Times Theater Writer

“Tracers,” John Di Fusco’s award-winning play about Vietnam grunts, born at the Odyssey Theatre Ensemble in 1980 and now a hit at New York’s Public Theatre, closes Sunday in anticipation of a move to London’s Royal Court and an opening in early August.

“This ties in nicely with the July 4 theme that has been close to this piece,” said creator/director Di Fusco, in town briefly last week.

“The first time we went before an audience was July 4, 1980--a midnight show at the Odyssey before an invited audience. The response was so strong that it sent us back into workshop until we opened in earnest that October.”

On another, earlier July 4, Di Fusco had gone through a death in the family--an event that prodded him to get on with the things he wanted to do. Putting “Tracers” together was one.


The entire company as it exists in New York (and this includes two of the original Los Angeles cast members, Vincent Caristi and Richard Chavez) will make the transition to London. How did it all come about?

“The Public and the Royal Court have an exchange program,” Di Fusco explained. “They saw the show and made us an offer.”

“Wrestlers,” the comedy-drama by Bill C. Davis (“Mass Appeal”), which had a lab performance in April, is going into full production at the Cast Theatre.

Playwright Davis (he also wrote Broadway’s “Dancing in the End Zone”) will be featured with actress Gina Hecht. One more role remains to be cast.


“It examines the lives of two brothers who get involved with the same woman,” Davis explained.

The Cast’s Ted Schmitt, who is co-producing with film and TV casting director Sally Dennison, added, “Within three minutes you’ll be back and forth in time--an interesting theatrical device, all done in the acting.”

Davis, who would seem the least likely emigre from the high costs and complex conditions that thwart new plays in New York, claims he likes working in Los Angeles because “egos are not so attached to the plays here, the play is more important than the personality.”

Glenn Casale directs for a July 26 opening. Other irons in the fire: Negotiations are in progress for a fall Los Angeles premiere of Davis’ “Energy Trilogy.”

SAVED?: After last week’s distress call, the Institute of the American Musical, housing a superb collection of recordings and other materials that chronicle the history of the American stage and film musical, has received anonymous donations totaling $5O,000. These have allowed president Miles Kreuger to open escrow on the building that the institute occupies and that was about to be sold.

All is not won yet, however. Escrow on the $300,000 structure must close Aug. 20, and that cash must be raised or a co-signer found who might benefit from the institute’s not-for-profit tax-exempt status. For more information, write to Box 480144, Los Angeles, 90048, or call (213) 934-1221.

Sometimes Rob Sullivan is a performing member of the juggling Mums (now at the Odyssey, minus Sullivan), sometimes he composes immaculate poetic monologues (“The Long White Dress of Love”) and sometimes he writes totally whacked-out plays. Take “The Rattle of the Moon,” opening July 24 at the Century City Playhouse.

“It reads as if it should be played naturalistically,” Sullivan attempted to explain, “but in fact it’s expressionistic. As the play advances, it moves into a more heightened and bizarre reality. Words become more dislocated,” he said, trying hard to keep his from dislocating, too.


“It’s about this family that is together but unable to communicate. There are a lot of sexual undercurrents. The boyfriend and the daughter have this beautiful, youthful relationship. He doesn’t know what’s going on in the play and serves as a sort of Greek chorus. There’s something preordained, very Greek, about it. It’s as if we know where it’s going and it simply marches to its ending.”

Roxane Rogers directs Marc Alaimo, Erich Anderson, Tina Preston and Nadine Van Der Velde.

Milt Larsen, president of the Society for the Preservation of Variety Arts, says he choked on his coffee when he read in last week’s Watch that Los Angeles “has no library of the performing arts.”

“Just as a reminder,” he wrote when he had recovered enough, “the Variety Arts Center houses three important and separate libraries of the performing arts.”

Larsen went on to note that they include--among other things--the estate collections of Eddie Cantor, Earl Carroll, Billy House and W. C. Fields, reams of cross-indexed jokes, 6,000 burlesque sketches, hours of vintage radio shows, hundreds of orchestrations, a million feet of rare film, the handwritten scores of Gordon Jenkins, the largest collection of English music hall sheet music in America, the largest circus collection this side of Ringling Brothers in Florida--and even Ed Wynn’s bicycle piano.

He just may have a point.