Albee's new play, 'Me,' a 'tall order' for director
Here’s a casting challenge: Identical twins. Actors. In their 20s or 30s. With major stage chops. Did we mention the identical part? Go.
A tyro playwright would maybe want to rethink a little. But for a major American dramatist, you put up with it.
“When Edward Albee hands you his newest play, you don’t even question it,” says Emily Mann, helmer of Albee’s latest, “Me, Myself and I,” which gets a January world preem at Princeton, N.J.’s, McCarter Theater, of which Mann is a.d.
“It was like, ‘We’ll figure this out, we’ll figure this out,’ ” Mann says. “And we still haven’t.”
Mann and casting director Laura Stanczyk took a recent trip to Hollywood for a day of auditions. According to Stanczyk, “Most of the identical-twin acting pairs are on the West Coast, I think because they get a lot of work in TV and film.” (Not to mention those Doublemint gum commercials.)
“Me, Myself and I” centers on a pair of twins, both named Otto, whose mother cannot tell them apart. The show is part of what has turned into a season of Albee that coincides with the scribe’s 80th birthday. In Gotham, there’s “Peter and Jerry” at Second Stage, “The Sandbox” and “The American Dream” at the Cherry Lane and “Occupant” at Signature.
And Broadway might see “Me, Myself and I” in the spring. Producer Elizabeth McCann is attached to the McCarter production with the potential to bring the play into New York after its Princeton run ends Feb. 17.
But first there are those twins. Mann and Stanczyk may go with two actors who look enough alike that they could be made to seem identical onstage. “But it depends on whether we can find identicals who can actually do it, because that’s what Edward wrote,” Stanczyk says.
The casting director also has scouted out pairs of identicals in London, Toronto, New York and Chicago as well as L.A.
“It’s a tall order,” Mann says. “If you know any twins who can act, call me.”
Avant-garde legit troupes are used to dealing with production obstacles like low budgets, unorthodox tech demands and auds who would rather see “Les Miz.”
The latest hurdle for 37-year-old company Mabou Mines? The New York City Dept. of Parks and Recreation.
The company’s new performance piece, “Song for New York: What Women Do While Men Sit Knitting,” is staged on a barge in the East River, in front of an audience watching from the waterfront Gantry Plaza State Park in Queens.
“It’s presented very large challenges,” says Ruth Maleczech, the thesp-helmer who conceived and directs “Song.” “We’ve been working on permits for 3½ months, some of them more than a year. And it’s a nightmare for the sound designers.”
The free show celebrates the five boroughs of New York with songs by composer Lisa Gutkin and five female poets (including frequent Mabou Mines collaborator Karen Kandel), knitted together by historical tales written by historian Nancy Groce. These are performed by a chorus of men with stylized knitting needles that double as percussion sticks, to be banged on the scaffolding of a bridge-like set with the skyline for a backdrop.
The genesis of the piece was 9/11 (although the terrorist attacks are never mentioned specifically), and it was because of 9/11 that the production was so hard to get approved. Due to heightened security levels, waterways are now under the auspices of the Coast Guard, the FDNY, the NYPD Harbor Patrol and park commissions for both the state and the city.
Nonetheless, the show, with a budget of about $200,000 (supplied by foundations and donors, including the Rockefeller Foundation), managed to iron out all the park permits two weeks ago, and will play five perfs between Aug. 31 and Sept. 9.