Westport Country Playhouse sets fall revival

Though he retired from acting last year, Paul Newman returns to the boards this fall as helmer of “Of Mice and Men” at the Westport Country Playhouse, co-run by his wife Joanne Woodward.

The John Steinbeck stage adaptation will play Oct. 7 to Nov. 1. Show will mark the professional stage directing bow for Newman, who helmed a number of films from the 1960s to the 1980s including “Rachel, Rachel” and “The Glass Menagerie.”

Before that, Timothy Busfield (TV’s “thirtysomething,” “The West Wing”) will open the playhouse’s 78th season in Morris Panych’s dark comedy “Vigil,” which will play Feb. 26 to March 15. Helen Stenborg will also be featured in the show, presented in partnership with Daryl Roth Productions and Angelo Fraboni. Stephen DiMenna helms.

Scratched from former a.d. Tazewell Thompson’s previously announced season are “A Strange and Separate People” and “Sweet Bird of Youth” with Phylicia Rashad. In their place will be Alan Ayckbourn’s “Time of My Life,” helmed by John Tillinger and starring Paxton Whitehead, and the thriller “Tryst” with Mark Shanahan. Joe Brancato, who staged the off-Broadway run, will helm.

Other shows of the season will be Craig Wright’s “The Pavilion,” the musical revue “Hot ‘n’ Cole: A Cole Porter Celebration!” and David Wiltse’s “Scramble!”

Newman, 83, has been a longtime supporter of the playhouse, starring in a 2002 production of “Our Town” which later went to the Rialto and then lensed for PBS. He also runs a restaurant, the Dressing Room, adjacent to the theater.

Woodward and longtime theater associate Anne Keefe are interim artistic directors since Thompson ankled last month. Woodward had been artistic director emeritus when Thompson was hired two years ago.

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