Thursday, March 25, 2010

Catching Up On Seasons

Five more theatres announced their seasons recently. I am shamefully behind on reporting them, but here they are. For those not up for reading the whole thing, the companies, in order, are: Porchlight, Chicago Shakespeare, Writers' Theatre, American Theatre Company, and Northlight.

Porchlight Theatre, performing at Theatre Building Chicago, has four shows in 2010-2011:

Winner of the Pulitzer Prize, Sunday in the Park with George is the moving study of the enigmatic painter Georges Seurat. The inarticulate Seurat fights a losing battle to maintain a relationship with his mistress Dot as he creates his painting “A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte” amid the scorn of the artistic community. Almost 100 years later, his American descendant, also an artist, is burned out and uncertain of the path he must take. The show will run from September 10 to October 31, 2010.

Quite a show. Not completely successful (especially Act II), but some of Sondheim's most beautiful music, and not that frequently produced. Expect competition for the roles to be fierce.

As an added holiday attraction, Porchlight will revisit the traditional holiday favorite, Miracle on 34th Street from November 19, 2010 to January 2, 2011. This production combines the classic story from the film with traditional holiday music. When a white-bearded gentleman claims to be the real Santa Claus he brings about a genuine ‘Miracle on 34th Street,’ spreading a wave of love throughout New York City. Families are encouraged to bring the kids to see Miracle on 34th Street as their first theatrical experience. Following each performance, the audience is invited to visit with Santa Claus and share a Christmas wish.

Apparently it did quite well for them this season, so they're bringing it back next. Sounds a little theatrically flimsy to me, but popular holiday shows finance a lot of good things.

Porchlight is pleased to present the Midwest premiere of Meet John Doe, a production that has become the rising star on the musical theatre scene, from March 4 to April 17, 2011. Based on the classic movie by Frank Capra, Meet John Doe follows a plucky journalist who fabricates a letter written by "John Doe," threatening suicide over unemployment and slimy politics. Reaction to the letter prompts the paper to hire a public face for the crusade, an out-of-work baseball player who quickly becomes an icon for the oppressed. This new work received seven Helen Hayes nominations in its original production.

Very interesting. I don't know the movie, but it's regarded as a classic of its time. And what better time than ours for a story of the degraded state of politics, economy, and the media?

Porchlight will present its first Rodgers and Hammerstein musical, The King and I, from April 22 to June 5, 2011. This ambitious project will feature grand storytelling in an intimate setting. As America fights its civil war, Anna, an English widow, sails to Bangkok with her young son to tutor the wives and children of the King of Siam. The King wishes Siam to have a larger role on the world stage while simultaneously maintaining its traditions, including slavery, and he increasingly turns to Anna for advice. Featuring such classics as “Shall We Dance” and “Getting to Know You,” The King and I is the story of a man and a woman with matching intelligence and strength, but clashing personalities, prejudices and politics.

Great show, and it's been a while since Chicago saw a large-scale production. I'd be interested to see it in an intimate house like that at TBC.

Next up is Chicago Shakespeare, the behemoth on Navy Pier:

Romeo and Juliet
by William Shakespeare
directed by Gale Edwards
in Chicago Shakespeare’s Courtyard Theater
September 15 – November 14, 2010

Pure and hot, passionate and true—the feverish intensity of youth explodes on CST's stage in the most celebrated love story of all time. Passion stirs the blood of young lovers and feuding families, hurling their fates to destiny—and captivating an audience left breathless. World-renowned Australian director Gale Edwards, whose work has been seen at the Royal Shakespeare Company and across America, makes her CST debut with a startling landmark production—promising to ignite the Bard's poetry on Chicago Shakespeare's stage.

It's rather strange that CST is programming this show again--it was just performed there five years ago. But people will always love this show, and Edwards is a prominent director in world theatre, so it may be worth redoing so soon.

As You Like It
by William Shakespeare
directed by Gary Griffin
in Chicago Shakespeare’s Courtyard Theater
January 5 – March 6, 2011

An idyllic Forest of Arden provides the lush backdrop for Shakespeare's glorious romantic comedy of courtiers, clowns, philosophers and provincials—all bewitched by the trials and triumphs of love. Disguised as a boy, Rosalind escapes the perilous Court—only to find her heart in peril, as she instructs the very man she loves on how best to woo a woman. CST's Tony-nominated Associate Director Gary Griffin stages this tale of mistaken identity and misguided affection, following his wildly successful CST productions of Private Lives and Amadeus.

