By Karen Isaacs
A new school year and a new theater season. Not really because for most of us, the theater season year begins in Connecticut around June 1st and runs to May 31st. At least those are the approximate dates that the Connecticut Critics Circle uses for its annual awards eligibility.
Each year as I look over the productions scheduled, a few stand out to me.
Why? It may be a play that I particularly like or a work that is seldom produced and I want to see performed. It may be director or cast. Or it can be the topic that sounds intriguing, often for new works.
So let me share with you the productions that I’ve circled on my calendar. (One caveat — Goodspeed and Ivoryton have not yet announced their 2015 seasons). I’ve listed these in order of their openings.
Ether Dome at Hartford Stage, Sept. 11 – Oct. 5. A brand new play with a Hartford angle, this co-production is about the invention of ether as an anesthetic in 1846. Yet the conflict between altruism and money seems very modern.
Irving Berlin’s Holiday Inn at Goodspeed, Sept. 19 to Nov. 30. Yes, I know it is another musical of a classic Hollywood musical (starring Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire), but it has a great music and dancing. I can’t wait to see how the story and dancing are adapted to Goodspeed’s small stage; but I’m betting it will be terrific.
Comedy Is Hard at Ivoryton Playhouse, Sept. 24 to Oct. 12. A new play by comedy writer Mike Reiss (I’m Connecticut) with two established performers, Mickey Dolenz and Joyce De Witt in a story about a stand-up comic and a classical actress at a retirement home.
Olives and Blood at the Connecticut Rep, Oct. 2 to 12. A new play about post Civil War Spain, the execution of the great playwright/poet Federico Garcia Lorca and the man presumed to be the murderer. It’s all about political repression and the power of art.
Arcadia at Yale Rep, Oct. 3-25. Tom Stoppard is one of my favorite modern playwrights — I love his intellectuality and his creativity. Arcadia is I play I have previously thoroughly enjoyed. And James Bundy is directing. What more can I say?
Hamlet at Hartford Stage, Oct. 16 – Nov. 9. Yes another Hamlet, but I’m looking forward to it for one big reason: Darko Tresnjak is directing and he has proven to be a master at directing Shakespeare — recently his Macbeth, Tempest and Twelfth Night have all been terrific.
War at Yale Rep, Nov. 21-Dec. 13. This is a world premier by a playwright (Branden Jacobs-Jenkins) I don’t know, but the description sounds very interesting: siblings dealing with a comatose mothers and shocking claims about their grandfather’s WWII duty.
Forever by Dael Orlandersmith at Long Wharf, Jan. 2 – Feb. 1. A world premier by a playwright whose works such as Yellowman have received fine productions at Long Wharf and contributed to a discussion about race.
Dancing Lesson at TheaterWorks, Jan. 23 – March 1. I just saw this new play by Mark St. Germain in the Berkshires and you can read my review. While it is somewhat predictable, if the acting is as good in Hartford as it was there, you will be in for an amazing evening in this romantic comedy about an injured dancer and a man with Asperger’s.
Reverberation at Hartford Stage, Feb. 19 -March 15. The two previous plays by Matthew Lopez that Hartford Stage has produced (The Whipping Man and Somewhere) have been intriguing works even if not perfect. This one about a man who has withdrawn from the world and the woman who tries to coax him out of his shell seems like it will also be intriguing.
Good People at TheaterWorks, March 20 to April 26. I like David Lindsay-Abaire’s plays and when I saw this one in NYC, I thought and talked about it for weeks. Audiences are bound to have some lively discussions about the play and the characters — who is the hero? What is ethical?
brownsville song (b-side for tray) at Long Wharf, March 25- April 19. This new play is by Kimber Lee, last year’s Aetna Fellow at Hartford Stage. It got raves at the Humana Festival. Certainly the subject matter — the death of a promising urban youth speaks to our communities.
The Pianist of Willesden Lane at Hartford Stage, March 26-April 19. The subject matter of this play appears fascinating. It’s based on a true story of a young Jewish musician sent to London during the Blitz. The music will be performed by the daughter of the saved woman.
Band of the Black Hand at Connecticut Rep, March 26-April 5. The Split Knuckle Theatre wowed me with its production at Long Wharf in June. Now this innovative new company is performing a film noir inspired play at the CRT’s second theater. I’ll be there.
The Liar at Westport Country Playhouse, May 5-23. Take a modern playwright (David Ives of Venus in Fur) and a classic French playwright (Pierre Corneille) and have the former adapt the latter’s comedy of manners about a liar who is in love. The result should be delicious.
Others I’m anticipating with pleasure
Annapura at TheaterWorks, Oct. 3- Nov. 9. Playwright Sharr White blew me away with The Other Place, so I am looking forward to this new work. The plot seems a little “way out there” but I’m sure TheaterWorks will do its usual outstanding job.
Cloud Nine at the Connecticut Rep, Oct. 23 – Nov. 2. I’ve heard a lot throughout the years about this Caryl Churchill comedy about Empire building, colonization, sex and the English. I really hope I have the time to finally see it.
Private Lives at Hartford Stage, Jan. 8-Feb. 1. I have a soft spot for Nöel Coward plays and I expect director Darko Tresnjak to do his usual outstanding job with this classic comedy.
Proof at Playhouse on Park, Jan. 21 to Feb. 8. The play by David Auburn won the Pulitzer, the small cast should be perfect for this company and the plot is all about relationships and math. I’m in.
The Wildest!!!The Musical Sounds of Louis Prima & Keely Smith at Seven Angels Theater, Feb. 12 to March 8. It may be a jukebox musical but certainly the music should be great. Prima combined New Orleans jazz and the Big Band era. Smith was a classic jazz song stylist. I have hopes for this one.
The Dining Room at Playhouse on Park, Feb. 18-March 8. A.R. Gurney is one of my favorite playwrights. The Dining Room may seem like a light comedy but there is surprising depth, as in many of his works. I always enjoy seeing it.
The Importance of Being Earnest Playhouse on Park, April 15- May 3. It is one of THE classic comedies so it no one does anything weird to it, it should be great. The caveat? The actors need the style and timing to carry it off; plus British accents.
Elevada at Yale Rep, April 24-May 16. Another world premier, this is billed as a romantic comedy about two 20-somethings both seeking after and afraid of love.
The Second Mrs. Wilson at Long Wharf, May 6-31. Edith Wilson is a fascinating historical characters whose actions during the last 18th months of her husband’s presidency have been controversial. What keeps this from the top of my list is my reservations about playwright Joe DiPietro who is best known for much lighter works.
Kiss Me Kate at Hartford Stage, May 14 – June 7. Darko Tresnjak won a Tony (and almost every other NYC directing award) for directing A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder. I can’t wait to see what he does with this classic backstage musical by Cole Porter.
The Touring Shows
I’ve seen most of the touring shows on Broadway, but there are a few I am really looking forward to seeing again.
At the Bushnell in Hartford, Kinky Boots (June 23-28) is high on my list, along with Evita (Sept.
23-28). I also enjoyed in NYC Nice Work If You Can Get It (Feb. 3-8) which had great dancing and all those Gershwin songs.
The Shubert is presenting Matilda, the Musical (May 16-23) which I liked but didn’t love. Newsies, a high energy show is at the Palace in Waterbury (Oct. 24-25)