‘The Exorcist,’ plus plays by Alan Alda, Beth Henley to debut at Geffen Playhouse

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The Geffen Playhouse will present seven plays as part of its upcoming 2011-12 season, including the world premiere of ‘The Exorcist,’ a drama based on the 1971 bestseller by William Peter Blatty. The season will also include the world premieres of plays by actor Alan Alda and Pulitzer Prize winner Beth Henley.

Rounding out the season will be the West Coast premieres of ‘The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity’ by Kristoffer Diaz and ‘Next Fall’ by Geoffrey Nauffts.

‘The Exorcist’ (running in 2012 from July 11 to Aug. 12), directed by Tony-winner John Doyle, tells the story of a young girl whose body is possessed by a demon, and the conflicted priest who attempts to save her. The Blatty novel has been adapted for the stage by playwright John Pielmeier, who previously tackled issues of faith in his 1982 play ‘Agnes of God.’

Pielmeier wrote on his website that his adaptation requires only minor special effects. ‘No heads spinning or pea-green puke, thank you very much,’ he wrote.


Alda’s ‘Radiance: The Passion of Marie Curie’ is a biographical play about the two-time Nobel Prize-winning scientist. Alda, a self-described science buff, said that he’d been working on the play for the last three years. ‘She’s a real hero of mine,’ said the actor. ‘Science in itself is a wonderful story, but it’s done by humans, who have all the flaws that the rest of us have.’

‘Radiance’ focuses on Curie’s professional and personal life, including her scientific accomplishments, battle with depression and affair with scientist Paul Langevin. Alda said that Tony-winning director Daniel Sullivan is slated to direct the play at the Geffen. The opening date for ‘Radiance’ will be announced later. Henley’s ‘The Jacksonian’ (Feb. 8 to March 11), directed by Tony-winner Robert Falls, is a murder tale set in a seedy motel in Jackson, Miss., around 1964. Henley won the Pulitzer in 1981 for ‘Crimes of the Heart.’

‘Radiance’ and ‘The Jacksonian’ will be presented in the Geffen’s smaller space, the Audrey Skirball Kenis Theater.

‘The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity’ (Sep. 7 to Oct. 9), a comedy set in the world of pro wrestling, will kick off the new season in a production directed by Eddie Torres, who staged the play at its world premiere off-Broadway in 2010. ‘Next Fall’ (Nov 2. to Dec. 4), about a relationship between two gay men, will be directed by Sheryl Kaller, who staged the drama off-Broadway in 2009 and then on Broadway in 2010.

As previously announced, Kathleen Turner will star in the one-woman play ‘Red Hot Patriot: The Kick-Ass Wit of Molly Ivins’ (Jan. 11 to Feb. 12), directed by David Esbjornson. Another play, to open April 11, will be announced later.

Gil Cates, the theater’s producing director, said the Geffen expected to launch an endowment campaign by the end of the year. He said the theater currently earned 65% of its income from ticket sales and must raise about $3.5 million each year.


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-- David Ng