Noises Off: Summer stocking

On June 15, Christopher Denham will finish the Sunday matinee of “Master Harold … and the Boys,” in which he appears as Hally, then fly up to Boston for the world preem of the new play he’s written, “Rapist James,” at the Huntington Theater.

At just 22, Denham is on course to make a name for himself as both an actor and a writer. He received mostly positive notices for his Broadway debut in “Master Harold.”

As for Denham’s edgier portrayal of Hally, his director and predecessor in the role says it has to do with height. “I’m shorter,” says Lonny Price. “I’m taller,” agrees Denham.

Or it might have something to do with Denham’s decidedly darker world view. In his “Rapist James,” a woman is raped three days before her wedding. After publishing two horror novels, “The Bellringers” and “At the Spike,” the scribe returns to the genre in the Huntington-commissioned play “The Haven Trilogy,” about artists who retreat to an underground world.

Not your average tuner stuff.

“But I am working on a musical,” he says, “about bandits during the Mexican Civil War.”

This should not come as a surprise, but the prolific Denham is writing the book, the music and the lyrics.

Korie’s keepers

“After putting three or four years into an opera, you only get 12 performances,” Michael Korie says.

Given that small return on investment, the librettist of the opera “Harvey Milk” hopes to switch to musical theater with “Doll,” a new tuner written by Korie and Stewart Wallace, based on the crazy life of Alma Mahler, who was married to composer Gustav and later to architect Walter Gropius. Lincoln Center hosted a workshop last season, and the new “Doll” is unveiled Sept. 3 at the Ravinia Festival. Patti LuPone essays Alma, Lonny Price directs.

It may not be an opera, but for his first tuner Korie has gone the nonprofit route. “I can’t see doing it Off Broadway, and nobody will develop it for Broadway because there is no previous source material,” he says.

Korie used to be a big believer in the crossover show. Now he’s not so sure.

” ‘Rent’ and ‘Side Show’ led the way to a new kind of musical, but we have regressed,” he says. “The critics and the public like their musicals buoyant. Those musicals that grapple with serious issues tend to be dismissed as overreaching or pretentious.”

But the work goes on.

A reading of his and Scott Frankel‘s “Meet Mr. Future” (think Frank Capra at the 1939 World’s Fair) had a reading at Manhattan Theater Club and looks to be developed by the Dodgers. There is even another opera, with Ricky Ian Gordon. Their “The Grapes of Wrath” preems at Minnesota Opera in 2006.

Jordan’s journey

Julia Jordan studied under Marsha Norman and Christopher Durang at Juilliard, graduating in the illustrious class of 1997 with David Auburn and Stephen Belber. She wrote the books for “Sarah, Plain and Tall” and the “Mice” section of “3hree.”

Her plays, however, have been harder to locate, at least in Gotham. But now the 2003-04 season features no fewer than three.

“It is very weird. I feel like I’ve been writing for 10 years, and most of these plays have been around for a while. Each (production) came about separately,” she says.

Women’s Expressive Theater gives Jordan’s “St. Scarlet” its world preem July 25 at the Ontological Theater, with Chris Messina directing (Messina, best known as an actor, was most recently seen onstage in “Salome: The Reading”). The play looks at what happens when three children find themselves snowbound at home the night their mother dies.

Later in the season, Jordan unveils “Tatiana in Color” at the Culture Project and “Boy” at Primary Stages next spring. There’s also her book for the children’s musical “Summer of the Swans” when Theatreworks takes over the Lucille Lortel next month.

Caruso’s crossing

Thomas Caruso moves up from assistant director on Terrence McNally‘s “Love! Valour! Compassion!” and “Master Class” (the Broadway productions) to helming the playwright’s newest, a one-act called “Chatter, Yatter, Flotsam and Dross, or Ted and Tom and Terry and Terri.”

It performs under the banner of “Off Season” with Israel Horovitz‘s “Sins of the Mother” at Massachusetts’ Gloucester Theater on Aug. 6.

Last month, Caruso directed a first-look benefit perf of the plays at the Key West (Fla.) Theater Fest. For the full production, Caruso is looking for four actors with the range to play Gloucester dock workers in the Horovitz play and the Key West owners of gay boarding houses in McNally’s.

“Both pieces deal with the secrets beneath a tourist town when the tourists go away,” Caruso says.

“McNally’s is funny,” Horovitz says. “Mine is not.”

Shortly before staging “Off Season,” Caruso puts up Jack Heifner‘s latest, “Earth to Buckie,” July 12 at Sag Harbor’s Bay Street.

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