I've always had a real affection for this show, and it's been ten years since it was seen on the pier (though it was seen at Writers' in 2008). Still, it's a gorgeous show, and not produced quite as frequently as some of Shakespeare's other classic comedies. I'm very excited.

The Madness of George III
by Alan Bennett
directed by Penny Metropulos
in Chicago Shakespeare’s Courtyard Theater
April 13 – June 12, 2011

Tony Award-winning British playwright Alan Bennett (The History Boys) has garnered worldwide acclaim as "arguably the best playwright in England" (The New York Times). This sharply witty, surprisingly heartfelt story chronicles the palace intrigue surrounding King George III's struggle to maintain political power, aided by the love of his devoted queen. The monarch's endearing exultations and fiery rage evoke an 18th-century King Lear. Celebrated director Penny Metropulos, who spent 19 seasons with Oregon Shakespeare Festival, stages this marvelously intelligent masterpiece.

The play has a very good reputation, and was quite popular in the early 1990s (spawning a movie, retitled The Madness of King George), but is rarely performed anymore, probably for money reasons. I'm very excited to see it, particularly after loving Bennett's The History Boys so much. Also, CST always puts plenty into the technical aspects, which will make the pretty costume lover in me salivate.

There will also apparently be a play in the Upstairs Theatre, directed by Artistic Director Barbara Gaines (all still TBA), as well as the World's Stage series, bringing Omphile Molusi's Itsoseng from South Africa, the spectacular Aurelia's Oratorio, from France's Aurelia Thierree, and Martin McDonagh's The Cripple of Inishmaan, from the Druid Theatre in Galway, Ireland, directed by Garry Hynes. The Children's Theatre series will include a new adaptation of The Emperor's New Clothes, score by Alan Schmuckler, book by David Holstein, this summer and a Short Shakespeare version of Macbeth in January.

Writers' Theatre, up in Glencoe, has announced a particularly ambitious season:

She Loves Me
Musical Direction by BEN JOHNSON
Directed by Artistic Director MICHAEL HALBERSTAM
September 14 – November 21, 2010 | Performed at 325 Tudor Court

Set in a 1930’s European perfumery, we meet shop clerks Amalia and Georg, who more often than not, don’t see eye to eye. After both respond to a “lonely hearts" advertisement in the newspaper, they now live for the love letters they exchange, but the identity of their admirers remains unknown. Discover with Amalia and Georg the identity of their true loves and all the twists and turns along the way!

This is high on my list of favorite musicals ever: Bock and Harnick's most gorgeous music, an utterly charming book, and deliciously romantic. It's the kind of show that turns cynical theatre experts into gushing romantics. Not gonna lie, I can't wait.

Do the Hustle
January 25 – March 20, 2011 | Performed at 325 Tudor Court

Sam and Eddie Sisson are more than just father and son, they’re a crack team of hustlers always looking for the next mark. Sam, just a teenager who has practically raised himself, now wants to distinguish himself from his father and strike out on his own. Eddie doesn’t want to let his son go without one final hustle, which could bring in their biggest take yet—but could ultimately tear them apart.

Neveu's a highly respected Chicago playwright, though I've never seen one of his plays, shame on me. Writers' produced his Old Glory in 2009 to good responses, and the premise is fascinating, so I'm intrigued.

Heartbreak House
April 19 – June 26, 2011 | Performed at 325 Tudor Court

In the English countryside on the estate of Captain Shotover, an extraordinary assemblage of guests gather to reunite. Affairs begin, engagements end and hearts and minds become irreparably ensnared in a young women’s dilemma—whether to marry for love or for money. George Bernard Shaw—the master of wit and social thought—bitingly chronicles the demise of the leisure class in his favorite play, Heartbreak House.

I'm pretty damn excited about this as well. Heartbreak House is in my top three favorite Shaw plays (Saint Joan and Man and Superman are the others, if you're curious), and Shaw himself ranks very highly in my personal pantheon. This play's a stunner--funny, but very dark. It's basically a portrait of Britain in decline and the world about to explode into World War One. It was at the Goodman a few years back and I missed it, so I very much want to see it now.

