From the Oscar-winning screenplay for Moonstruck to the Pulitzer-winning drama Doubt, John Patrick Shanley has shown a gift for creating vibrant female characters. His exploration of distaff crises and bonding has rarely been more direct than in his comedy-drama, Women of Manhattan, first produced at off-Broadway’s Manhattan Theatre Club in 1986.
Shanley’s author’s note asks the performers to evince “a spirit of simplicity and warmth… Please don’t be mean, arch or slick. Please do be loving, natural and vulnerable, and a little rough around the edges… These three women love each other.”
That kind of sensitivity resonated with Amie Sponza, artistic director of Northeast Stage, who tapped North Fork resident Jere Jacob to helm the Shanley show, May 29 through June 6, at the Holy Trinity Church in Greenport. Says Jacob, who’s directed several works for Northeast Stage and the affiliated RW StageArt, “our reputation has been about the classics and Shakespeare, so we wanted to broaden our horizons with something contemporary. This is a lighthearted and engaging play about how three women friends interact and support each other.”
The “self-employed and semi-retired” Jacob, who works part-time as a housepainter, has the fondest memories of the supportive atmosphere she enjoyed as a co-founder of the fondly remembered Jean Cocteau Repertory in downtown Manhattan. Though that company lasted from 1971-2004, the later years turned contentious. “There was a real artistic difference of opinion,” says Jacob. “The people running the company were more interested in commercial works than bringing classics—ancient and modern—to our audiences in a true rotating repertory. The core company broke away, and what was left dissolved. But Craig Smith still runs the new branch as the Phoenix Ensemble.”
Jacob adds that she appreciates the opportunity to work on Long Island. “The more retired and less ‘semi’ I am,” she says, “the more theater I hope to do. When I moved here, I’d had an extended career in TV production and behind the camera, but that’s not a big-ticket item on the North Fork. I would love to see more consistent work done here under the aegis of really good, professional people. I’d love to see a true repertory, year ‘round, for both the winter and summer communities. But we need a home, a building devoted to the theater that would be the center of real growth. Now, all we need is some incredibly rich person…”
Women of Manhattan will run from May 29 through June 6 at Holy Trinity Church: 768 Main Street, Greenport. (631) 208-6933.
David Lefkowitz, co-publisher of Performing Arts Insider (TotalTheater.com), hosts the weekly radio program, Dave’s Gone By (davesgoneby.org), and directs the weekly Cablevision TV program, Shalom, Dammit!
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