New Jersey Stage

Friday, December 31, 2010

George Street Playhouse Presents "The Subject Was Roses"

(New Brunswick, NJ) --  George Street Playhouse and Artistic Director David Saint recently announced casting for their production of Frank Gilroy's The Subject Was Roses.  The three-person cast includes Lee Sellars recently seen on Broadway in the hit revival of West Side Story (and GSP's production of The Pillowman) as John Cleary, Chris Wendelken as young Timmy Cleary, and stage and screen star Stephanie Zimbalist as Nettie Cleary.  The Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award- winning play about a young soldier's return from World War II only to find another war brewing on the home front will be on the boards in New Brunswick beginning Tuesday, February 8, 2011 and will run through Sunday, March 6.  Opening night is set for Friday, February 11.  Michael Mastro, seen on the Playhouse stage in productions of The Pillowman and The Sunshine Boys opposite Jack Klugman, will direct.

"The roles in this powerful drama require actors capable of extraordinary honesty", said Artistic Director David Saint.  "We are so fortunate to have a remarkable cast featuring my old friend Stephanie Zimbalist, returning GSP alumnus Lee Sellars and gifted newcomer Chris Wendelken.  I am certain that under Michael Mastro's guidance they will provide an unforgettable evening in the theatre."

Creating the world of The Subject Was Roses are scenic designer Michael Schweikardt, costume designer Esther Arroyo and lighting and sound designer Christopher J. Bailey.

Tickets for The Subject Was Roses are now available through the George Street Playhouse Box Office, either by phone at 732-246-7717 or by shopping online at www.GSPonline.org.  George Street Playhouse is located at 9 Livingston Avenue, in the heart of New Brunswick's dining and entertainment district.  In addition, groups of 10 or more are entitled to a discount – for further information contact the GSP Group Sales Department at 732-846-2895, ext. 134 or 155.

There are three sides to every story.  Buried truths and old emotional wounds resurface when young Timmy McCleary returns to his parents' home after World War II.  Caught in the crossfire of unresolved tensions over money, love and heroism, the new veteran finds himself engaged in a battle on the home front – where all three family members ache for a peaceful détente.

Stephanie Zimbalist was a young amateur theatrical entrepreneur, producing, writing and directing pieces in her bedroom hallway, in the stable, and on neighbors' fireplace hearths.  After graduating high school, her ambitions led her to choose a professional drama school over university, which led her to New York.  Returning to Los Angeles she worked for her brother and sister-in-law while making audition rounds.  In time she starred in television movies, among them the Emmy Award-winning The Gathering, Centennial, The Golden Moment and Tomorrow's Child, along with the occasional guest series role.  After several such projects and two feature films – The Magic of Lassie with James Stewart and The Awakening with Charlton Heston – Stephanie was offered the role of Laura Holt in the series Remington Steele, which she played for five years with Pierce Brosnan and Doris Roberts on NBC.  Other television appearances during that time include The Story Lady with Jessica Tandy, Incident in a Small Town for CBS with Walter Matthau and Harry Morgan, and Stop The World – I Want to Get Off, the musical on A&E.

Stephanie made her stage debut in 1979 in the musical Festival at the Las Palmas Theater in Los Angeles with Gregory Harrison and Brian Stokes Mitchell.   Other theatre credits include The Tempest with Anthony Hopkins at the Mark Taper Forum, The Cherry Orchard at Long Wharf Theatre, Summer and Smoke and Barbarians at the Williamstown Theatre Festival as well as the National Tour of My One and Only with Tommy Tune.  In 1989 she initiated a play to be written for her and Linda Purl – The Baby Dance by Jane Anderson – which they produced and starred in at the Pasadena Playhouse.  The production moved to Williamstown and Long Wharf, culminating in a critically acclaimed run at the Lucille Lortel Theatre in New York.

Recent theatrical credits include The Threepenny Opera with Betty Buckley at Williamstown, The Philadelphia Story at Cleveland Playhouse, The Crimson Thread, the West Coast premiere of AdWars, the title role in A.R. Gurney's Sylvia at L.A's Coronet Theater, Wonderful Town with Lucie Arnaz for LA's Reprise! Series;  The Rainmaker;  Side Man at the Guthrie Theatre;  Varya in The Cherry Orchard opposite Alfred Molina; Dancing at Lughnasa and Jane Anderson's Defying Gravity at the Rubicon Theatre where she also trod the boards with her father Efrem for the first time in Tennesse Williams' Night of the Iguana.

For several springs now, Stephanie has opened the Tennessee Williams New Orleans Literary Festival with a reading of one of his plays at their Gala event, sharing the boards with Alec Baldwin, Elizabeth Ashley, John Goodman, Patricia Neal, Linda Hart and Rex Reed.  Having worked in New Orleans with the Festival and in Malpractice and made friends in Nola, the recent tragedies there hit especially hard.

Lee Sellars was last seen on the GSP stage as Tupolski in The Pillowman.  Recent Broadway credits include the recent revival of West Side Story as well as Talk Radio, Longacre Theater.  Other New York theater credits include: A Small Melodramatic Story LAByrinth theater; The Alchemist, Classic Stage Company. Regional theater: The Pillowman , George Street Playhouse; Pig Farm, The God of Hell, Contemporary American Theater Festival. Television: "Chappelle's Show", "The Sopranos", "Lipstick Jungle", "Law and Order" (recurring) and "ER" (recurring). Film : The Savages, Groundhog Day. Lee also writes the music and performs with the New York, alternative, art-rock band; Eelwax Jesus.

Chris Wendelken has spent the last year touring the United States and Europe with Big Dance Theater in Comme Toujours Here I Stand (Bessie Award), performing internationally at Les Subsistances, Le Quartz, Le Lieu Unique, Theatre National de Bretagne, regionally at the Long Center for the Performing Arts, Yale, MCA (Chicago), as well at The Kitchen in New York. Additional theatre credits in NY include the BE Company's production of 7 Stories (urbanStages), Ma-Yi's Iph, Then (TFNC), John Jesurun's Firefall (Dance Theatre Workshop), numerous readings & workshops with the Ephipany Theatre Company, Atlantic Theatre Co., Manhattan Theatre Club and featured roles in films and TV shows, like NBC's Law & Order: SVU. BFA: NYU (Atlantic Theater Co., Experimental Theater Wing).

Michael Mastro is honored to be directing Frank Gilroy's Pulitzer Prize winning classic at George Street, where as an actor he has had the great pleasure of appearing in such plays as The Sunshine Boys with Jack Klugman, The Pillowman and Inspecting Carol.  In December of 2010, Michael helmed a NYC benefit production of the comedy Hate Mail, starring Cynthia Nixon and John Slattery for Opening Act, a NYC non-profit that brings after-school theatre programs into under-served city schools.  In the fall of 2010, he assisted David Saint in the mounting of the first national tour of West Side Story.  Past directorial assignments include Love Letters, starring Bernadette Peters and John Dossett (also for Opening Act), as well as one-acts by many wonderful NYC playwrights including Warren Leight, Geoffrey Nauffts, Dena Douglas, Jeanne Dorsey and Sally Nemith with several NYC theatre companies including Naked Angels, Soho Shorts, Midtown International Theatre Festival, Gilgamesh, One Dream and the Atlantic Theatre School. 

As an actor, Michael has just completed two years in the Broadway revival of West Side Story.  Other Broadway credits include: Twelve Angry Men; Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (with Ashley Judd/Ned Beatty/Jason Patric); Mamma Mia!, Judgement at Nuremberg; Side Man; Barrymore (with Christopher Plummer); Love! Valour! Compassion!  Off-Broadway, he appeared in The Water Children (Playwrights Horizons), Escape from Happiness (Naked Angels). In addition to his roles at George Street, he has appeared regionally in Guys and Dolls (Paper Mill), Taming of the Shrew (Old Globe), The Dinner Party (Paper Mill/Coconut Grove), Buffalo Gal (Williamstown), Substance of Fire (Coconut Grove), Italian American Reconciliation, Two Rooms, and Hate Mail (all at Penguin Rep). Film: Kissing Jessica Stein, The Night We Never Met, Jungle 2 Jungle, Borough of Kings.  TV:  "Alias," "Hack," "Deadline," "Cosby," lots of "Law & Order."  He is a proud member of four unions, including Actors Equity and SDC, and he is also a proud member of Naked Angels, a New York City-based theatre company celebrating it's 25th Anniversary this year.

