By Joseph Haj, Producing Artistic Director
We are excited to open the Mainstage Season with the brilliant new comedy by Christopher Durang, Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike. Three siblings collide. Vanya and Sonia, who have spent their lives caring for the estate of their late parents, and movie star sister Masha who comes swanning back in true Chekhovian fashion. If you enjoy Chekhov, you’ll love it. If you hate Chekhov, you’ll love it even more. And if you don’t know a thing about Chekhov, nothing bad happens…it’s a hysterical ride.
Then our rotating repertory moves from the metaphor of the sea in The Tempest and Metamorphoses to that of the forest with Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dreamand Stephen Sondheim’s Into the Woods. Characters enter the woods pursuing their ambitions—and reckon with forces they never imagined and beyond their control in magical and dangerous circumstances, before coming out of the forest forever changed.
Midsummer, one of Shakespeare’s most beloved comedies, is the theatre’s first “fairy tale” following lovers who escape to the woods and encounter a Faerie King and Queen, in a tale rich in music, magic and comedy. Sondheim’s musical masterpiece Into the Woods brilliantly imagines the lives of classic fairytale characters – Cinderella, Rapunzel, witches and giants – reminding us we need to be careful what we wish for. Performing them in rotation, sharing a scenic world, allows us to explore two plays, written 400 years apart, that use the forest as metaphor in similar ways, describing how we sometimes need to get lost in order to find ourselves.
Then we turn to Alice Childress’ Trouble in Mind. Written in 1955, it’s the story of a racially mixed cast rehearsing a new play with hopes of taking it to Broadway. Misperceptions and stereotypes abound as a veteran African American actress grapples with choosing between her chance to play the lead in a Broadway show, and the cost of compromising her principles. Crackling with the wit and daring of Clybourne Park, Trouble in Mind is an ‘edge of your seat’ comedy that asks hard questions and offers no easy answers.
Next, a classic from two master playwrights. Arthur Miller’s adaptation of Henrik Ibsen’s An Enemy of the People. It’s bracing, electric and incredibly current. Set in a small Norwegian town where the town leaders have invested a significant amount of money developing public baths in hopes of drawing tourists to the area, a doctor discovers the waters of the baths have been contaminated by textile mills further up the river, and must be shut down. Expecting to be hailed as a hero, instead he and his family are ostracized for threatening the town’s economic viability. This play, originally penned in the 1880s by Ibsen, and re-told in the 1950s by Arthur Miller, still rings true today. 2015 is the centennial of Miller’s birth, so this production celebrates one of our major American playwrights with one of his rarely seen works.
And we’ll close our Mainstage Seasonwith the Pulitzer Prize-nominated 4000 Miles. When 21 year-old Leo suffers a major loss, he seeks solace with his feisty 91 year-old grandmother. They infuriate, bewilder, and ultimately reach each other in this unsentimental look at the funny, frustrating, life-changing relationship between a grandson facing the rest of his life and a grandmother slowly forgetting hers. A keenly observed look at the sort of inter-generational relationship we rarely see onstage.