Goodspeed, Westport Announce 2018 Seasons; Top 10 Most Produced Plays

Local theaters are handing over their Instagram accounts to actors for unique behind-the-scenes perspectives. TheaterWorks had actor George Salazar post pics for a day during the run of "Raging Skillet." On Sept. 20 Hartford Stage let Gabrielle Filloux, who flits about as Cobweb in "A Midsummer Night's Dream," do the Instagram thing.

TheaterWorks says it will continue the practice with its next show, "The Wolves" — especially since the show is about high school kids, and such tech-savviness is expected.

The Top Ten

Perusing American Theatre magazine's list of Top 10 Most-Produced Plays of 2017-18, it's notable how few of them are being done in Connecticut. There are reasons for this. For one thing, Connecticut regional theaters pride themselves on new-play development. We don't need New York City validation before taking a shot on a new playwright. Heck, we send shows to New York.

Of the 380 member theaters of Theatre Communications Group who submitted their seasons to American Theatre for the survey, six are in Connecticut — Hartford Stage, Connecticut Repertory Theatre at UConn, Yale Rep, the Long Wharf, Sharon Playhouse and the all-new-works-all-the-time O'Neill Theater Center.

None of them are doing any of the TCG Top Ten: Lee Hall's stage adaptation of "Shakespeare in Love"; the musical "Fun Home"; Dominique Morisseau's "Skeleton Crew"; Simon Stephen's adaptation of "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time"; Jordan Harrison's "Marjorie Prime"; Stephen Karam's "The Humans"; Lorraine Hansberry's "A Raisin in the Sun"; Simon Stephen's "Heisenberg"; "Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley" by Lauren Gunderson and Margot Melcon; and two different adaptations of Jane Austen's "Sense and Sensibility," lumped together in one slot.

The TCG list wisely excludes ubiquities such as Shakespeare plays and various versions of "A Christmas Carol," though it notes that there will be 108 of the former (including adaptations) and 42 of the latter at TCG member theaters this season. Hartford Stage opened its season with "A Midsummer Night's Dream" and has been staging "A Christmas Carol" annually for 20 years.

The Bushnell got the national "Fun Home" and "Curious Incident" tours, of course. "Fun Home" is being done in the state this season by MTC in Norwalk, which doesn't happen to be a TCG member. Connecticut theatergoers are familiar with some of the playwrights on the list, if not these particular plays. Dominique Morisseau's "Sunset Baby" was at TheaterWorks last season. Lee Hall's "Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour" had its U.S. premiere at the International Festival of Arts & Ideas in 2016.

So, the names are familiar … we just can't place the plays.

Westport Playhouse Announces 2018

Westport Country Playhouse, which runs a spring-to-fall operation, has announced its 2018 season.

"Flyin' West," the Pearl Cleage frontier saga about female settlers in post-Civil War Kansas, opens the season May 29 through June 16. "Flyin' West" had one of its first productions at the Long Wharf in New Haven back in 1994. At Westport, the play will be directed by Seret Scott, who happens to be directing "Native Son" at Yale Rep this season.

The tone shifts July 10 to 28 to the French farce "A Flea in Her Ear" — the David Ives adaptation, directed by WCP Artistic Director Mark Lamos — followed Aug. 14 through Sept. 1 by the Theresa Rebeck's backstage comedy "The Understudy," directed theater Associate Artistic Director David Kennedy. The musical "Man of La Mancha" will be staged (by Lamos) Sept. 25 through Oct. 13, 2018.

Westport's 2018 season will end with the Oct. 30 through Nov. 17 premiere of the Matthew Greene drama "Thousand Pines," directed by the eminent actor and director Austin Pendleton. "Thousand Pines" had a New Works Initiative workshop in Westport this year. As a special event, Mona Golabek will return with "The Pianist of Willesden Lane," which she performed in Westport in January and also did at Hartford Stage in 2015.

The Westport Country Playhouse still has two shows left in its current season: "Sex With Strangers" through Oct. 14 and "Romeo and Juliet" Oct. 31 through Nov. 19.

Mark Lamos told me on the phone last week that he likes being able to deliver such variety, from social dramas to farces, each season.

"A large percentage of our audience has said to us 'I like theater that speaks to me, that isn't just fluff.'" Lamos sees the frothy "Flea in Her Ear," which will be a co-production with the University of Delaware's Resident Ensemble Players, as a "most challenging work. It's like Edmund Kean said on his deathbed: 'Dying is easy. Comedy is hard.'"

Details, including subscription deals, are at 888-927-7529, westportplayhouse.org.

What's At The Goodspeed Next Year

The Goodspeed Opera House has announced its three big shows for 2018. It's a kicky slate that swings from "Consider Yourself" to "I Never Met a Man I Didn't Like" to "(I'll Be Glad When You're Dead) You Rascal You."

The spring-to-fall season will open April 13 through June 21 with "The Will Rogers Follies — A Life in Revue," and they already know who's starring: David Lutken, who understudied the title role of the cowboy comedian/philosopher for the show's original Broadway production 25 years ago. In Connecticut, Lutken's known for "Woody Sez" at TheaterWorks and "The Road: My Life With John Denver" at Ivoryton Playhouse. He previously appeared at Goodspeed in "Big River" and "Finian's Rainbow." "Will Rogers Follies" will be directed by Don Stephenson (Goodspeed's "The Roar of the Greasepaint, The Smell of the Crowd" and "Guys and Dolls."

Next up, June 29 through Sept. 9, 2018, is "Oliver!," Lionel Bart's musical distillation of Dickens' "Oliver Twist." It's directed by Rob Ruggiero, the TheaterWorks producing artistic director who's currently represented at Goodspeed with "Rags."

The season will end Sept. 21 through Nov. 25 with "Bullets Over Broadway The Musical," which Woody Allen adapted (with Douglas McGrath) from his backstage/gangster comedy film and scored with pop hits from the 1920s. It's directed by Gordon Greenberg (Goodspeed's "Holiday Inn," which transferred to Broadway).

The shows at the Goodspeed's other space, the Norma Terris Theatre in Chester, haven't been announced yet. Details at 860-873-8668, goodspeed.org.

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