A Spring Theater preview? But doesn't the regular theater season end in May?
For some of the state's half-dozen major regional theaters, that's true. Others, which follow a spring-to-winter schedule instead of the academic-year calendar preferred in college towns, are just getting started.
The Goodspeed Opera House in East Haddam opens its 2012 season with the classics Mame (April 20-July 1) and Carousel (July 13-Sept. 23), followed by the rarely seen mystery musical Something's Afoot (Oct. 5-Dec. 9). The Goodspeed's new-works venue, the Norma Terris Theatre in Chester, has the abolition-themed Amazing Grace (May 17-June 10) and a stage version of Julie Andrews' children's book The Great American Mousical in November.
The Westport Country Playhouse also flaunts a spring-to-winter season, which kicks off May 1-26 with the Sondheim/Lapine fairy-tale musical Into the Woods and continues with a mix of tragedy (The Year of Magical Thinking, June 12-30), classic comedy (Moliere's Tartuffe, July 17-Aug. 4), new comedy (the world premiere of Chad Beguelin's Harbor Aug. 28-Sept. 15) and the iconic African-American melodrama A Raisin in the Sun (Oct. 9-Nov. 3).
The Eugene O'NeillTheater Center in Waterford bestows its Monte Cristo Award upon Michael Douglas April 16, then offers brand-new plays, musicals, puppetry and cabaret shows throughout the summer.
June brings New Haven's International Festival of Arts & Ideas, whose 2012 line-up includes a one-man King Lear from Taiwan, composer/playwright David Lang's love/fail and the National Theatre of Scotland's The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart, to be staged within the Wicked Wolf Tavern.
Lots to look forward to. But the current theater season has also had a funny way of not quite ending. If you missed a couple of recent well-regarded shows at the Long Wharf, the wonders of "co-production" allow you to catch them elsewhere.
Bell, Book and Candle ended its New Haven engagement earlier this month, but John Van Druten's witchy 1950s comedy has magically reappeared at Hartford Stage, where it runs through April 29. Another Long Wharf co-production, the well-received new musical February House by Gabriel Kahane and Seth Bockley, moves to the Public Theater in New York May 8-June 10 with the same cast and a slighter larger band (of four musicians rather than just piano and banjo). The show chronicles the real-life adventures of Gypsy Rose Lee, W. H. Auden, Benjamin Britten, Carson McCullers and their assorted lovers and spouses when they all moved into editor George Davis' brownstone in Brooklyn in the 1940s.
Across town, another world premiere is being readied. The Yale Repertory Theatre has enlisted a high-powered cast — indie film goddess Parker Posey, Steppenwolf Theatre ensemble member (and Pulitzer-winning playwright) Tracy Letts, Johanna Day (a Tony nominee for Proof) and Glen Fitzgerald (Brian Darling on TV's "Dirty Sexy Money") — for its world premiere of Will Eno's The Realistic Joneses, April 20-May 12. When a Rep insider described the new play from the author of Thom Pain (based on nothing) as screamingly funny, the Advocate sought comment from Eno, who responded: "My hope is that the play is screamingly mildly-funny."
The Long Wharf's season-closer, May 2-27, is Aaron Posner's stage adaptation of the Chaim Potok novel My Name is Asher Lev, about a young painter being pulled apart by the conflicts of his artistic ideals and his Jewish faith. Director Gordon Edelstein, who last fall celebrated his 10th anniversary as artistic director of the Long Wharf, has been sharing special research projects with the cast so they can assure a respectful version of this much-admired story. Rabbi Herbert Brockman of Congregation Mishkan Israel spoke with the cast last week about Potok and about the Lubavitcher sect of Hasidic Judaism; a representative of one of the local Chabads will visit this week to discuss the same themes. The play's cast (Mark Nelson as "Man," Melissa Miller as "Woman" and Ari Brand as Asher Lev) also spent five hours walking around the New York City Lubavitcher neighborhood of Crown Heights, where the story takes place. "This kind of research," Edelstein says, "gives us a specific background for the social and cultural context of the play. Since Potok himself was rooted in orthodoxy, it is really useful to have hard, fast and accurate knowledge in order to tell this story as best we can."
Even after the mainstage season ends at the New Haven theaters, there's more to see. From May 4-12, the Yale School of Drama has its annual Carlotta Festival of New Plays, full productions of new works written, directed, designed and performed by YSD students.
The Long Wharf's main theater will be dark all summer, due to the extensive renovations being made to the auditorium and lobby, but the theater has suggested it might nonetheless have a summer season in its Stage II space.
This is also the time of year when theaters announce what they've got set for Fall, starting a months-long spell of anticipation. The Yale Rep has planned the Culture Clash history mix American Night: The Ballad of Juan Jose (Sept. 21-Oct. 13), new plays by David Adjmi (Marie Antoinette, Oct. 26-Nov. 17) and Sarah Ruhl (Dear Elizabeth, Nov. 30-Dec. 22), the hit Irish comedy Stones in His Pockets (Jan. 25-Feb. 16), Paul Giamatti starring in Shakespeare's Hamlet March 15-April 13, and a Robert Woodruff/Bill Camp adaptation of the Rainer Werner Fassbinder film In a Year With 13 Moons (April 26-May 18).
Meanwhile, New Haven's storied Shubert theater held a special event last week to celebrate one of the highlights of its 2012-13 season: a two-week booking of the national tour of Jersey Boys Sept. 25-Oct. 7. Also on the Shubert boards: Shrek, Addams Family, Blue Man Group, Les Mis, American Idiot and West Side Story.
The Long Wharf Theatre isn't announcing its 2012-13 season until early May, but has exclusively revealed to the Advocate one of the shows which is "strongly being considered." According to Long Wharf spokesman Steve Scarpa, "we recently did a workshop of a new play by William Mastrosimone called Ride the Tiger. It's the story of how John F. Kennedy came to power." The main characters are Kennedy, mobster Sam Giancana, JFK's father Joe, and Frank Sinatra. Mastrosimone is best known for his 1982 play Extremities, the Broadway and film versions of which starred Farrah Fawcett.
Some cultural obsessions never go away.
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