many a story entailing life changing gifts from powerful people, this turns out to be something of a Faustian bargain. Lou and Jessie's relationship is fraught with personal problems that are brought to a climax not only by the outrageous Mrs. Willard, but by the arrival of Jessie's estranged daughter Ida, a successful rock singer, and her boyfriend.

The Porches Inn
Terence McNally watchers will not be surprised that this play features some classical music. In this case it's Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake ballet and while not as pivotal as in his recent The Stendhal Syndrome and other plays. And for those familiar with Marian Seldes --and is there anyone who hasn't seen her in at least some of her many stellar performances -- I'm not giving anything away when I tell you that though this is a fine cast, Seldes energizes and pretty much steals the show. Thanks to costume designer William Ivey Long, Ms. Seldes is dressed in three smashing outfits (with a dramatic wig to go with each). Mr. Ivey Long also provides enough of a visual gee-whiz to Boyd Gaines's final appearance, even for those in the audience who have anticipated it.

I'll reserve any comments pertaining to Mr. McNally's success in developing a meaningful theme for if and when this "in develpment" production moves to another theater and is "frozen" and thus open to review. If such a production happens it may be with a different cast (but hopefully not without Ms. Seldes) and with some or many fixes (at the performance I attended, the playwright sat across the aisle from me with a notebook in his lap).

Sets: Anna Louizos
Costumes: William Ivey Long
Lights: Kenneth Posner
Sound: Eileen Tague
Running Time: 130 minutes, includes one 15-minute intermission.
From, Aug. 11-22

R Shomon, world premiere
Music and Libretto: Michael John LaChiusa
Suggested by the stories of Ryonusuke Akutagawa as translated by Takashi Kojima
Director: Ted Sperling
Musical Staging: Jonathan Butterell
Cast: Audra McDonald (Kesa/wife, young woman/actress: Henry Stram (Janitor/Priest); Michael C. Hall ( Morito/Thief/Reporter), Tom Wopat (Husband/CPA), and Mary Testa (Medium, Aunt)
Sets: Thomas Lynch
Costumes: Susan Hilferty
Lights: Christopher Akerlind
Sound: Acme Sound Partners
Orchestrations: Bruce Coughlin
Music Director: Brad Haak
Running Time: 2 acts, 50 minutes each, one intermission
From July 21-Aug. 1

What It's About: For many of us the word "rashomon" conjures up conflicting versions of a story, the perennial puzzlement about what truth really is. In short Ryonusuke Akutagawa's story about the murder of a Samurai and the rape of his wife told through conflicting testimonies has become something of a common allusion long after details about the story have faded from memory. Director Akira Kurosawa's 1950 film, still a golden oldie, was made into a Broadway play in 1959 with a cast that included Claire Bloom and film notables Akim Tamiroff and Oscar Homolka.

What composer/lyricist Michael John LaChiusa has done is to musicalize several of the titles in the Akutagawa Rashomon collection: "In the Grove", and "Gloryday" are both modernized and set in Central Park "The Dragon" now "Keza and Morita." set in medieval Japan is done as two brief scenes, each sort of a prologue to the Central Park stories. Like much of Mr. LaChiusa's work this is an intimate musical with just five performers -- but what a cast. The two women, Audra McDonald and Mary Testa both appeared in LaChiusa's big Broadway musical Marie Christine. Without going any further and thus ending up doing a review, these two magnificent performers don't disappoint, and neither do the three men. And the show, while very much in the modern musical idiom is accessible -- no caveats of "not for everyone" needed.

With the composer in residence to fine tune the musical during this developmental showing, I was able to lure him away from his work for a conversation about R shomon -- including the missing letter "a"and his work generally. To read that interview go here.
The Janitor's Statement
The Thief's Statement
  • She Looked At Me
  • See What I Wanna See
  • Big Money
  • You'll Go Away With Me

  • Best Not Get Involved

  • The Wife's Statement
  • Louie

  • The Medium's Statement
    The Husband's Statement
  • You'll Go Away With Me (QuartetA)
  • No More
  • Simple Light In the East/Finale

  • Morito

  • Last Year
  • The Greatest Practical Joke
  • First Message
  • Central Park
  • Second Message
  • Coffee
  • Gloryday
  • Curiosity Prayer
  • Third Message/Feed the Lions
  • There Will Be a Miracle
  • Rising Up
  • Finale

  • Water's Edge, a world premiere
    Playwright: Theresa Rebeck
    Director: Will Frears
    Cast: Kate Burton, Fiona Gallagher, Gretchen Cleevely, Michael Gaston and Austin Lysy
    What it's about: A man returns to his family after a 17-year absence in an exploration of " the mysteries of time and memory" and the question of "What wouldn't you do for your child?" The author is quoted as saying she was influenced by Greek tragedy-- and it shows, even though this Greek tragedy has plenty of laughs!
    Sets: Thomas Lynch
    Costumes Junghyun Georgia Lee
    Lights:Frances Aronson
    Sound: David Wallingford
    From June 23-July 4

    Rodney's Wife, a world premiere
    Playwright and Director: Richard Nelson

    Cast: Rodney (David Strathairn), Lee (Susan May Pratt), Eva (Maryann Plunkett), Henry (John Rothman), Fay (Haviland Morris).
    What it's about: The setting is Rome in 1962, but to a group of visiting Americans it feels more like the far edge of the known world. Rodney (David Strathairn) is a forgotten movie actor, and is in Rome filming one of the first "Spaghetti Westerns." He is living in a villa in the city with Lee (Susan May Pratt), his twenty-five year old daughter; Eva (Maryann Plunkett), his recently widowed sister; Henry (John Rothman), his new manager; and his second wife, Fay (Haviland Morris). Household relations are strained when Fay's reaction to the news of Lee’s unexpected engagement is less than enthusiastic. The play examines the complicated underpinnings of loss, the lure and disorientation of foreign lands and very human desire.

    The above summary is based on the press information. Having seen the show's first performance and being a follower of Mr. Nelson's work, I would note, without reviewing it, that Rodney's Wife is of a piece with his themes and style of playwriting and directing. It's a quiet play and, despite the title character being an actor, it is about ordinary people with extraordinary currents stirring the familial relationships. As in the past, a narrator representing two generations serves as an audience addressing narrator. Mr. Nelson also continues his penchant for having actors speak with their backs to the audience. Of the four world premieres in this summer's Nikos line-up, this is the only one that's already scheduled for a definite after life as part of New York Playwrights Horizons' (which has mounted Nelson's work in the past) fall season at its smaller theater. It will be interesting to see what if any changes will be made between now and then.

    Sets and Costumes: Susan Hilferty
    Lights: David Weiner
    Sound: Scott Lehrer
    Running Time: 1 hour and 40 minutes without an intermission
    From July 7-18

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