Backstage Buzz: Stage Greats on Page

Backstage Buzz: Books about Neil Simon and Eugene O’Neill are hitting the shelves, and more theater news

Stage Greats on Page

ENLARGE Neil Simon in 2012. Simon & Schuster has combined his two memoirs into one volume, set to be published Tuesday. Photo: Charles Sykes/Invision/Associated Press

Bookish theater fans will have many pages to turn this fall, as two books about great American playwrights hit the shelves.

Simon & Schuster has combined Neil Simon’s two memoirs into one volume, set to be published Tuesday, well in advance of what would have been his 90th birthday on July 4, 2017.

The new edition comes with an introduction by Nathan Lane because, said publisher Jonathan Karp, “We wanted the greatest comic actor of our time to write about the greatest comic playwright of our time.”

Meanwhile, there are dark secrets and dysfunction in “By Women Possessed: A Life of Eugene O’Neill,” published by Marian Wood Books/Putnam. The final book in the trilogy by Barbara Gelb and Arthur Gelb, the book draws on previously unavailable diaries of O’Neill’s third wife, Carlotta Monterey O’Neill.

The material provides a detailed, and unsettling, picture of the playwright and his wife late in life.

“If we now have a fuller sense of Carlotta, we also have a more disturbing understanding of O’Neill,” said Ms. Wood. “We know much about the devils that haunted him.”

Taking On All Ages

Actors usually move gradually from playing teens to 30-somethings to parents. But actress Zoe Kazan is blitzing through the ages this season.

In Roundabout Theatre Company’s “Love, Love, Love,” her character Rose goes from age 16 to 37. And now in the horror film “The Monster,” to be released Friday, she plays a divorced mother who, she said, “has failed her kid.”

The juxtaposition is stark: In “Love, Love, Love,” her character’s big moment is asking her parents to buy her a house because, well, her stalled life is entirely their fault.

“She’s working very hard to give them a rational, cogent argument,” said Ms. Kazan, 33 years old, who said the scene took some work in rehearsal to keep a tight rein on the character’s emotions.

“I try to keep it as dry as possible,” she said. “I’m trying to explain to them that through neglect, they put me in a position that I cannot assume adulthood.”

Meanwhile, as the mother in “The Monster,” she is playing “someone who had a child very young and is extremely ill equipped to be a parent.”

Ms. Kazan figured her film character, Kathy, would have had her daughter at about 15 years old. And the contrast with “Love, Love, Love” can’t hurt. “I can kind of offset both sides of the coin,” she said.

Luckily for her, she can keep the family drama on stage: “My parents are empathetic, lovely people.”

Contract Talks Go On

Off-Broadway producers and the Actors’ Equity Association have agreed to extend their current contract, which expired Sunday, through Nov. 20 as negotiations continue.

At issue are salary increases that would affect productions covered in the off-Broadway agreement, which applies to six major nonprofits, as well as about 100 commercial producers.

Also on the table: the contract governing the Association of Non-Profit Theatre Companies, a group of nine nonprofits with budgets under $3.7 million.

The union and producers’ representatives declined to comment. A person with knowledge of the matter described the talks as making forward progress.

Actors have rallied in a grass-roots campaign, Fair Wage Onstage, to raise awareness of their financial needs via videos and social-media posts. Actor Robert Stanton, a campaign spokesman, said of the negotiations: “We at Fair Wage Onstage are encouraged that the two sides are continuing to talk.”

ENLARGE Raymond Lee and Jon Hoche in ‘Vietgone,’ which has been extended until Dec. 4 at Manhattan Theatre Club. Photo: Carol Rosegg

Shows Extended

Manhattan Theatre Club has extended two shows at New York City Center. Qui Nguyen’s new play “Vietgone” will now run until Dec. 4. A love story between two Vietnam War refugees who meet in an Arkansas relocation camp, the show features a dramatization of the fall of Saigon, complete with simulated helicopter.

“Sell/Buy/Date,” in which playwright and performer Sarah Jones portrays multiple people affected by the sex trade, has been extended through Dec. 3.

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