The New York plans for Tony Kushner’s “Angels in America” got a big shake-up this week, with the play taking flight from the New York Shakespeare Festival’s Public Theater and landing at the Walter Kerr, with a new director in tow.
George C. Wolfe (“Jelly’s Last Jam”) has been brought in to direct the Broadway debut, replacing Oskar Eustis, who directed the two-part play in Los Angeles (with Tony Taccone) and has been with the project since its start.
The first part of the play, “Millennium Approaches,” is now skedded to open April 25 at the Walter Kerr Theater. It will be produced by Jujamcyn Theater and the Center Theatre Group of Los Angeles, in association with the New York Shakespeare Festival.
While audiences in Los Angeles saw “Millennium” and the second half, “Perestroika,” as a complete event, plans are still sketchy as to when “Perestroika” will debut in New York.
Kushner reportedly is due to do a rewrite on “Perestroika.”
“What I’m fairly sure we’re not going to do is open both plays back to back, like we did in Los Angeles,” said Gordon Davidson, artistic director for the Taper and the Ahmanson-at-the-Doolittle.
The production in New York will be redesigned for a proscenium stage and while the producers haven’t begun to think about casting, Davidson said it will be “primarily” the cast from Los Angeles.
Meanwhile, the shuffling of directors has caused a stir in theater circles on both coasts.
For one thing, it has proved to be a double whammy for New York Shakespeare Festival director JoAnne Akalaitis. Not only was “Angels” due to have a limited run in her theater this season, but Wolfe had been scheduled to direct Jose Rivera’s “Marisol” there around the same time.
But Akalaitis was part of the decision-making process in this turn of events. Now Public subscribers will get a first shot when the play opens at the Walter Kerr.
In two places at one time
With the decision to have Wolfe direct “Angels,” he’s now forced to forgo commitments to direct two productions of “Marisol,” the second for the Hartford Stage Company in Connecticut.
Initially there had been some reports of unhappiness and possible legal action from Hartford because of Wolfe’s dropping out, but Hartford spokesman Howard Sherman said yesterday that the theater’s exex believed the situation had been blown out of proportion.
“We want it to be known that Hartford has never threatened any kind of legal action against George Wolfe,” Sherman said. “We really don’t even wish to make any further statement.”
Meanwhile, bringing Wolfe in to direct “Angels” has pushed Oskar Eustis, who had been attached to the show for five years, to the side. Yet yesterday, Eustis said it was a decision that he and writer Tony Kushner reached together.
“Of course I’m disappointed, but Tony and I had some aesthetic differences that had finally come to a head in the last weeks of rehearsal for the Los Angeles show,” Eustis said.
Of the aesthetic differences, Eustis said he believed Kushner was interested in seeing the two plays staged in a very “presentational, showbiz” fashion.
As for any future contributions, Eustis said that “once the dust clears” between him and Kushner, he hopes to be able to contribute dramaturgy help when Kushner sits down to rewrite “Perestroika.”