Tony Mastroianni Review Collection

Play House Sets Out in New Directions

Cleveland Press August 16, 1971

English theatrical director Peter Coe, best known for his staging of the musical "Oliver!" in both London and New York, will be a guest director at the Play House this season.

He will be here for the world premiere of "Woman in the Dunes" by Japanese author Kobo Abe which Coe has adapted for the stage. Movie goers may remember the excellent screen version in the early 1960s of Hiroshi Teshigahara.

The announcement of Coe's visit here was made by Play House executive director Richard Oberlin, along with the full schedule of productions through December.

Already announced are the pre-season opener, "Plaza Suite," at Euclid-77th Theater Sept. 8 through Oct. 1"; and the first three plays of the regular season -- "Dark of the Moon," October 8-Nov. 6, Euclid-77th Theater; "A Doll's House," Oct. 15-Nov. 7, Drury Theater; "The Birds," Nov. 1"-Dec. 11, Euclid-77th Theater.

The added plays are:

"Woman in the Dunes", the Drury, Nov. 19 through Dec. 1". A black comedy by the late Joe Orton, "What the Butler Saw," at the small Brooks Theater Dec. 10-Jan. 16; "Child's Play," Dec. 17-Jan.16, Euclid-77th Theater; the musical, "Frank Merriwell, or Honor Challenged," Dec. "5-Jan.16, Drury Theater.

Coe is the third guest director announced by Oberlin. Joe Garry Jr. of Cleveland State University will direct the opening show, "Dark of the Moon" as well as "The Birds" which he did at the university last season and which later won raves at the American College Theater Festival in Washington, D.C.

Actor ("Love Story") John Marley will guest-direct Ibsen's "A Doll's House." Marley has directed two shows at the Play House in previous seasons.

"I'm after four different types of directors," Oberlin explained.

"The international director is represented by Coe. Garry is representative of the young director involved in today's theater. Marley is the old pro. The fourth is the director in regional theater with an international background and I hope to have one for the spring season."

Coe and his script were obtained through the Theater Communications Group of which the Play House is a member. Oberlin said that at one point negotiations involved phone calls to England, Morocco and Japan.

Coe, 4", is a product of the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art. In London he directed "The World of Susie Wong," "Treasure Island," "Oliver," "The Miracle Worker," "Castle in Sweden," "Caligula" and "In White America."

His New York stage credits include "Oliver," "Pickwick," "The Rehearsal" and "Next Time "I'll Sing to You." He directed the touring version of "On a Clear Day You Can See Forever" and in 196" directed "Macbeth" for the Stratford Ontario Festival. More recently he directed a Feydou farce and is currently staging a Noel Coward work, both in England.

"Woman in the Dunes" is the story of a Tokyo schoolteacher trapped by villagers into living in a sandpit where a woman works shoveling sand to keep it from engulfing the village.

The film told of the man's desire to escape, a desire that eventually faded as he accepted the primeval existence in contrast to returning to civilization.

The shows following "Woman in the Dunes" will all be fresh so far as Cleveland theaters are concerned.

"What the Butler Saw" won the 1970 Obie Award as best foreign play. This black comedy of manners was presented off-Broadway.

Certain to be popular is "Child's Play," a fascinating study in terror that takes place in a Catholic boy's boarding school. The Broadway production won five Tony Awards in 1970. The play never toured.

"Frank Merriwell" bears the stigma of having opened and closed in a single evening, but those who saw it during three weeks of previews seemed to have liked it.

Oberlin maintains that the work, a small musical, would have succeeded off-Broadway but simply wasn't massive enough for the Broadway theater.

"I've heard a tape of the show and it's a good little musical, just perfect for us," he said. He also pointed out that the show is clean and wholesome, perfect for the family trade at Christmas.