Stage Notes Connecticut Theater News & Reviews

What Will You Be Seeing At The Theater In 2017-18?

For its soon-to-end 50th anniversary season, Yale Repertory Theatre brought great writers and directors back together: the late August Wilson and Timothy Douglas for "Seven Guitars," Sarah Ruhl and Mark Wing-Davey for "Scenes from Court Life." The tradition continues with the Rep's just-announced 51st season, which features Liz Diamond directing a Suzan-Lori Parks play. Diamond directed the world premieres of Parks' "The Death of the Last Black Man in the Whole Entire World" and "The America Play" at the Rep in the early 1990s.

The full 2017-18 Yale Rep season, revealed Wednesday morning:

Henrik Ibsen's "An Enemy of the People," directed by Yale Rep artistic director (and Dean of the Yale School of Drama) James Bundy, Oct. 6-28. The ever-timely man-against-the-system drama has been freshly translated by Paul Walsh, who did Ibsen's "The Master Builder" for the Rep in 2009.

Nambi E. Kelley's adaptation of Richard Wright's novel "Native Son," directed by Seret Scott, Nov. 24 through Dec. 16. Scott directed this script's world premiere in Chicago in 2014.

"Field Guide," a new work by Rude Mechs, Jan. 26 through Feb. 17. The Austin-based experimental troupe previously graced Yale's No Boundaries series with "Method Gun" and "Now Now Oh Now." "Field Guide," commissioned by the Rep, is described as "a subversively funny riff on 'The Brothers Karamazov.'"

Parks' "Father Comes Home from the Wars, Parts 1, 2 & 3," March 16 through April 7, 2018. Parks' latest modernist take on 19th-century African-American history has had acclaimed productions in New York and at regional theaters. Giving it to Diamond (who chairs the directing program at the Yale School of Drama) to stage now is a masterstroke.

Guillermo Calderón's new political drama "Kiss," directed by Evan Yionoulis, April 27 through May 19, 2018. This is the first play the acclaimed Chilean writer has written in English. "Kiss" had its U.S. premiere in Washington, D.C., in October. Calderón spoke at Wesleyan University last year.

For those keeping score, this is the fewest number of world premieres the Yale Rep has offered since the 2013-14 season. (The seasons between that one and this one each had three.) But a new Rude Mechs project can worth several plays at once, "Enemy of the People" and "Native Son" are especially ripe for re-evaluation, Calderón is a major international voice, and oooooh, Parks done by Diamond again! Details at 203-432-1234, yalerep.org.

Playhouse On Park

Playhouse on Park's 2017-18 season, announced at a subscribers' event April 2, offers established stage classics, early hits by musical theater mavericks who got even more famous later on, and a clever drama by a serious dramatist who also happens to be a movie star.

The schedule:

Avenue Q, Sept. 13 through Oct. 8. The adult-themed Sesame Street-styled satire had its first workshop at the Eugene O'Neill Theater Center in Waterford in 2002, launching the career of composer Robert Lopez ("Book of Mormon," "Frozen"). It's the second Playhouse on Park season in a row to open with a musical starring puppets.

The Diary of Anne Frank, Oct. 25 through Nov. 19. Using the now-common adaptation by Wendy Kesselman of the Frances Goodrich/Albert Hackett stage version of the historic book. Directed by Ezra Barnes.

Steel Magnolias, Jan. 10-28. The Robert Harling weepy, directed by Susan Haefner.

Intimate Apparel, Feb. 14 through March 4. Dawn Loveland directs Lynn Nottage's popular drama about African-American city life in the early 20th century.

stop/time dance theater Celebrates 15 Years, March 14-25. The playhouse's resident dance troupe makes its annual spring show an anniversary event.

The Revisionist, April 11-29, 2018. Jesse Eisenberg's 2013 drama about a struggling writer and his elderly Polish cousin with a mysterious past.

In the Heights, June 13 through July 29, 2018. Benny on the dispatch! Wesleyan grad Lin-Manuel Miranda's first show — which won the Best Musical Tony in 2008 — gets yet another production in the state. Co-directed by two of Playhouse at Park's co-founders, Sean Harris and Darlene Zoller.

Playhouse on Park's Young Audience Series offer Elephant and Piggie's 'We Are in a Play!' Dec. 9-17 and "Polka Dots: The Cool Kids Musical" May 12-20, 2018.

Season subscriptions range from $98 on preview nights to $184 to $240 for regular performances, $325 for "Producer Circle." Details at 860-523-5900, playhouseonpark.org.

Pops Goes The HSO

Hartford Symphony Orchestra's four-show 2017 Pops series, just announced, will begin and end with theater-friendly entertainments. The season opens with the return of Cirque de la Symphonie and its Holiday Cirque Spectacular, Dec. 16 at 2 and 7 p.m. At the other end of the season, May 19, 2018 at 7:30 p.m. is a show-tune-savvy Love on Broadway concert, performed by "real married couples." Details at 860-987-5900, hartfordsymphony.org.

New Theater Arts Degree

Capital Community College has created a new associate degree program in Theater Arts, which will benefit from the participation of several Hartford-based theaters. Theater professionals involved in teaching the course will hail from Hartford Stage, TheaterWorks, HartBeat Ensemble and Sea Tea Improv. A press release declares that "graduates from the theater program will be prepared for entry-level employment in various aspects of theater production, such as stage and production management, lighting, sound, set, costume, as well as performance." It's also a "strong pathway" to a degree in theater from four-year educational institutions—especially the Connecticut State Colleges & Universities system.

The program will start in the fall of 2017. Online registration begins April 10 and walk-in registration begins April 17. For details, contact Kevin Lamkins at klamkins@capitalcc.edu or 860-906-5213.

Saunders' 166 Voices

When I can't be in an actual theater seeing a play, I fill my ears with radio dramas, improv-comedy podcasts and full-cast audiobooks. The audio version of George Saunders' novel "Lincoln in the Bardo" exists on a level that simply hasn't been attempted before. The book — the first longform effort by the accomplished short story writer and essayist — is written in script form, though it's not easily stageable. It opens with a "gentle, respectful, deferential" sex scene and soon shifts to a fantastical netherworld.

While it only takes about six hours to read aloud, "Lincoln in the Bardo" contains over 160 different characters, and the audiobook has cast each of them separately. The long list includes Nick Offerman, Don Cheadle, Rainn Wilson, Lena Dunham, Jeffrey Tambor, Julianne Moore and Susan Sarandon, David Sedaris, Jeff Tweedy, Ben Greenberg and Carrie Brownstein, Kat Dennings, over 60 members of the Penguin/Random House publishing company, Saunders himself and members of his family… and that's not even half the cast.

How does it sound? Surprisingly fluid, though the plot is subtle and it's easy to lose one's place. Multiple listenings are rewarded. The fantasy-tinged story concerns a grief-stricken President Abraham Lincoln visiting the grave of his son William, who died in 1862 at age 11.

If "Lincoln in the Bardo" were theater, the closest things to it might be Paula Vogel's "A Civil War Christmas" and Eugene O'Neill's "Mourning Becomes Electra." But this is a whole different animal, and a milestone in the audiobook realm.

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