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Howard Sherman’s US theatre round-up: June 26

Patti LuPone and Michael Urie in Shows for Days. Photo: Joan Marcus Patti LuPone and Michael Urie in Shows for Days. Photo: Joan Marcus
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Patti LuPone leads a theatre in Douglas Carter Beane’s Shows for Days

Douglas Carter Beane has written a steady string of witty plays and musicals for decades, including As Bees in Honey Drown, The Little Dog Laughed, Xanadu and Sister Act. Now he pays tribute to the hometown theatre that became his refuge as a teenager with Shows for Days, opening on June 29 at Lincoln Centre Theatre, with Patti LuPone playing the stand-in for the leader of the real life troupe and Michael Urie embodying a fictionalised version of the youthful Beane. In an interview in The New York Times, Beane emphasised how much the true-life company, Genesius Theatre in Pennsylvania, meant to him, calling the theatre his home at a time when his family life was troubled. It was also where he was first paid to write, for a work lost to time entitled The Superheroes Save Christmas. Directed by Beane’s frequent collaborator Jerry Zaks, the show is scheduled through late August, aligning with Beane’s departure for London, where he’ll take up residence with his family until mid-2016.

Posthumous premiere for William Inge’s Off the Main Road at Williamstown

Estelle Parsons, Kyra Sedgwick, Mary Wiseman. Photo: Paul Fox
Estelle Parsons, Kyra Sedgwick, Mary Wiseman. Photo: Paul Fox

In the 1950s, William Inge made his mark with a run of plays that are often revived – Come Back Little Sheba, Picnic and Bus Stop – as well as the lesser-seen The Dark at the Top of the Stairs. He won an Academy Award in 1961 for his screenplay for Splendor in the Grass, in addition to having his plays adapted into films and working on a variety of television projects. But his work found less favour as the 1960s progressed, and Inge committed suicide while living in California in 1973, at the age of 60. So it’s quite remarkable that more than 40 years later, one of his plays, Off the Main Road (which Inge adapted for television under a different title) is receiving its premiere, at the Williamstown Theatre Festival, after having been found among his papers seven years ago. The play follows the lives of characters whose stories reflect Inge’s own – early successes followed by fading careers. Evan Cabnet directs the Williamstown production, which features Kyra Sedgwick and Estelle Parsons, the latter continuing to vigorously return to the stage at the age of 87. The brief run, standard for Williamstown, begins on June 30 and continues to July 19.

Alicia Silverstone travels Off-Broadway for Manhattan Theatre Club’s Of Good Stock

I know it’s a bit unfair to constantly reference an early role in a performer’s life, but Alicia Silverstone’s turn as Cher Horowitz in the film Clueless remains a touchstone among teen comedies. Now, after three Broadway productions – The Graduate, The Performers and her sweet and guileless turn in Donald Margulies’s Time Stands Still – and 20 years past Clueless, Silverstone is Off-Broadway at Manhattan Theatre Club in Melissa Ross’s Off Good Stock, where she plays one of three sisters (hmm, familiar phrase, that) dealing with the legacy of the novelist father. Jennifer Mudge and Heather Lind round out the sibling trio, under the direction of MTC’s longtime artistic director Lynne Meadow. The production opens June 30 and continues to July 26.

Up close and personal with Curly and Laurey in Bard College’s Oklahoma!

Damon Daunno, Allison Strong, Amber Gray and Mary Testa. Photo: Julieta Cervantes
Damon Daunno, Allison Strong, Amber Gray and Mary Testa. Photo: Julieta Cervantes

Those familiar – and I certainly hope you are – with the seminal Rodgers and Hammerstein musical comedy Oklahoma! might be a bit startled to hear the show’s title linked with immersive theatre, but that’s just what’s happening at upstate New York’s Bard College in a new studio-scaled production, directed by Daniel Fish as part of the school’s annual Summerscape Festival. With the theatre made over as a town meeting hall and the audience seated at long tables that ring the stage, the textually faithful production sees actors serving chili and baking cornbread, backed by a six-piece band Two-time Tony nominee Mary Testa, as Aunt Eller, is the best known of the small cast. Performances began last night and continue through to July 19, but thanks to the intriguing concept and a large feature story in The New York Times earlier this week, tickets are already extremely scarce.

California Happy Days with Adams and Shalhoub transfers to The Flea Theatre

I had previously made note in this column of a production of Samuel Beckett’s Happy Days at Pasadena’s Theatre at Boston Court due to its cast of husband and wife actors Brooke Adams and Tony Shalhoub. The production was such a success on the west coast that it has moved east, to Off-Off-Broadway’s The Flea Theatre, where it reopens on June 29, once again directed by Andrei Belgrader, for a run through to July 18x. It’s the second New York opening for the feisty Boston Court: Tom Jacobson’s The Twentieth Century Way, about clandestine gay life in Los Angeles 100 years ago, is now running at Rattlestick Playwrights Theatre, directed by Michael Michetti, through to July 19.

I’ll be taking next week off as new theatre productions slow to a crawl in advance of our national July 4 holiday, the origins of which can be found in the musical 1776. See you in two weeks.

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