Following rapturous reviews for a Broadway revival and another one off-Broadway, A.R. Gurney is having a moment in the sun. It’s only taken the veteran playwright — whose The Dining Room and The Middle Ages are among the most widely produced works in the contemporary American canon — about four decades to become an overnight sensation.
On Broadway, Mia Farrow and Brian Dennehy have launched a revival of Gurney’s 1989 epistolary two-hander Love Letters — also a long-established favorite on the regional circuit and at starry benefits — that will see the likes of Stacy Keach, Diana Rigg, Martin Sheen, Carol Burnett, Anjelica Huston and others take to the stage of the Brooks Atkinson Theatre in the coming months. Over on far West 42nd Street, the Signature Theatre has revived an even earlier Gurney work, 1977’s The Wayside Motor Inn, in a production that has burnished the writer’s reputation as a font not only of well-made plays but as an experimentalist game to thinking outside if not the box, then the fourth wall. After all, he once had Sarah Jessica Parker play a lovesick dog in his play Sylvia, about which the late New York Times critic Vincent Canby memorably wrote: “Not since Abie’s Irish Rose has there been a play as critic-proof as Sylvia, at least for anyone who has ever owned a dog, loved a dog, wanted to wring a dog’s neck or wished the dog would take a long weekend. Here’s a romantic triangle about Greg (Charles Kimbrough), Kate (Blythe Danner) and the mongrel named Sylvia (Sarah Jessica Parker) who, as Kate puts it, eats a serious hole in their 22-year marriage.”
Now comes news that the Signature, where Gurney is a playwright in residence this season, will co-produce with the Westport Country Playhouse the world premiere of Gurney’s Love And Money, which will have its premiere at both theaters next season.
The production will be directed by Westport a.d. Mark Lamos and will be presented at the Connecticut theater from July 21 through August 8 before moving to the Signature later that month (specific dates have not yet been set). According to the announcement from the two companies, “in Love And Money, wealthy widow Cornelia Cunningham has led a life of grace and privilege — and she’s making up for it as fast as she can. Determined to donate almost everything she owns before the end, Cornelia’s plans are questioned when an ambitious and ingratiating young man, who may be the grandson she never knew she had, arrives to claim his inheritance. The trials of class, family, legacy, and race are pointedly explored in this world-premiere comedy.”