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Press Highlights

Music for Broadway, Off-Broadway and...  

1.  "Picnic" (Broadway)

 2. "Doctor Faustus" (Oak Park Festival Theater, Chicago)

 3. "The Rainmaker" (Broadway)

4. "Orchards" (Off-Broadway, National Tour)

5. "Thesmophoriasouzae" (Court Theater, Chicago)


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1. PICNIC (1994)

Broadway, directed by Scott Ellis, choreographed by Susan Stroman










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Oak Park Festival Theater, Chicago, directed by Patrick O'Gara






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3. THE RAINMAKER (1998/2000)

Broadway (via Williamstown Theater Festival), directed by Scott Ellis


Broadway Snap-Shot - Review (partial)




CURTAIN UP - Review (partial)






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4. ORCHARDS (1985-86)

The Acting Company, Off-Broadway, Goodman Theater, Chicago & National Tour, directed by Robert Falls






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5. THESMOPHORIASOUZAE or Ladies Day (1977)

Court Theater, Chicago, directed and translated by D. Nicholas Rudall










By Mel Gussow

In collaboration with the Dramatists Guild Fund Inc., the Circle Repertory Company is presenting a Young Playwrights Festival. The admirable purpose, of course, is to encourage young people to write plays, but at least from this year's selections, chosen from 732 submissions, there would seem to be a shortage of quality work.

Three of the plays, each of them written by a 17- or 18-year-old, deal with stereotypical adolescent anxieties, mostly directed against parents who are either absent or absentminded. Although each author demonstrates at least a modicum of writing ability, all three efforts are blunted by self-pity and sentimentality. If they were written by adults, they would have probably not been produced.

In direct contrast are the two plays by the festival's youngest winners, ''So What Are We Gonna Do Now?,'' by Juliet Garson, 13, and ''It's Time for a Change'' by Adam Berger, 8. It would be hasty to assume that the two youngsters are playwrights, but their plays are entertaining. If they were written by adult dramatists, one might say that ''Miss Garson and Mr. Berger have regained the spontaneity and imagination of their earlier work.'' Actually, each piece might have a future in children's theater, although Miss Garson's subject and language are rather more explicit than one finds in such circumstances.

Her heroines are two preteen best friends who act out their fantasy lives. Deciding that it is healthier to go into ''the streets of slime'' (New York) than to ''live in a house of distrust'' (that's a house populated by parents), they dress garishly and pretend to be prostitutes while knowing nothing about the art of proposition. There is an innocence underneath the supposed sophistication.

''It's Time for a Change'' is even more fanciful. The play's protagonist is terrible in gym and a figure of fun to his classmates, but he knows how to ski. One morning he borrows his father's snow maker - a deus ex snow machina - and fills the school gym with snowflakes. Then he leads his class, including the bullies, in cross-country skiing, miming a race to music with a ''Chariots of Fire'' beat.

These are the sort of sketches that children through the ages have written in privacy and presented in attics for the amusement of their peers and parents. In a Young Playwrights Festival, both benefit from bright professional productions, including adaptable stage designs by John Lee Beatty.

In ''So What Are We Gonna Do Now?'' Arthur Laurents has directed two children, Lucy Deakins and Kate Anthony, into giving appealing performances. Elinor Renfield has staged ''It's Time for a Change'' as a fairy tale, with an adult actor, Timothy Busfield, playing the skier with a childlike sense of wonder. He is also amusing as the Walter Mittyish hero of John McNamara's ''Present Tense,'' an attenuated comedy sketch about a young man with romantic problems. In a variety of roles in other plays, there are apt performances by David Labiosa and Karen Sederholm.

The two programs of plays, running in repertory through May 16, are of interest more for their psychological implications than for their theatrical value. One might conclude that adolescents share a pessimistic view of their lives - a sad commentary on growing up today. The concerns are serious and perhaps in time the playwrights will be able to express them in a more artful fashion.

