The Upcoming Season
by Anthony Chase
I was a little disappointed when the plays for next season began to be announced. The good news is that as the inevitable revisions become known, the lineup is beginning to look far more exciting.
The Kavinoky has pulled shows from a season that originally looked like greatest hits of 1955 and sweetened the season with Alfred Hitchcock’s The 39 Steps by Patrick Barlow, a comedy thriller that’s still running on Broadway in which four actors play a huge array of characters. (Along the way, references are made to every Hitchcock film with inventive hilarity.) Also in their season is Yankee Tavern by Steven Dietz, a play about a young man who seeks to debunk many of the wilder conspiracy theories surrounding the 9/11 attacks, only to find himself caught up in one of those very theories. Kavinoky artistic director David Lamb has long been drawn to mystery thrillers, but these choices are the freshest and most enticing he has offered in quite some time.
Last season, the Kavinoky generously bestowed a feast of recent New York fare on its audience—from Mark Twain’s Is He Dead to Aaron Sorkin’s The Farnsworth Invention -- and it’s encouraging to see other newer plays appear on the newly revised roster. Elsewhere in Buffalo we finally see Edward Albee’s The Goat or Who is Sylvia at Road Less Traveled; Brad Fraser’s newest play, and True Love Lies at BUA.
Last year Alleyway gave us a wonderful and underappreciated production of David Lindsay-Abaire’s Rabbit Hole, the New Phoenix gave us Conor McPherson’s The Seafarer, and BUA gave us John Patrick Shanley’s Doubt. The Robeson finally got around to August Wilson’s Gem of the Ocean. In the past, Buffalo has tended to be slow on the uptake, and now, if there is to be a silver lining to the loss of Studio Arena, which obstructed other companies from obtaining rights to new plays, it would be great to see this momentum continue to build.
Certainly someone will do God of Carnage and August: Osage County when they become available. There is interest to do Sarah Ruhl’s Dead Man’s Cell Phone and The Clean House. It takes a concerted effort to make audiences feel connected to the larger theater world and to get them excited about newer plays—in the manner that Neil Du Brock did at Studio Arena until 1980.
Oklahoma at the Palace
The energetic and entrepreneurial young impresarios who have spearheaded the revival of the old Palace Theatre in Lockport with a revival of that most venerable of musicals, Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Oklahoma, have been heralding their Curly, cast in New York. Others may find the local talent in the production to be even more enticing—including as it does, all three Jakiel sisters: Amy, Laura, and Kelly, the latter in the role of Laurey, previous to her departure for New York. The production, directed by Christopher Parada, continues through this weekend. See “On the Boards” for details.
Chautauqua Theatre Company continues to intrigue. Their production of Tom Stoppard’s Arcadia has completed its run. Next up is a staged reading of RX, a new play by Kate Fodor, presented by the company’s New Play Workshop, directed by Vivienne Benesch, starring Mikel Sarah Lambert, Elizabeth Rich, and Michael Gaston. Fodor wrote the elegant and thought-provoking 100 Saints You Should Know, which I caught at Playwrights Horizons in New York, directed by Chautauqua co-artistic director Ethan McSweeny and starring Lois Smith. That play, too, had been polished in the Chatuaqua workshop.
RX is described as a “big-pharma-office-dramedy” in which “an erstwhile poet currently stuck editing ‘American Swine and Cattle Magazine’ joins a clinical trial for a new drug to treat ‘workplace depression’—only to fall in love with the doctor in charge, leading them both down a twisty path in pursuit of a true prescription for happiness.” Benesch describes the play as “an astute social satire about our culture’s obsession with solving any and all our problems with the right drug,” as well as “a charming and moving love story.”
Next up at Chatauqua is Tennessee Williams’ The Glass Menagerie, directed by McSweeny with a legend of Washington’s Shakespeare Theatre, Fran Dorn, as Amanda.
Jay Desiderio in Lancaster continues to carry the standard for local dinner theater with his Neil Simon summer. Next up is Biloxi Blues, about a group of army recruits in basic training in 1943. This is one of a trilogy of autobiographical plays that began to earn Simon a level of respect that inspired a reappraisal of his earlier work. The beauty of dinner theater, of course, is that the dinner is delightful, no matter what the play. And a cocktail makes any play a bit more effervescent.
Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story
With Debbie Pappas out of Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story for a week, I couldn’t resist paying a return visit to see Lisa Ludwig sing and dance and play the tambourine as her temporary replacement—which she did admirably. I am happy to report that the production has been maintained and even improved upon since its initial outing. Joe Wiens is better than ever in his portrayal of the title character. Philip Farugia and Paschal Frisina III wear very well as the Big Bopper and Ritchie Valens—and Debbie Pappas should have reclaimed her role by this weekend.
Spirit is an original musical production by father-son team Michael and Paul Marszalkowski that takes “a dramatic look into the lives of a group of high school students as they wrestle with questions of friendship, faith, and the future.”
The production has been directed by Tony Pastor, Jr. who has an impressive list of credits including the development of Fox Kids Television and work on such shows as Spider-Man, The Avengers, The Smurfs, and the Backstreet Boys Series. He worked as creative director at Marvel Entertainment and Stan Lee Enterprises, the home of Fantastic Four, X-Men, Iron Man, Daredevil, and others. Pastor also worked on Broadway with the abominable showman, David Merrick.
The young cast includes performers from many local colleges and high schools.
Neil Munro Dies
Sadly, the Shaw Festival announced that former resident director, actor, and playwright Neil Munro died in London, Ontario on July 13 after a lengthy illness at the age of 62. He directed numerous acclaimed productions for the Shaw, as well as at most of Canada’s major English language theaters.
Issue Navigation> Issue Index > v8n29 (The Food Issue: week of Thursday, July 16, 2009) > Theaterweek > The Upcoming Season
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