Big names set for Westport

Playhouse will host stars, Pendleton's 'Orson's,' Burger's 'Morphic'

SOUTHBURY, Conn. — Big-name actors including Paul Newman, Joanne Woodward, Jason Robards and Bronson Pinchot, plus the world premieres of a new play by David Wiltse and a new musical by Peter Kellogg and David Friedman, will be integral parts of the first summer season organized by the new hierarchy at the Westport Country Playhouse.

Season, which runs June 12-Sept. 9, will also include two East Coast premieres, Austin Pendleton’s “Orson’s Shadow” in collaboration with the Williamstown Theater Festival, and Katherine Burger’s “Morphic Resonance.”

The WCP’s link with the WTF comes as no surprise: Woodward, the co-chair with Anne Keefe of the WCP’s artistic advisory council, has had a long relationship with the Williamstown fest, though this summer she’ll be concentrating on the doings in Westport, her hometown.

Overseen by the playhouse’s new CEO and executive director Elissa Getto and new artistic manager Janice Muirhead, the season will open June 12-24 with W. Somerset Maugham’s “The Constant Wife,” directed by Woodward. It will be followed June 26-July 8 by Pendleton’s play, which recently preemed at Chicago’s Steppenwolf Theater Co., directed by David Cromer. (The production plays Williamstown’s second stage June 14-25.)

Next up will be A.R. Gurney’s “Ancestral Voices” (July 10-22), directed by David Saint. Two different companies will perform it, the first week’s including Robards and Frank Converse, the second week’s including Newman, Woodward, James Naughton and Paul Rudd.

Wiltse’s new play “Triangles for Two” will take up the July 24-Aug. 5 slot. It’s a new comedy “of serious intent that asks whether men and women really speak the same language.”

Directed by James Naughton, Burger’s “Morphic Resonance’’ (Aug. 7-19) is “a snappy, intelligent romantic comedy-drama about glib Manhattan thirtysomethings tussling with love and commitment.” The week of Aug. 21-26 will be dark to make way for the season’s closing production, the new musical “Nicolette and Aucassin,” with book and lyrics by Kellogg and music by Friedman. Featuring Pinchot and directed by Ethan McSweeny, it’s a musicalization of a 12th century romantic French fable “filled with disguises, surprises and contemporary wit.”

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