The regular season will also include one show to be announced--in the 50-seat Books on Vernon space--and this intriguing special event, currently available to be purchased only for subscribers:

The Detective's Wife
Directed by GARY GRIFFIN
June 7 – July 31, 2011 | Performed at 664 Vernon Avenue

Alice Conroy is the mother of two grown children, owner of a frame shop and wife of a Chicago homicide detective. When her husband is gunned down on the job, she sets out to find out who did it...and why.

Only Subscribers and Members have the exclusive opportunity to guarantee their seats now for The Detective's Wife by Keith Huff, one of Chicago’s hottest playwrights, fresh from his record-breaking Broadway premiere!

This looks quite interesting--Huff had a significant success in Chicago with A Steady Rain (also about Chicago cops), which went on to break records in the Daniel Craig/Hugh Jackman Broadway run. Robertson is one of Chicago's most beloved actresses and Griffin one of the town's most successful directors (though generally with larger-scale shows). And it's a limited engagement in a 50-seat theatre, so tickets will probably be all but impossible to get. If it works, though, it'll be spectacular.

Next up is the ever-controversial American Theatre Company, headed by lovable scamp PJ Papparelli.

the Mamet Repertory
Written by David Mamet
Directed by Rick Snyder
With Darrell W. Cox as John and Mattie Hawkinson as Carol

New England. 1995. A university professor’s tenure dissolves when a student claims sexual harassment. Mamet pits the genders in a moral minefield in his most controversial and provocative play.

Written by David Mamet
Directed by Jaime Casta├▒eda
With Lance Baker as Charlie Fox, Darrell W. Cox as Bobby Gould, and Mattie Hawkinson as Karen

Hollywood. 1985. Two Hollywood producers hit meltdown when their idealistic secretary turns the tables on their plans to make the next blockbuster. Mamet cracks open the ultimate choice for any artist in America: social change or financial gain.

Sigh. More Mamet. I know he's an original voice in American theatre, but I've never thought the voice actually had much to say, aside from a sort of generalized cynicism about people in general and women in particular. Oleanna is one of his most obnoxious plays, a supposed battle of the sexes that the guy wins easily. It plays a lot more like a hit job on feminism and political correctness. Speed-the-Plow, which I've only read, is a funny Hollywood satire, if not terribly penetrating. The cast is great though: Baker was smashing in last spring's Mauritius at Northlight, Hawkinson tore it up opposite William Petersen in Blackbird, and Cox is the city's leading interpreter of skeevy guys, as can be seen in the current Profiles Theatre production of Killer Joe.

a Chicago holiday tradition
It’s a Wonderful Life: The Radio Play
Based on the Frank Capra film
Directed by Jason W. Gerace

Bedford Falls. 1948. Back for its ninth year, ATC transforms its space into a 1940’s radio studio to tell Capra’s classic story of one man’s effect on his community. Free milk and cookies are served after every show.

The theatre's holiday show. Apparently it's quite charming and delightful. Hopefully it also gets into the weird and uncomfortable  dark side of the story as well--it isn't the shiny happy movie that many people remember.

world premiere
The Big Meal
Written by Dan LeFranc
Directed by Dexter Bullard

An American Restaurant. Today. In an electrifying 80-minute theatrical ride, eight actors present the quintessential dinner moments from five generations of a modern American family. From their first kiss to their secret affairs, this strangely recognizable family explores life, love and loss over chicken fingers and mac ‘n’ cheese at America’s dinner table.

A strong idea for a show--if reminiscent of A. R. Gurney's The Dining Room--so it should be interesting. I know nothing about the playwright, but it has potential.

the musical event of the season
The Original Grease
Book, music and lyrics by Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey
Directed by PJ Paparelli

Chicago. 1959. Before two movies and three Broadway productions, Summer Nights happened on Foster Beach and the rule-the-school T-Birds were a group of working class outsiders living on Chicago’s Northwest Side. Including never-before-heard music, lyrics and scenes, author Jim Jacobs teams up with Artistic Director PJ Paparelli to bring to life for the first time since 1971 the original R-Rated version of the world’s most famous movie musical.

I never in my life thought I'd say this but: I am extremely excited to see this new production of Grease. The original Chicago version, nearly 40 years ago (!), was apparently much darker and lewder, with a sharper satirical edge. Hopefully it will also avoid the creepiness of the version we currently know, which basically puts a big smiley-face on the idea that girls should give up their principles and identities in order to make men happy by conforming. Plus, Chicago references are always fun. So yes, I'm very excited for this production.

