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THEATER-MAKING IT

BARD BOX-OFFICE

There is no reason for Ralph Fiennes to be melancholy over his Broadway-bound "Hamlet." Not only did it earn exceptionally good notices at its recent London premiere, it is surprising everyone by crossing the Atlantic with money in its pocket. It's an expensive project, capitalized at $1.7 million and jointly produced by adventurous teams on either side of the Atlantic, Dodger Productions here and the Almeida Theater Company in England.

"One of the things we didn't count on was making money in London," Michael David of Dodger said. The production could also become that rarest of shows, a break-even Bard on Broadway.

"If there is an anchor or rock in this, it's Ralph Fiennes," who is interrupting a burgeoning film career, David said. Almeida's Jonathan Kent, who staged "Medea" on Broadway last season, is directing "Hamlet." "This isn't an attempt to do one on the cheap. It's big. There isn't a soul involved who isn't tightening his or her belt to do it. We (Dodger) get paid nothing until recoupment."

With tickets for the April 14-July 22 run at the Belasco priced from $20 to $65, a complete sellout would bring in $4.5 million, a break-even figure. The $1.7 million advance, concentrated in the early weeks, is a little better than one-third of that, David noted.

A straight play like "Hamlet" represents a departure for the musical-oriented ("Guys and Dolls," "Tommy") Dodger organization. "We're looking to do more plays," David said. A happy "Hamlet" couldn't hurt.

HOT WRITER

When you're hot, your typewriter's smokin'. Like Gary Lennon's. The young New York-based author has recently signed to write three film scripts and is getting ready for his first significant stage production here. The play, "Dates and Nuts," has already been optioned for film by producer Ed Pressman. It's described as a romantic comedy about a Brooklyn girl who wants love, intimacy and sex but will settle for two out of three. Performances of the Weissberger Theater Group production begin May 16 at Theater-off-Park. Meanwhile, filming has just wrapped on "Drunks," a Lennon screenplay starring Dianne Wiest, Faye Dunaway and Howard Rollins, with Broadway's John Hart, Jr. as co-producer. Lennon's also set to write a script for producer Marvin Worth and director Harold Becker.

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