Putting the squeeze on 'Cider House'

Mark Taper Forum is the biggest, oldest, most widely known regional theater in Los Angeles. So why is its artistic director, Gordon Davidson, so unwilling to share the limelight? The Flying Karamazov version of Room Service played there in December with nary a mention that it premiered at Seattle's ACT. Now the Taper is getting set to stage The Cider House Rules, and Davidson wants credit for premiering that too, even though the two-evening drama debuted at the Seattle Rep last January. Describing the show as being "in the tradition of the Taper's Angels in America [which actually started at San Francisco's Eureka Theater] and The Kentucky Cycle [ditto Seattle's Intiman], Davidson goes on to describe the Rep staging as "development," saying he's "proud that the completed version of this big-hearted, Dickensian piece will have its premiere at the Taper mainstage... "

More disturbing than Davidson's premiere-fudging are rumors that Cider House is being downsized and jazzed up for its LA non-premiere. Co-director Tom Hulce is currently running yet another workshop of the play, designed, say insiders, to slim the show down from its original eight-hour dimensions to a more manageable six or so while trimming the cast of more than 20. (One attempt to cut bodies reportedly involved leaving out the subplot involving the black apple harvesters, until someone noticed that then the play's title wouldn't make any sense.)

One thing seems certain: Few of the actors who loaned their talents to the show during its two-year-plus Seattle development will be showcased in the Southland version, most notably Michael Winters, who played the leading role of Dr. Larch in the Seattle workshops and staging. Winters has accepted offers for other work during the Taper's June 13-September 27 Cider House run, apparently after learning that the Taper felt that the role needed "a star" to put the show across in Tinseltown. The star chosen? Watch this space...

Desktop of horror

That cute Dilbert wallpaper on your computer monitor may soon seem d魯d頼/I>as Flying Toasters. The Seattle multimedia firm Hyperbole has just announced a suite of games, screensavers, and customizable desktops based on ideas by Stephen King, all "designed to terrify the user." No, now, just don't tune out—consider the possibilities: Imagine configuring your MS Explorer icon to leak big sticky drops of blood, or secretly set a co-worker's Word files to burst into flame when she hits "Save."

Aylward slims, 'ER' role expands

Is it his sheer talent or his newly svelte profile? Whatever the cause, Seattle-based character actor John Aylward finds himself on the verge of a romantic entanglement in his role of the gruff Dr. Anspaugh in NBC's videodrama ER. No sooner was Anspaugh fitted out (in this year's first new episode) with a previously unmentioned 13-year-old son than the boy came in complaining of a tummy ache, quickly diagnosed as b-cell lymphoma. Emotionally repressed Anspaugh, noticing how warmly little Scott takes to his post-op nurse, fumblingly asks the mature HIV-positive black woman to move into the house as the boy's personal caregiver. Will sparks fly? Maybe, but Aylward isn't counting his chickens. "I'll know what happens when I get the next script. They may have me driving off the end of the Mukilteo ferry for all I know."

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