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Fortunate timing and deft schedule-juggling have helped Studio Arena Theatre land A.R. Gurney's latest play, "Buffalo Gal," as the final production of the current season.

The March 21 to April 14 run will precede the play's planned off-Broadway opening next season.

Over the summer, Studio Arena Artistic Director Gavin Cameron-Webb scouted a two-week trial run of "Buffalo Gal" at the Williamstown Theatre Festival in Massachusetts, with the idea of bringing it to Buffalo next season.

Subsequently, Cameron-Webb found a way to stage Gurney's comedy about his hometown at the end of the current schedule. "Sleuth," the Anthony Davis thriller that had been penciled in as the sixth and final play, will move up to the fifth slot, Feb. 10 to March 10.

By coincidence, Studio had been forced to cancel "The Boys in Autumn," originally scheduled as the fifth production, because the outside producers were no longer available for that time frame.

In keeping with Studio's emphasis this season on Buffalo themes, from the recent world premiere of "City of Light" and the forthcoming "Lake Effect," Gurney's play is set on the Studio Arena stage. It tells the story of a television actress who comes home to play the lead in Anton Chekov's "The Cherry Orchard" -- a part she always coveted.

Once she arrives, comic complications arise. The dialogue brims with Buffalo references, including a good number about local theater, and explores the competition between stage and screen.

Studio Arena hopes to cast a star actress in the lead role, said Constance McEwen, public relations director.

"Buffalo Gal," which previews March 17, will be the regional theater's recent third world premiere, following "City of Light" and August Wilson's acclaimed "Jitney," which opened here in 1999, later moved to off-Broadway and is currently playing in London's West End.

Studio Arena and Gurney can only hope "Buffalo Gal" fares as well at the box office as "City of Light," Anthony Clarvoe's adaptation of the Lauren Belfer novel about Buffalo at the turn of the 20th Century. The play, which closed Oct. 14, had by far the largest audience in Studio Arena history. It drew 29,539 patrons, who filled 90 percent of the available seats, McEwen said.

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