Frank Gilroy was born on October 13, 1925 in New York City, the son of Bettina (née Vasti) and Frank B. Gilroy, a coffee broker.  His father was Irish-American and his mother was of Italian and German descent.  Gilroy lived in the Bronx for most of his childhood and attended DeWitt Clinton High School. He then enlisted in the army after graduation. He served two and a half years in the 89th Division where eighteen months were in the European Theatre.  After the war, he attended Dartmouth College and received his B.A. with magna cum laude. Later in 1966, he would receive an honorary Doctor of Letters. He also received a grant from Dartmouth that allowed him to attend the Yale School of Drama.

Gilroy wrote in the Golden Age of Television for such shows as Playhouse 90, Westinghouse Studio One, The United States Steel Hour, Omnibus, Kraft Television Theatre, and Lux Video Theatre.  His entrance to theatre was marked with his 1962 play Who'll Save the Plowboy? at the Phoenix Theatre in New York which won the OBIE Award. The play follows Albert Cobb, a man who once dreamed of owning a farm becoming a plowboy. He and his wife Helen are awaiting to be reunited fifteen years after World War II, along with Larry Doyle, the man who saved his life. The title comes from when they were in the war, and Albert was staked as bait by the Germans, and Larry kept shouting "Who'll Save the Plowboy?" until he finally crept out and saved him.  May of 1964 saw the opening of The Subject Was Roses, which has been compared to Eugene O'Neill's Long Day's Journey Into Night.

That Summer, That Fall (1967) is a version of the Hippolytus-Phaedra story. The play is set in an Italian neighborhood in Lower Manhattan in an apartment complex.  Gilroy's works include screenplays for the films Desperate Characters (starring Shirley MacLaine) and The Gallant Hours (starring James Cagney). He has also adapted his own plays for film, including The Subject Was Roses (starring Patricia Neal, Martin Sheen and Jack Albertson) and The Only Game in Town (starring Elizabeth Taylor and Warren Beatty). His 1985 screenplay for The Gig (starring Cleavon Little and Wayne Rogers) has been adapted as a musical, with book, music, and lyrics by Douglas J. Cohen. A 2006 Off-Broadway presentation and recording by the York Theatre Company starred Karen Ziemba, Stephen Berger, Michele Pawk, and Michael McCormick.  Gilroy has also written fiction, including the novel From Noon Till Three, which was adapted into a film starring Charles Bronson. In addition to writing the screenplay, Gilroy also directed the film. Gilroy also contributed to several TV westerns in the late 1950s, including Have Gun - Will Travel and Wanted: Dead or Alive. His later credits include a 1977 adaptation of Rex Stout's Nero Wolfe novel The Doorbell Rang as a television movie featuring Thayer David.

Under the leadership of Artistic Director David Saint, George Street Playhouse has become a nationally recognized theater, presenting an acclaimed mainstage season while providing an artistic home for established and emerging theatre artists.  Founded in 1974, the Playhouse has been well represented by numerous productions both on and off-Broadway – recent productions include the Outer Critics' Circle Best Musical Award-winner The Toxic Avenger, the Outer Critics Circle, Drama Desk and Drama League nominated production of The Spitfire Grill and the recent Broadway hit and Tony® and Pulitzer Prize winning play Proof by David Auburn, which was developed at GSP during the 1999 Next Stage Series of new plays.  In addition to its mainstage season, GSP's Touring Theatre features three issue-oriented productions that are seen by more than 60,000 students annually.   George Street Playhouse programming is made possible in part by funds from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts/Department of State, a partner agency of the National Endowment for the Arts.  Continental Airlines is the official airline of George Street Playhouse.