'Acquaintance' will be renewed after 66 years


NEW YORK -- Prevues begin Friday on the Roundabout's revival of John Van Druten's "Old Acquaintance," best known today for the 1943 movie version that famously pitted Bette Davis against her archrival Miriam Hopkins. (The original Broadway play, which opened in late 1940, only made a minor impact, running less than five months, even with two major marquee names of that time, Jane Cowl and Peggy Wood, in the leads.) This time the actresses delivering the Van Druten barbs will be Margaret Colin and Harriet Harris; Michael Wilson directs, and it officially opens June 28 at the American Airlines Theatre. That's two days after the new musical "Xanadu," with Tony Roberts, Kerry Butler and James Carpinello, debuts at the Helen Hayes. ... In the case of "Acquaintance," warm recollections of an admired old film undoubtedly will help sell theater tickets; by contrast, the producers of "Xanadu" have to overcome memories of a movie turkey. ... Other legiters that begin prevuing this week: Sarah Ruhl's "Eurydice" on Wednesday at the Second Stage and Alan Ayckbourn's "Intimate Exchanges" on Thursday at the 59E59 Theaters. ... The once-famed summer theater circuit in New England has long since dwindled to only a precious few houses offering plays; long gone are the days when major Broadway headliners and temporarily unemployed Hollywood names would regularly tread the boards between June and August, sometimes trying out new plays or, more often, dragging out old warhorses either to hone their acting chops or just to put some always-welcome spending money in their bank accounts. However, one famed playhouse still is very much in the game. The country's oldest professional summer theater, the Cape Playhouse in Dennis, Mass., will open its 81st season June 18 with a two-week run of "2 Pianos 4 Hands," to be followed by four other shows: Paul Rudnick's "Regrets Only" with Dee Hoty and Harry Groener (July 2-14), "Thoroughly Modern Millie" (July 16-28), "Beehive" (July 30-Aug. 11), "Corpse!" (Aug. 13-25) and finishing with Hunter Foster and Robert Cuccioli in "Lend Me a Tenor" (Aug. 27-Sept. 8). This is the legendary theater, once owned by Gertrude Lawrence's husband, Richard Aldrich, where Lawrence often appeared during the summer season; it's also where a very young Bette Davis once worked as an apprentice and where in the lobby now sits the Academy Award won by Shirley Booth in 1952 for "Come Back, Little Sheba." When Booth died in 1992, she left her Oscar to that Cape Cod theater, in gratitude for the many times she worked there. She also lived nearby. ... With Tom Stoppard's "The Coast of Utopia" dominating the best play buzz connected to the June 10 Tonys (though, alas, the show recently wrapped its six-month engagement at Lincoln Center), it's good news that another Stoppard play is on the horizon. His latest, "Rock 'n' Roll," will be opening Nov. 4 at the Jacobs on Broadway with its original London cast (Brian Cox, Sinead Cusack, Rufus Sewell) and same director (Trevor Nunn). Already the best play winner from several London critics circles, prevues on the B'way edition begin Oct. 19 -- 40 years to the month since New York theatergoers were first introduced to Stoppard with his play "Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead."