Coming Attractions in Theater: February 2011

A hold-onto-your seat month with some intriguing world premieres, including a musical version of a Korean folktale, an attempt to turn Aeschylus’s Prometheus Bound into a rock event, and a cerebral confab featuring Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, and Machiavelli.

By Bill Marx.

Derek Jacobi (King Lear) and Pippa Bennett Warner (Cordelia) in the Donmar Warehouse production of KING LEAR. Photo: John Persson

King Lear by William Shakespeare. Directed by Michael Grandage. NT Live screens the Donmar Warehouse’s super-acclaimed production of the Bard’s tragedy featuring Derek Jacobi as Lear. At the Coolidge Corner Theatre and selected theaters around New England (check the NT Live site), February 3 and 7 at 7 p.m.

Abbey Theatre

Terminus written and directed by Mark O’Rowe. Dublin’s Abbey Theatre visits Boston with its production of a critically-acclaimed drama that, through the skills of three performers, takes the audience “from bustling streets to the skies above Dublin and deep into the bowels of the earth . . . an incredible journey through a night of strange and fantastical occurrences.” Recommended for ages 16 and over. Presented by the Abbey Theatre and ArtsEmerson at the Paramount Mainstage, Boston, MA, February 8–13.

Cymbeline by William Shakespeare. Directed by Doug Lockwood. Actors’ Shakespeare Project launches its Winter Festival with seven actors tackling one of the Bard’s most puzzling yet haunting plays, a late romance that is really more of a wondrous (when done well) tragicomedy. The cast includes Ken Baltin, Marya Lowry, and Neil McGarry. Staged by the Actors’ Shakespeare Project at The Storefront in Davis Square, 255 Elm St., Davis Square, Somerville, MA, February 9–20.

Rocio Valles as Aheh in SUNFISH. Photo: John Howrey

Sunfish. Music by Hyeyoung Kim. Lyrics by Michael L. Cooper. Book by Michael L. Cooper and Hyeyoung Kim. Directed by Caitlin Lowans. Musical direction by John Howrey. World premiere of a musical based on one of Korea’s most famous folktales, a multicultural fable that “speaks to the power of family, the love that is shared, and the sacrifices that often need to be made no matter the consequences.” The show was selected for the prestigious ASCAP Foundation Musical Theatre Workshop and has also been work-shopped at Yale University, New York University’s “WriteAct” Festival, and the TRU Voices Series. At the Stoneham Theatre, Stoneham, MA, February 10–27.

Ti-Jean & His Brothers by Derek Walcott. Music by Andre Tanker. Music and lyrics by Derek Walcott and Andre Tanker. Directed by Megan Sandberg-Zakian with music direction by Kera Washington of Zili Misik. This fable by the Nobel-prize-winning writer is presented “in commemoration of the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, and in celebration of Boston Playwrights’ Theatre’s 30th anniversary, and of its founder, Caribbean playwright Derek Walcott.” “A Caribbean family is in crisis: three brothers are pulled into a dangerous game with the Devil in this fanciful, dark, and ultimately hopeful story of battling despair through fierce humor and love.” Presented by Underground Railway Theater and Playwrights’ Theatre at Boston University at the Central Square Theater, Cambridge, MA, February 10 through March 13.

The Exceptionals by Bob Clayman. Directed by Charles Towers. Given the current controversy about mollycoddling American parenting skills versus the repressive “Tiger Mother” ethos of China, this play comes along at a good time. “Two mothers from very different backgrounds must make some tough decisions regarding their uniquely gifted children in a situation that examines parenthood through a prism of conflicting definitions.” How far do we go to assure our gifted children will get all they need to excel? The struggle will be tough: “Contains Adult Language and Suggestive Dialogue.” At the Merrimack Repertory Theatre, Lowell, MA, February 10 through March 6.

The Europeans by Howard Barker. Directed by Meg Taintor. I am an admirer of the plays of Barker, and Whistler in the Dark has done well by this challenging playwright in the past, so this is a very tantalizing prospect. Set in the aftermath of the Siege of Vienna by the Turks in 1683, the script deals with the attempts of the violated to articulate, and cope with, atrocity. Here is Barker’s dramatic credo, driven by a fear of illumination: “The art of theater is a darkness, because it speaks to a darkness. How does it protect the wealth of its darkness from the enlighteners?” Presented by Whistler in the Dark at the Factory Theatre, Boston, MA, February 10–26.

Ajax by Sophocles. Translation by Charles Connaghan. Directed by Sarah Benson. A musical version of what is billed as “a poignant examination of how war affects the mind of a solider . . . a tragedy [that] speaks directly to our times.” Hey, that’s why they call ’em the classics. Presented by the American Repertory Theater, Loeb Drama Centers, Cambridge, MA, February 12 through March 13.

The Hotel Nepenthe by John Kuntz. Directed by David R. Gammons. Kuntz’s play, part of the Actors’ Shakespeare Project’s Winter Festival, sounds like a weird send-up of an old melodrama: “On a cold winter night, somewhere in America, the lives of 17 people collide as they plunge into a dark, indifferent city: the scheming wife of a Senator, a hapless lover, a mother searching for her child, a bellhop with a mysterious hatbox, a sociopath cab driver, a woman dressed in purple who may or may not travel through time, a brother and a sister confronting their grief, a self-absorbed starlet, an ordinary woman with butterfly wings.” Staged by the Actors’ Shakespeare Project at The Storefront in Davis Square, 255 Elm St., Davis Square. Somerville, MA, February 23 through March 6.

Divine Rivalry by Michael Kramer. Directed by Michael Wilson. A world premiere penned by political journalist Kramer of a Renaissance version of the “Meeting of the Big Minds” concept. “Leonardo da Vinci. Michelangelo. Machiavelli. Each with a unique agenda in pursuit of personal riches, great art, and immortality through knowledge, innovation and power.” Staged by HartfordStage, 50 Church Street, Hartford, CT, February 24 through March 20th.

Prometheus Bound Written by Steven Sater with music by Serj Tankian. inspired by Aeschylus’s “ancient Greek tragedy.” Directed by Diane Paulus. Prometheus may be bound but he can still rock around the rock — and that vulture pecking at his liver can boogie! A world premiere of a rock musical version (from Tony and Grammy Award-winning lyricist and playwright Sater with music from Grammy Award-winning System of a Down lead singer Tankian) that stars the god who swiped fire for man. The show will immerse “the audience in an environment that has the Dionysian energy and rebelliousness of a rock concert.” Staged by the American Repertory Theatre at Oberon, Cambridge, MA, February 25 through April 2.

Playwright Theresa Rebeck: Ibsen's Nora — caged in Connecticut?

DollHouse by Theresa Rebeck. Based on Henrik Ibsen’s A Doll’s House. Directed by Bridget Kathleen O’Leary. Ibsen in Connecticut? What’s next, George Bernard Shaw in Utah? Dramatist Theresa Rebeck relocates and updates Ibsen’s Nora; in this Americanized version, she is out in the suburbs and “must decide between her idyllic world and a life she can truly claim as her own.” Not sure how much of Ibsen will survive the face lift, but the cast, which includes Will Lyman, Sarah Newhouse, and Diego Archiniegas, looks promising. Presented by the New Repertory Theatre at the Arsenal Center for the Arts in the Charles Mosesian Theater, Watertown, MA, February 27 through March 20.

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