Monday, June 16, 2008

Intermission Talk: June 11, 2008
by Tony Vellela

Photo: Joan Marcus

The Windy City continues to blow great talent eastward. Steppenwolf’s provocative “August: Osage County” will undergo a few cast changes, including Molly Regan, joining the ensemble in the role now being done by Rondi Reed. Regan, one of the acclaimed theatre company’s founding members, delivered a knockout performance a few seasons back as the desperate Amanda in “The Glass Menagerie.” Also coming aboard is Estelle Parsons as the family’s medicated matriarch. Parsons has great credentials as a substance-abusing grande dame, cutting her teeth for those cutting remarks at Buffalo’s Studio Arena Theatre in their 1961-1962 season as Martha in Edward Albee’s “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” Another Steppenwolf founder, Joan Allen, returns to Broadway next season, after a two-decade absence, to co-star with Jeremy Irons in Michael Jacobs’ new play “Impressions,” with Jack O’Brien in the director’s chair.

Another successful return, the first full revival of Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein’s “South Pacific” at the Vivian Beaumont Theatre, pays attention to detail the way Lincoln Center productions usually do. Director Bartlett Sher’s complex staging, without making an obvious point of it, takes care to separate black and white Seabees most of the time, which was the prevailing practice during World War II, and remained so until Harry Truman ordered the Armed Services desegregated. [And does the magazine one of the nurses peruses while Nellie is washing that man out of her hair feature Ethel Merman on its cover, as Annie Oakley in “Annie Get Your Gun?”] Nellie fails to rinse and repeat, of course, becoming the surrogate mother of Emile’s children, a pattern that R & H repeated twice more, in “The King and I” and “The Sound of Music.”

TONY VELLELA, the veteran theatre correspondent for The Christian Science Monitor, writes and produces the PBS series about theatre, "Character Studies" His work has also appeared in Parade, Theatre Week, USA Today, Dramatics, Rolling Stone, and several other publications.

August: Osage County by Tracy Letts
Paper, $13.95
Order online, or call the Drama Book Shop at (800) 322-0595


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