Catch ‘Act One’ on PBS

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Matthew Schechter and Tony Shalhoub (both playing Moss Hart) in a scene from Lincoln Center Theater's production of Act One. — Photo Courtesy pbs.org

If you missed James Lapine’s play “Act One” during its run at New York City’s Lincoln Center last year, or when it was staged as a reading at the Vineyard Arts Project (VAP) in 2013, you have a chance to see the biographical comedy/drama when the Lincoln Center production airs on PBS this Friday, Nov. 13.

Mr. Lapine, who has won three Tony awards and a Pulitzer Prize (for “Sundays in the Park with George”), splits his time between his homes in New York City and Edgartown. Mr. Lapine is also a director and screenwriter. Among other films, he wrote the screenplay for last year’s “Into the Woods,” based on the Broadway show co-written by Mr. Lapine and Steven Sondheim.

“Act One” is based on the autobiography of the same name by playwright and screenwriter Moss Hart. Hart wrote a number of hit Broadway shows, alone and in collaboration with George S. Kaufman, and four screenplays. His writing credits include the plays “You Can’t Take It with You” and The Man Who Came to Dinner,” and screenplays for “Gentleman’s Agreement” and “A Star Is Born.”

Mr. Lapine’s play follows the mid-20th century playwright through his childhood growing up in an impoverished immigrant family in the Bronx to his illustrious career in theater. The play, featuring a cast of 22 actors playing 40 parts, enjoyed a two-month run at Lincoln Center’s Vivian Beaumont Theater in 2014, and earned a Tony nomination for best play. Two of the performances were filmed for the upcoming presentation, which is part of the PBS Arts Fall Festival.

Emmy Awardwinning actor Tony Shalhoub, another part-time Vineyarder, plays three roles in “Act One,” most memorably the eccentric George S. Kaufman. Mr. Shalhoub was lauded by the critics for his triple performance.

Mr. Lapine has a long history of developing new shows at venues on the Vineyard. His plays “Dirty Blonde” and “Mrs. Miller Does Her Thing” were produced for the the first time at the Martha’s Vineyard Playhouse. In 2013, the Vineyard Arts Project hosted an initial reading of “Act One,” featuring Mr. Shalhoub as well as his wife, Brooke Adams.

This past summer, Mr. Lapine presented a reading with music of his latest project, “Flying Over Sunset.” The musical comedy deals with the use of LSD as a therapeutic tool by celebrities of the 1950s, including Cary Grant, Aldous Huxley, and Claire Boothe Luce. The VAP hosted the first act of the play, featuring a New York cast of singer/actors, this past September. Mr. Lapine hopes to present the second act at the VAP next year.

“Live from Lincoln Center: Act One” Nov. 13, 9 to 11:30 pm ET. For more information, visit pbs.org.