Sharon Gless in "Cahoots"

Sharon Gless To Star In Claudia Allen's New Screwball Comedy Cahoots At Chicago's Victory Gardens Theater, May 12 - June 18

CHICAGO, May 1, 2000 - Victory Gardens Theater's final production in one of its most successful seasons in 26 years will star Sharon Gless, best known as police detective Christine Cagney on TV's Cagney & Lacey, in the world premiere of Claudia Allen's Cahoots, May 12 through June 18. Cahoots, Allen's follow-up to last season's Victory Gardens smash hit Winter starring Julie Harris, is a show biz comedy about a playwriting team, Madeline Ballantine and Ray O'Keefe, who chase fame, fortune and each other across several decades of the 20th century. Victory Gardens Associate Artistic Director Sandy Shinner directs. Previews begin May 12. Press opening is May 22. Cahoots runs through June 18.

In the irreverent style of 1930s screwball comedies, Claudia Allen's Cahoots is a classic battle of the sexes story, notable for its wit, style, and conviction that two fiercely independent people just might be meant for each other, improbable as it may seem. The play begins when Madeline Ballantine (Sharon Gless) and Ray O'Keefe (Sean Grennan) stumble into each other's lives, much like Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert in It Happened One Night.

She's an uncompromising playwright in a compromising situation. He's intrigued and thinks there's something to be gained by teaming up with this grand, dizzy woman. When they start to care for each other, they hide their attraction in sarcasm and pranks. But among the uproar, one-liners and confusion, a partnership blossoms. Allen develops their contentious relationship over 40 years, moving from the 1930s to the 1940s, the 1950s to the 1960s while referencing popular culture of the times - the 1940s Broadway musical, the 1950s realistic drama, the 1960s TV game show - and having just as much fun with their stylistic traits as she does with her own screwball comedy. An eccentric supporting cast includes Gwendoline, an actress with a passion for the stage and lunch (played by Deanna Dunagan); Chester Chesterson, the archetypal Broadway producer (Jordan Teplitz); Roland Jameson, a fading matinee idol (Rob Riley); Lola Lorraine, an aging epic bimbo (Meg Thalken); Lee Barry, a talented, amorous actress (Brighid O'Shaughnessy); and lyricist-turned-undertaker-turned-TV director (Brad Harbaugh.) Allen's acerbic dialogue, elegant pratfalls, embattled love story, and wild plot turns make Cahoots a raucous comedy that somehow still manages to reverse a few expectations about class, sex and common sense.

From her starring role in Faraday & Company in 1973 to her most recent TV series The Trials of Rosie O'Neill, Sharon Gless has brought her own brand of humor, intelligence and dramatic flair to each of her roles. She is best known as Cagney from the hit series Cagney & Lacey, a role which won her two Emmys, a Golden Globe, and six Emmy nominations. She earned much acclaim in her other TV series Switch, House Calls and Turnabout, for dramatic roles in such TV movies as Hard Hat and Legs, Honor Thy Mother, Hobson's Choice, Letting Go, and the miniseries The Immigrants, The Last Convertible, Centennial and as Carole Lombard in Moviola: The Scarlett O'Hara War. Her feature films include The Star Chamber with Michael Douglas. Her most recent stage credits include starring with Tom Conti in Neil Simon's Chapter 2 at the Gielgud Theater, with Bill Paterson in Stephen King's Misery at the Criterion Theater, and opposite Kim Hunter in Lillian Helman's Watch on the Rhine at the StageWest Theater in Massachusetts, and later, two productions in London's West End.

Chicago Magazine named Claudia Allen the Best Playwright in Chicago in 1999. A member of the Victory Gardens Playwrights Ensemble, Allen won two Jeff Awards for Victory Gardens' premieres of her plays The Long Awaited and Still Waters, and received a Jeff nomination for Best New Work for Winter last season. All three productions were directed by Sandy Shinner. Allen's association with Sharon Gless began when Gless and Tyne Daly appeared in a 1994 Chicago Theatres on the Air presentation of Deed of Trust. Allen's other credits include Hannah Free, The Gays of Our Lives, and the critically-acclaimed, long-running late night hit Xena Live! Third Side Press has published an anthology of her plays, She Always Liked the Girls Best, which was a finalist for an American Library Association Award as well as a Lammie. Allen teaches playwriting at the University of Chicago and the Victory Gardens Training Center. Sandy Shinner (director) has directed more than 70 plays, 36 of those in her 20 years at Victory Gardens, and has been a close collaborator with Claudia Allen for 15 years. Shinner's most recent directing credits include Jeffrey Sweet's Bluff, Claudia Allen's Winter, S.L. Daniels' Rain, River, Ice, Steam, Teresa Rebeck's View of the Dome, Joel Drake Johnson's Before My Eyes, Stuart Flack's Sidney Bechet Killed a Man and Carla Seaquist's The Washington-Sarajevo Talks. Shinner also staged Victory Gardens' premieres of Jeffery Sweet's With and Without and Gloria Bond Clunie's North Star. Shinner's other credits include Spiele '36 by Steve Carter, Spinning into Blue by Sally Nemeth, The Stick Wife by Darrah Cloud, Butler County by Dean Corrin, as well as Eleemosynary, Woman in Mind, Ties, Three Ways Home and The Value of Names. Shinner also directed Rivendell Theatre's acclaimed 1998 production of Sally Nemeth's Holy Days.

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