EVERY NIGHT near the end of "Savage in Limbo," actress Gra'inne Cassidy -- who plays Denise Savage, one of the denizens of a Bronx bar -- goes to one of the windows in Woolly Mammoth's summer performance space, throws it open and yells "Hunger! Hunger! Hunger!" to the street below.
Cassidy's verbal explosion startles the audience inside the theater, many of whom are afraid she's going to do something drastic. It has had a similar effect on unsuspecting passersby near the corner of Seventh and E NW.
"One night I yelled my lines," Cassidy says, "and some young hostile youth shouted back 'Go ahead and jump, bitch!' Really loud. I heard it, most of the audience heard it -- I had to think quick and do something with it. So I yelled back the foulest obscenity I could think of at the moment and slammed the window shut really hard. The audience was like, 'Wow! This doesn't happen at the Kennedy Center!' That was live theater."
Working on the musical play "A Dance Against Darkness: Living With AIDS" had a special poignance for director/choreographer Roberta Gasbarre. Gasbarre, a native of Buffalo, grew up attending dance classes at the Ferrera Studio of Ballet Arts, where the young assistant instructor was none other than Michael Bennett, the innovative director and choreographer of musicals who succumbed to the disease shortly before the play-with-music opened at d.c. space.
"Of course he wasn't 'Michael Bennett' yet," Gasbarre says. "He was about 12 years old, and he was always Mickey DiFiglia to us. My first image of him was so striking -- he was very slim and had the most enormous dark eyes, very intense. He thought about nothing but dance, and always knew what he wanted. By the time he was 16, he was gone -- he quit school and left for a European tour of 'West Side Story.' After he left, we'd hang the articles about him all over the studio. Later, when I went up to visit him while he was working on 'A Chorus Line,' he laughed and said 'But you're supposed to be a little girl!' He was exactly the same person he was when he was a little boy -- all he did was get taller.
"His death was such a loss, to me, to the theater, to all of us. After we heard, my mother told me, 'It's right for you to do this show now." "A Dance Against Darkness" runs Saturdays and Sundays through August at d.c space.
By popular demand: "A Sondheim Evening," a well-received revue of the master's many voices, is being extended through August 16 at New Playwrights' Theater. And, perhaps because of the play's uncanny similarity to recent headlines, Touchstone Theater will extend "Four Men From Annapolis" through August 2.
Studio Theater is extending its production of "As Is" through August 2, and because of recent changes, the eight-member cast is quite different from the one that opened the play in May. In the two lead roles, Michael Russotto replaces Michael Chaban as Rich, and Michael Wells has replaced T.J. Edwards as Saul; other new cast members include Sarah Marshall, Vince Brown and Michael O'Sullivan.
Quick hits: The Ten-Minute Play Contest begins at the seventh annual Source Theater Festival this weekend, and festival director Keith Parker promises the two evenings will be "very beauty pageant-like." Seven plays each evening will be performed and judged; rounds one and two are 8 p.m. Sunday at the Warehouse Rep and 8 p.m. Monday at the Main Stage. And those who enjoyed Source's raucously rude production of "Titus Andronicus" might check out "The Satyr Play," an "exceptionally naughty Roman comedy" featuring some of the same players, in the Warehouse, Friday and Saturday at midnight. The festival runs through August 9; call 462-1073 for reservations and more details.
Bulletin Board: John Neville-Andrews, former artistic producer of the Folger Theater, has a restaging of "Hair" on the boards at Towson State University's Fine Arts Center through August 1; next Neville-Andrews will direct Christopher Durang's comedy "Beyond Therapy" at Hayloft Dinner Theater. The show opens August 11 . . . Kevin Marcum, who was Colm Wilkinson's understudy in "Les Miserables" here and on Broadway, was found dead of unknown causes at his New York apartment last weekend. Marcum was 31, and would have played the lead role in the musical in the fall, and in the touring production which will return to the Kennedy Center next fall . . . Playwright and author Samuel Beckett is the recipient of the Common Wealth Award in Dramatic Arts in recognition of his exceptional contributions to dramatic literature. Previous recipients of the award include Peter Brook, Laurence Olivier, Stephen Sondheim and Arena Stage founder Zelda Fichandler . . .
"Happy Birthday and Other Humiliatons," a new play by Washington author/playwright Judith Viorst is playing through Sunday at the John Drew Theater in East Hampton. Stars are Bonnie Franklin and Barbara Sharma . . . "Chili Queen" closes Saturday at the Kennedy Center Terrace Theater; playwright Jim Lehrer's newest play, "Good To See You Again," will be previewed at the Source theater festival next Friday as part of an evening of one-act comedies called "Comedy Buddies." Participating in the evening are Stephen Hayes, Nancy Robinette and new Source executive director Pat Sheehy . . . The Olney Theater says Ian McKellen broke the theater's box office record during his July stay; the previous record was held by the 1985 revival of "Do Black Patent Leather Shoes Really Reflect Up?"