The Shakespeare Theatre's Michael Kahn will take his production of "The Oedipus Plays" to the Athens Festival in September. The cast from the 2001 production -- including Avery Brooks as the fate-felled king -- will reconvene to perform in a 5,000-seat amphitheater on the south slope of the Acropolis. The performances will be on Sept. 10 and 11 -- a somber anniversary since the production was in Washington at the time of the 9/11 attacks.
"What we're very excited about," Kahn said recently, "is that we will be . . . doing a Greek play in Greece with an African American company." Kahn's version of Sophocles' trilogy is set in ancient Africa, with the plays -- "Oedipus Rex," "Oedipus at Colonus" and "Antigone" -- molded into a single three-act evening.
Kahn also announced plans for the 2003-04 season here, the epicenter of which will be an ambitious twofer -- Shakespeare's "Henry IV, Part 1" (Jan. 20-March 14, 2004) and "Henry IV, Part 2" (March 16-May 2, 2004). Then the two "Henrys" will play in rotating rep May 4-16. Company member Ted van Griethuysen will play Falstaff in both and Bill Alexander will direct. He directed "Troilus and Cressida" for Kahn a decade ago, then spent 10 years running the Birmingham Rep in England and was too busy to return.
The season will open with Richard Brinsley Sheridan's 1774 comedy "The Rivals" (Aug. 26-Oct. 19). Keith Baxter, who staged last season's riotous "The Country Wife," will return to direct. Mark Lamos, who guided this season's "Much Ado About Nothing," will return to do "A Midsummer Night's Dream" (Nov. 4-Jan. 4, 2004). After the "Henry IV" plays, Kahn will direct Edmond Rostand's "Cyrano de Bergerac" (June 1-July 18, 2004).
Pluck of the Irish
"I write for the theater because that is my love and my passion," Marie Jones said on the phone from her home in Belfast. Her bittersweet comedy "Stones in His Pockets" opens at the Kennedy Center tonight and runs through March 2.
The two-actor piece tells a mostly hilarious and occasionally poignant tale of a village in County Kerry when a Hollywood film company swoops in for a location shoot. Two unemployed locals (Bronson Pinchot and Tim Ruddy in this touring company) sign on as extras. The actors also portray about a dozen other people, from villagers to the ingenue movie star.
In her play, Jones asks what happens to the village after the movie folks leave and take their money and excitement with them. An occasional movie extra herself in the 1980s, she has played roles in films with stars such as Daniel Day-Lewis ("In the Name of the Father," 1993). "I could see it from both sides," said Jones. "I was always curious about the two different worlds, you know. Because usually films that are set in Ireland had to be set in small rural towns . . . how those two conflicting cultures had to get along."
Director Ian McElhinney, who staged "Stones" in its 1999 Belfast debut, in London and on Broadway (where it ran for six months and garnered three Tony nominations), is also the playwright's husband. The couple juggle their directing and playwriting work with performing -- McElhinney has been in the "Horatio Hornblower" films shown on A&E cable.
It was his idea to keep "Stones in His Pockets" visually simple -- just a sky backdrop and a long row of shoes behind the actors. "The shoes kind of represent . . . that which roots them," the director explained. "They kind of suggest all the people who aren't there."
The play, he said, is "similar in many ways to 'Godot,' but it's much more positive . . . two characters trying to work out who the hell they are and why they're there." But this time, he continued, "they finish up in a better place than they started."
It's a Wonderful Role Mention to Matthew Floyd Miller that the title character he plays in "Theophilus North" (at Arena Stage through March 2) is reminiscent of George Bailey in "It's a Wonderful Life" and his delight fizzes through the phone.
"I adore Jimmy Stewart," the actor said last week. "He does have that George Bailey kind of quality. In fact, one of the pictures I have hanging in my dressing room is of Jimmy Stewart playing George Bailey." His Theophilus haircut is even patterned after Stewart's floppy forelock 'do in the 1946 film, Miller noted.
The hero of Thornton Wilder's last novel, adapted for the stage by Matthew Burnett, is a young man who quits his dull teaching job and sets off to see the world in 1926. But his car dies in posh Newport, R.I., where he instantly becomes a problem-solver for the locals. "Despite the fact that he's wanting to go off, take off and be independent, he finds himself connected to helping these people," said Miller.
Raised in Fresno, Calif., Miller, 29, studied theater at NYU and has acted since he appeared in his sixth-grade Christmas play. He recently understudied Robert Sean Leonard, who played the young poet A.E. Housman on Broadway in Tom Stoppard's "The Invention of Love."
"It's actually really a joy to be able to play someone so cheery and happy [as Theophilus]," Miller said. "I feel like I've specialized in tortured young men . . . and to play Theophilus is kind of wonderful, because of that bright-eyed hopefulness, looking at the world as a place of adventure."
* Catalyst Theater Company will perform Samuel Beckett's "Endgame" Feb. 12-March 15 at the Capitol Hill Arts Workshop (545 Seventh St. SE). Call 1-800-494-TIXS or visit www.catalysttheater.com for more information.
* Signature Theatre will revive last spring's boffo production of "Hedwig and the Angry Inch" at Warehouse Theatre (1021 Seventh St. NW) April 11-May 25. Rick Hammerly and Lynn Filusch will reprise their roles as Hedwig and his silent partner Yitzak under Eric Schaeffer's direction. Tickets go on sale Feb. 14. Call 703-218-6500 or visit www.signature-theatre.org.