And finally we have Northlight Theatre in Skokie, where I interned in fall 2008, with a very intriguing slate.

Daddy Long Legs
Based on the novel by Jean Webster | Book by John Caird | Music & Lyrics by Paul Gordon
Directed by John Caird
Presented in co-production with Rubicon Theatre Company, Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park and TheatreWorks.
September 16 - October 24, 2010

Jerusha Abbott's prayers seem answered when the generosity of an anonymous gentleman allows her to move from orphanage to university. Through her grateful letters, Jerusha shares her life with her mysterious benefactor as she grows into an intelligent, independent New American Woman and discovers a budding romance with a wealthy young suitor. Yet there is one startling fact that Jerusha has yet to uncover-one that will change her life forever. A charming and unique musical love story!

This is a much adapted story (at least one previous stage version and at least four films), and this production has been making the rounds (I believe this is the third production). I don't know much about the show, but Caird has had some major hits. (Though Caird and Gordon's last big show, Jane Eyre, was not terribly successful.) I'm still excited though--it could really be something.

A Civil War Christmas: An American Musical Celebration
By Paula Vogel
Directed by Henry Godinez
November 11 - December 19, 2010

On Christmas Eve in 1864, a fugitive from slavery and her young daughter have become separated in unfamiliar Washington DC. As the desperate mother searches the snowy streets for her child and Mary Todd Lincoln searches for the perfect Christmas tree for the White House, familiar faces from our nation's history cross paths and storylines in this uplifting epic filled with traditional music and themes of family, reconciliation and communal hope. The perfect holiday fare for all ages and faiths!

I've been fascinated by this one since I first read about the initial regional productions a couple of seasons ago. Fertile setting, lots of music, and what looks like an original perspective on history--and Vogel's work is always worth a look.

By Danai Gurira
January 13 - February 20, 2011

Amid the wreckage of the Liberian civil war, the "wives" of a rebel officer band together to form a fragile community-until the balance of their lives is upset by the arrival of two newcomers, and the return of a former "wife" turned rebel soldier. As the war draws to a close, each must discover her own personal means of survival in this deeply felt portrait of women finding and testing their own strength.

This one has gotten very strong responses in other productions, so I'm excited to see it. One could say that this is riding on Ruined's coat tails, but even if it is (which I don't believe), that can be a good thing--we certainly don't see very many stories from Africa, especially women's stories. And Gurira's work has been very highly praised before, so more of her plays onstage is always good.

Sense and Sensibility
By Jon Jory | Adapted from the novel by Jane Austen
Directed by Jon Jory
March 10 - April 17, 2011
World Premiere!
A lack of family fortune means difficult marriage prospects for the Dashwood sisters- two girls who couldn't be more different. Both are seeking a husband, but find that neither Elinor's common sense nor Marianne's passion offer a key to happiness. Startling secrets and unexpected twists line the path to true love in this tale of flirtation and folly, based on Jane Austen's first novel.

Northlight had a big hit with an adaptation of Austen's Pride and Prejudice in 2005, and Jory is a legend in American theatre--he ran the Actor's Theatre of Louisville for many years and founded the Humana Festival of new plays while there. Looks like it will be a delightful show.

The Outgoing Tide
By Bruce Graham
Directed by BJ Jones
Featuring John Mahoney
May 12 - June 19, 2011
World Premiere!

In a summer cottage on the bank of Chesapeake Bay, Gunner has hatched an unorthodox plan to secure his family's future but meets with resistance from his wife and son, who have plans of their own. As winter approaches, the three must quickly find common ground and come to an understanding-before the tide goes out. This new drama hums with dark humor and powerful emotion.

The description doesn't give much away, and I'm not familiar with Graham's work, but hey, a world premiere starring John Mahoney. I'm intrigued.

So that's all until the next announcement--let's hope the season lives up to its potential!

1 comment:

Mr. K said...

You know, I'm not crazy about Mamet either, but not only is Cox good at the "unpleasant but somehow fascinating" type, he's usually quite good at finding something untapped within work even I don't care for.

Also, interesting that CST's getting a director from Oregon Shakespeare Festival. That's what I find the most interesting, given how highly regarded OSF/Ashland is.