Until July 1, the Dramatists Guild will be solicing manuscripts for next year's festival. The Program YOUNG PLAYWRIGHTS FESTIVAL. Sets by John Lee Beatty; costumes by Ann Roth; lighting by Dennis Parichy; sound by Chuck London Media, Stewart Warner; music by Louis Rosen (''It's Time for a Change'') and David Valentin (''The Bronx Zoo''); production stage manager, Jody Boese; stage manager, Kate Stewart; Gerald Chapman, festival director; Peggy Hansen, festival administrator; Richard Frankel, acting managing director of the Circle Repertory Company. Presented by the Dramatists Guild Fund Inc. in association with Circle Repertory Company. At 99 Seventh Avenue South. BLUFFING, by Peter Murphy; directed by Carole Rothman. PRESENT TENSE, by John McNamara; directed by Marshall W. Mason. THE RENNINGS CHILDREN, by Kenneth Loner- gan; directed by Mr. Mason. IT'S TIME FOR A CHANGE, by Adam Berger; directed by Miss Renfield. THE BRONX ZOO, by Lynnette Serrano; directed by Mr. Chapman. HALF FARE, by Shoshana Marchand; directed by Miss Renfield. SO WHAT ARE WE GONNA DO NOW? by Juliet Garson; directed by Arthur Laurents. WITH: Kate Anthony, Jonathan Bolt, Timothy Busfield, Lucy Deakins, Wanda De Jesus, Trish Hawkins, David Labiosa, Bruce McCarty, Alba Oms, Burke Pearson, James Pickens Jr., Zaina Rivera, Karen Sederholm and Ted Sod.

Editors’ Picks


By Mel Gussow

Jan. 24, 1985

''THE ART OF SELF-DEFENSE'' by Trish Johnson is the longest and most skillfully developed of the three plays in the first evening of Manhattan Punch Line's festival of one-act comedies. In it, five women study tai chi in order to find the road to inner tranquillity.

In common with the other two works, ''The Art of Self-Defense'' has its formulaic aspects, in this case the night class as a microcosm of urban life. It would benefit from further definition as to the individual reasons that propel the women into their shared endeavor. But the comedy has timeliness and pungency, and it is given an empathetic performance by a quintet of talented actresses.

Clearly the author has served her self-help time and has mastered the art of jargon. Led by an unseen instructor, the women try to lose tension as if it were excess poundage while learning such Eastern disciplines as Repulse the Monkey. Over a period of months, the women become friendly and then move on to their various roles as life's winners and losers.

The characters are variegated and the actresses are precisely cast - Denise Bessette, Gina Barnett, Helen Harrelson, and, especially, Caryn West who has her own tranquil beauty, and Kathrin King Segal who, as the mother of quadruplets, has a goodly share of the play's sharpest lines.

Mark D. Kaufmann's ''Backbone of America'' is a two-handed comedy about a lonely 10-year-old boy and his bored, law-student sitter. With a degree of cleverness, but with some sacrifice of credibility, the playwright maneuvers the two into an amusing relationship before the play spins into sentimentality.

The law student is exceedingly slow in his reactions, while the child is precocious. In fact, the 10-year-old is so adult that one wonders if he really needs a sitter. He gets the upper hand by reading the sitter's misfortune on tarot cards - there is all doom in the future. Stephen Hamilton and Cameron Charles Johann work well together as the unevenly matched man and boy.

Opening the evening is Nina Shengold's ''Women and Shoes,'' a pseudo- Mamet mini-conversation between two male chauvinists in a bar. The sketch deals briefly but interminably with the title subject. As one of the women in that tai chi class says to a long-winded friend, ''Is this story inherently interesting?''

Using adaptable settings by Jane Clark and Christopher Stapleton, all three plays are neatly directed - by Mitch McGuire, Porter Van Zandt and Steven D. Albrezzi, who staged the episodic ''Art of Self-

Tai Chi and Some

FESTIVAL OF ONE-ACT COMEDIES, Evening A. Settings by Jane Clark and Christopher Stapleton; costumes by David Loveless; lighting by Scott Pinkney; sound by Bruce Ellman; original music for ''The Art of Self-Defense,'' by Louis Rosen; production stage managers, David Lansky and Lori Rosecrans; production manager, Pamela Singer; associate producer, Kathi Levitan; managing director, Patricia Baldwin; artistic director, Steve Kaplan. Presented by Manhattan Punch Line Theater, Mr. Kaplan and Mitch McGuire, producing directors. At the Judith Anderson Theater, 422 West 42d Street.