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NEW DEADLINE ON THEATER PURCHASE

<i> From Associated Press </i>

The deadline for a limited partnership including actors Paul Newman and Keir Dullea and writer Robert Ludlum to purchase the Westport Country Playhouse has been extended for three weeks, their lawyer said Wednesday.

The buyers acknowledged they have yet to raise enough money for the $300,000 down payment, but their attorney said this had nothing to do with the delay. The agreement was extended at the request of the seller, lawyer Jacquie Lazo said.

The agreement, first signed in January, was extended until June 25, the day after the summer season at the theater is to begin, said James B. McKenzie, president of the Connecticut Theatre Foundation.

McKenzie also is the theater’s executive producer and general partner in the group planning to buy the theater, a century-old barn on 3 1/2 prime commercial acres downtown, for $1.2 million. The partnership was formed by the foundation, which has leased and operated the theater since 1973, producing Off-Broadway-style plays.

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Lazo said the deadline extension came “at the request of the seller. He had that right under the contract. If he had wanted to close, we would have been ready, willing and able to do so.”

She would not comment further.

The playhouse’s current owner, Phillip Langner, could not be reached for comment.

The playhouse has scheduled 11 productions for the summer. Since opening 54 years ago, it has been the site of about 600 plays featuring, among others, Henry Fonda, his daughter Jane, Ethel Barrymore, and Mike Nichols and Elaine May.

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McKenzie said Wednesday that, on paper, the group has raised all of the $300,000 down payment, but that only about $200,000 actually has been donated.

“I can’t tell exactly,” he said, “but if all the money comes in we’ll have enough.”


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