Coming Attractions in Theater: September 2011

Every September proffers an explosion of productions; as usual, my eclectic picks, driven by my prejudice for the new. There are few world premieres among the openers this season, aside from the Provincetown Tennessee Williams Theater Festival’s Once in a Lifetime and ArtsEmerson’s presentation of The Foundry Theatre’s How Much is Enough.

By Bill Marx

Which came first — Man or Carrot? Bread and Puppet Theater reports, you decide. Photo: Greg Cook

Man = Carrot Circus. Written and performed by Bread and Puppet Theater, September 1 through 4. At Hopkinton, NH, Owen Farm, 580 Brockway, on September 1 at 3:30 p.m.; at the Cambridge Common, Cambridge, MA, September 2 at 6 p.m.; at Haverhill, NH on Saturday, September 3, Alumni Hall, 75 Court Street at 4 p.m. (outside if weather allows), and at Rochester, VT, Big Town Gallery, 99 North Main on Sunday, September 4 at 2 p.m. An entertainment for children of all ages, this Bread and Puppet extravaganza appears to be based on the intriguing premise that man has evolved from carrots. The show “is based on the revelation that upright man rooted in dirt was created in the image of the upright carrot rooted in dirt. Fifteen Vermont puppeteers and musicians will enact the issues of the day, not only in how they affect carrots, but how they affect us all. Some of the circus acts may be politically puzzling to adults, but usually an accompanying kid can explain what’s going on.”

The festivities will be introduced by local writer Scott Alarik, whose novel Revival: A Folk Music Novel has recently been published. The book, along with Bread and Puppet’s outdoor Circus on the Common, “is serving as the impetus to reinvigorate Harvard Square with an entire month of reincarnations, complete with the return of the HONK! Parade: Share The Streets on Oct. 2nd, a Bread and Puppet-inspired procession on Mass. Ave. leading into Harvard Square’s Oktoberfest.”

Cravings: Songs of Hunger and Satisfaction. Written and performed by Belle Linda Halpern. Directed by Sabrina Hamilton. Musical direction by Ron Roy. The Salem Theater Company presents the Ko Theater Works production at the STC Theater, 90 Lafayette Street, Salem, MA, September 8 through 11. Acclaimed singer and performer Halpern revives her well-received show, which provides “a humorous and thought-provoking look at our constant cravings for food, acceptance and true nourishment. In it, songs ranging from Tin Pan Alley classics by Berlin and Bernstein, to pop anthems and contemporary ballads are interspersed with personal narrative reflecting Halpern’s Jewish-American experience. As she prepares the Passover dish charoset, Halpern’s humorous take on our desperate desire for fulfillment evolves into a life-affirming call to taste the sweetness in the everyday.”

His Girl Friday. An adaptation of The Front Page by Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur and the Columbia Pictures film by John Guare. Directed by Curt Columbus. Produced by the Trinity Repertory Company at the Chace Theater, 201 Washington Street, Providence, Rhode Island, September 9 through October 9. I can think of a number of John Guare scripts I would rather see staged—given that we are marking the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, a production of A Few Stout Individuals, his compelling historical drama about Mark Twain helping U. S. Grant write his memoirs, would be welcome. But so it goes . . . the distinguished dramatist revamps The Front Page and the movie His Girl Friday, with a set by Eugene Lee and comic performances from a cast that includes Fred Sullivan Jr., Stephen Berenson, Janice Duclos, Phyllis Kay, Brian McEleney, and Stephen Thorne.

Dramatist John Guare and Trinity Rep director Curt Columbus — finding the madcap in HIS GIRL FRIDAY

Trout Stanley by Claudia Dey. Directed by Louisa Richards. Staged by the Exquisite Corps Theatre at the Factory Theater, 791 Tremont Street, Boston, MA, September 9 through 25. The crazed-sounding plot: “the morning after an exotic dancer and local Scrabble champion goes missing, Graceland Ducharme heads off to work at the Tumbler Ridge Dump and leaves her agoraphobic twin, Sugar, at home alone. Sugar finds herself in a desperate position when she receives a surprise visit from a fishy stranger named Trout Stanley.” This is the Boston premiere of a Dora award-nominated dramedy,

Candide. Adapted from the book by Voltaire by Mary Zimmerman. Score by Leonard Bernstein. Lyrics by Richard Wilbur. Additional lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, John Latouche, Lillian Hellman, Dorothy Parker, and Bernstein. Directed by Zimmerman. Staged by the Huntington Theatre Company at the Boston University Theater, Boston, MA, September 10 through October 16. The Huntington Theatre Company opens its 30th season with this refurbishment of the musical Candide, “which sold out in Chicago and Washington, DC.” Tony Award and MacArthur “Genius” winner Mary Zimmerman (Metamorphoses) directs this thoroughly revamped production, which holds onto the Leonard Bernstein’s score, which includes “The Best of All Possible Worlds,” “Oh Happy We,” “I Am Easily Assimilated,” “Glitter and be Gay,” and “Make Our Garden Grow.”

