Bay Street Beefs Up Mainstage Season Following Jason Alexander’s Exit

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When “Seinfeld” star Jason Alexander dropped out of his commitment to “Other People’s Money” at Bay Street Theater last month, in order to replace “Seinfeld” co-creator Larry David in “Fish in the Dark” on Broadway, it could have been a total disaster.The powers-that-be at the Sag Harbor theater were “surprised,” admitted Artistic Director Scott Schwartz, but decided, instead, to look at the disruption as an opportunity.

And they took it.

“Of course, we were sorry that Jason couldn’t be with us, because we were very excited to work with him,” Mr. Schwartz said on Monday afternoon. “But, look, he had a responsibility he had to fulfill to Larry David, who is a very major part of his life, and we wish him all the best. And you see now, it’s allowed us to expand in a way that I’ve been really wanting to.”

Though the 2015 Mainstage Season will still kick off with the world premiere of Alena Smith’s “The New Sincerity,” directed by Bob Balaban, and close with the musical “Grey Gardens,” it will grow from three productions to four.

The run time of “Other People’s Money” has been cut in two and replaced by a pair of East Coast premieres—first, “Five Presidents,” from June 23 through July 12, followed by “The Darrell Hammond Project,” from July 16 through 26—that round out a selection of productions that explore “unconventional families and the interesting, complex people existing within them,” Mr. Schwartz said.

“Five Presidents” is set on Wednesday, April 27, 1994—the day of Richard Nixon’s funeral—in a backroom setting. There, five men are gathered: Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton. And they have a lot to say.

They air old grievances, discuss their own lives, raise questions and issues, and dig into the sides of themselves that are extremely personal, intimate and, at times, edgy, according to Mr. Schwartz. And the writer, Rick Cleveland, has the credits to back it up, among them “House of Cards,” “The West Wing” and “Six Feet Under.”

“Rick knows this world, he knows these guys and he knows how to write political drama,” Mr. Schwartz said. “While it’s very much about presidency and the men who have filled that role, it’s not a political play in that it’s red or blue. It really tries to look at all five men with a clear eye, treating them all fairly. It doesn’t matter what your political stripes are. It’s going to be really wonderful to spend the summer with these five guys.”

Then, for the next two weeks, the headcount dwindles from five men to just one—comedian Darrell Hammond.

Best known for his longtime run on “Saturday Night Live,” Mr. Hammond will perform his one-man show, “The Darrell Hammond Project,” that he co-wrote with Elizabeth Stein and director Christopher Ashley, and originally produced at La Jolla Playhouse in California.

It just so happened that Mr. Schwartz was directing the U.S. premiere of the new musical “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” last winter at La Jolla Playhouse when he noticed a number of fliers for Mr. Hammond’s play, opening right after his closed.

“It was in the back of my mind,” Mr. Schwartz said. “When the opportunity came along for us to bring it to Bay Street, I had to jump at it.”

The play is far from a stand-up act, the artistic director explained. It is an “incredibly personal human story, as much as a comedy,” he said, spanning from the struggles Mr. Hammond faced as a child and his challenging family life to his career, how he found his voice and his sense of humor.

“It’s quite a dark and quite a harrowing journey that he takes us on. It’s definitely for mature audiences, it definitely deals with some tough issues and some tough subject matter, and it’s incredibly revealing about this amazing celebrity,” Mr. Schwartz said. “I’m really looking forward to seeing it, and really looking forward to having Darrell share his story with us.”

For more information about Bay Street Theater’s 2015 Mainstage Season, call (631) 725-9500, or visit baystreet.org.

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