MTC preps ‘Royal’ but trims season

Two Donald Margulies plays also scheduled

Kaufman and Ferber comedy “The Royal Family” and two Donald Margulies plays are on the 2009-10 sked at Manhattan Theater Club.

Prompted by the economic downturn, the Gotham nonprofit will present six shows next season instead of seven — three in its Broadway house, the Friedman, and three on Stage I, the larger of its two Off Broadway spaces. Org aims to rent out its smaller space, Stage II, to other theater troupes.

“Royal Family” kicks off the 2009-10 lineup at the Friedman. Production will be helmed by Doug Hughes (“Doubt”) and star Rosemary Harris, John Glover, Jan Maxwell and Reg Rogers.

Harris starred in the last Broadway revival of “Royal Family” in 1976, appearing as the daughter of the theatrical Cavendish clan in the 1927 comedy by George S. Kaufman and Edna Ferber. This time around she’ll play matriarch Fanny, with Maxwell as Fanny’s daughter, Rogers as her son and Glover as her brother.

Show begins previews Sept. 15 at the Friedman ahead of an Oct. 8 opening.

Linda Lavin will topline the Rialto debut of Margulies’ “Collected Stories,” which MTC produced Off Broadway in 1997. Lavin appears as a famous author in the two-hander, about the writer’s relationship with her protege. Show, helmed by MTC a.d. Lynne Meadow (who directed Lavin in MTC hit “The Tale of the Allergist’s Wife”), is set for a spring run at the Friedman that begins previews April 6, 2010, and opens April 28.

The other Margulies play presented by MTC next season, “Time Stands Still,” will have a fall run Off Broadway helmed by Daniel Sullivan (“Proof”), who has previously worked with the scribe on plays including “Dinner With Friends” and “Brooklyn Boy.”

Show, which preemed at the Geffen Playhouse in L.A. earlier this year, centers on a journalist and a photographer returning home to New York following a stint in Iraq. Previews begin Oct. 15 with an opening skedded for Nov. 3.

Meadow and MTC exec producer Barry Grove said they trimmed a show off the theater’s programming sked as a belt-tightening measure in the face of the nationwide downward trend in subscriptions and in anticipation of cutbacks in corporate and individual support.

Grove said the operating budget, pegged at $21 million for this season, will come down next season, although it’s too soon to say by exactly how much.

Decision to rent out Stage II, hoped to be a temporary measure, could prove a useful opportunity for the smaller-scale legit orgs that have found themselves homeless in recent months. Although no arrangement has been reached, Grove said the space could be rented to a single company throughout the season or to more than one.

The consolidated programming comes after other cost-cutting measures have been implemented by the theater, including staff reductions and pay cuts for both Meadow and Grove.

But economic constraints won’t entirely scare the org off from its creative ambitions, Meadow said. “Royal Family,” she noted, is a large-scale production that celebrates the legit tradition.

“We’re tightening our belts but also waving the flag,” she said.

Three shows remain to be announced for the 2009-10 slate — two for Off Broadway and one for the mid-season slot in the Friedman.

After a rocky reception last year for fall offerings “To Be or Not to Be” and “Romantic Poetry,” MTC has had a strong spring with well-reviewed stagings of “The American Plan,” “Ruined” and “Humor Abuse.”

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