How Much is Enough: Our Values in Question by The Foundry Theatre, written by Kirk Lynn and created with & directed by Melanie Joseph. ArtsEmerson presents the Foundry Theatre production in the Jackie Liebergott Black Box (“The Jackie”) at the Paramount Center, Boston, MA, September 13 through 25. A world premiere “production” hosted by an innovative, New York theater company. I wrote “production” because the evening sounds more like an interactive discussion: “The play explores our fundamental concepts of value—quantitatively through our relations to money and qualitatively by asking what we hold dear. “Asking” is the operative word, as the play itself is a series of questions posed to audience members, creating a dynamic event that is part theatre, part conversation, and different every time.”

All The Journeying Ways. A celebration of classical texts (The Bacchae, The Odyssey) in a modern world, co-produced by Whistler in the Dark Theatre and the Charlestown Working Theater, at the Charlestown Working Theater, Charlestown, MA, September 14 through 25. A presentation, in repertory, of a “re-explored” version of Whistler in the Dark’s 2009 production of Euripides’ The Bacchae and Charlestown Working Theater’s two-person version of Homer’s Odyssey. The Boston Globe (“Somewhere, Euripides is smiling. … Go. See. Feel. And take your children. Show them what theater can be”) and other reviewers went gaga over the Whistler production of The Bacchae — I thought it was a misfire, over-the-top and awkwardly staged—but perhaps some changes for the better have been made by this interesting company.

The Persian Quarter by Kathleen Cahill. Directed by Kyle Fabel. Staged by the Merrimack Repertory Theater, Lowell, MA, September 15 through October 9. Given the preference among New England theater companies to stay away from scripts that confront international problems, here is rare play that deals with hot button global issues: “The play unfolds on the final day of the Iranian hostage crisis in 1980 Tehran with Anne, an American hostage and Shirin, an Iranian revolutionary student who is one of her captors. Thirty years later in New York City, their daughters, Emily and Azadeh, meet accidentally in an empty classroom at Columbia University during the visit of Iranian President Ahmadinejad. ” (Warning from the MRT: Adult Content)

Laurie Anderson in DELUSION

Next Fall by Geoffrey Nauffts. Directed by Scott Edmiston. Presented by SpeakEasy Stage Company at the Boston Center For the Arts, Boston, MA, September 16 through October 16. A 2010 Tony nominee for Best Play, the script “takes a witty and provocative look at faith, commitment and unconditional love. Luke, a devout Christian, and Adam, a non-believer, have been together for four years; yet spiritual differences continue to spark trouble in their relationship.” The New York Times review of the play insists that “much of this artful, thoughtful and very moving story of a gay couple agonizing over differences in their religious faiths proceeds with the stinging breeziness of a cosmopolitan comedy.”

Provincetown Tennessee Williams Theater Festival At the Provincetown Theater, Town Hall and other venues (check website for shows, locations, and times), Provincetown, MA, September 22 through 25. The sixth annual festival dedicated to the life and work of Tennessee Williams contributes to the 100th anniversary of the playwright’s birth with a line-up that includes productions of Williams’ plays Something Cloudy, Something Clear, Now the Cats with Jeweled Claws (starring Mink Stole and Everett Quinton), and The Two-Character Play. Other standouts: A master class on Williams led by Mabou Mines director Lee Breuer, and a world premiere production, via Albuquerque’s Fusion Theatre Company, of Once in a Lifetime, an unpublished Williams play. In it, “two conservative Midwestern families, on a momentous summer road trip to New Mexico, stop at a hotel.”

The Morini Strad by Willy Holtzman. Directed by Paul Meshejian. Presented by the Portland Stage Company on the Main Stage, Portland, ME, September 27 through October 23. “Inspired by a true story that rocked the classical music world, concert violinist Erica Morini hires an unassuming violin maker to restore her legendary Stradivarius.”

Delusion, written and performed by Laurie Anderson, and The Infernal Comedy: Confessions of a Serial Killer by Michael Sturminger. Both productions are presented by ArtsEmerson: Delusion at the Paramount Center Mainstage, Boston, MA, September 27 through October 2; The Infernal Comedy at the Cutler Majestic Theatre, Boston, MA, September 29 and 30. Laurie Anderson’s performance art piece provides “personal meditations on life, language, memory and identity,” revolving around “the belief that words and stories can create the world, as well as make it disappear.” Featuring actor John Malkovich, The Infernal Comedy is billed as “a cross between a crime drama and Baroque opera.” The piece is based on “the life story of twice-imprisoned serial killer Jack Unterweger. Mysteriously back from the grave for an autobiographical book tour, Unterweger oozes disconcerting charm as he narrates his sordid and shocking history.” This is the production’s American premiere.

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