April 3, 2013

Setting stage for season: 'Who are you?' Good Theater plans season with 4 plays

By Bob Keyes bkeyes@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

PORTLAND - Faithful followers of Portland Stage Company might detect a subtle theme in the theater's 40th season, which opens in the fall.

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Good Theater also has announced its season schedule for 2013-14. The theater company, in residence at the St. Lawrence Arts Center in Portland, will produce four plays in the season ahead, said co-founder and artistic director Brian Allen.

The Good Theater season opens Oct. 2 with "Clyebourne Park," which won the 2012 Tony Award for Best Play and the 2011 Pulitzer Prize for drama. Bruce Norris wrote the show, which explores two interesting social situations 50 years apart.

One involves the sale of a home to a black family in 1959 as nervous community members try to stop the sale. The second act takes place in the same home in the present, as the African-American neighborhood tries to hold its ground in the face of gentrification.

Good Theater will open A.R. Gurney's "Grand Manner" on Nov. 6. The Maine premiere will star two local favorites, Denise Poirier and Tony Reilly.

After the turn of the calendar, first up is "Becky's New Car" by Steven Dietz, opening Jan. 29. It's a comedy about a woman caught in middle age with a middle-management job and a middling marriage -- and the ride she takes to change it all.

The final show of the 2013-14 season will be "The Outgoing Tide" by Bruce Gorham, opening on a date to be determined. Broadway veterans Will Rhys and Florence Lacy will star in this play about two generations of family dealing with getting older and accepting the past.

For more information, visit goodtheater.com.

-- Bob Keyes

"I think more than any other season, this coming season has a theme, which is 'Who are you?' The season is about identity and how we see ourselves," said Anita Stewart, the theater's executive and artistic director.

"What I like about the season is that there is a lot of meat there, and a lot of ideas and a lot of thoughts," she said. "There is not a lot of fluff. I think our audiences will be challenged and entertained."

Stewart and her staff hosted a reception Tuesday night to introduce the season, which begins in September and runs through spring 2014. Individual tickets will go on sale Aug. 1.

On the schedule:

* August Wilson's "Ma Rainey's Black Bottom" opens the season on Sept. 24. Wilson, arguably America's best-known African-American playwright, wrote a 10-cycle series of plays that sketches the black existence through the 20th century. "Ma Rainey's Black Bottom" is the only one of those 10 not set in Wilson's native Pittsburgh. It takes place in Chicago in the 1920s, and explores issues of race, fame and generational divides.

* "Vigil," by Morris Panych, is a darkly funny show about aging relatives and how we care for members of our family who are dying. It offers a humorous take on a subject that many baby boomers are confronting as they care for aging parents, aunts and uncles. It opens Oct. 29.

* For the holiday season, Portland Stage revives its adaptation of Hans Christian Andersen's "The Snow Queen." The theater performed the show for the first time two years ago, alternating annually with "A Christmas Carol." It will open Nov. 29.

* Portland actor Dustin Tucker will return with "The Santaland Diaries" by David Sedaris. There was talk that last year might have been the final one for Tucker in the role of a foul-mouthed department-store Christmas elf, but he agreed to at least one more run. It opens Dec. 3 in the Studio Theater.

* In January, Portland Stage will produce a musical revue, "Words By: Ira Gershwin and the Great American Songbook." This is a new show that was originally staged at North Coast Repertory Theatre in California. It tells the story of Gershwin's life through the songs that he wrote, mostly with his brother George. It opens Jan. 21.

* Portland Stage gives the new play "Veils" its world premiere on Feb. 25. Written by Tom Coash, "Veils" won the Clauder Competition for New England playwrights. It's about an American exchange student who attends school in Egypt, where she is befriended by her roommate and urged to create a blog debating the practice of wearing veils. The Arab Spring changed the context of their friendship.

* Next up is "Tribes," opening March 25. This play is about a family forced to rethink how it communicates when its son Billy, who was born deaf and learned to read lips instead of American Sign Language, meets a woman from a more traditional deaf family. Portland Stage will perform a section of this show in ASL with supertitles. Written by Nina Raine, "Tribes" was popular off-Broadway in New York for almost all of 2012.

* The season ends with "The Savannah Disputation" by Evan Smith, opening April 22, 2014. It's about two older sisters aptly named Mary and Margaret, who defend their Catholic beliefs to a young evangelical who comes knocking.

For more information, including ticket prices, times and purchasing information, visit portlandstage.org.

Bob Keyes can be contacted at 791-6457 or at: bkeyes@pressherald.com

 

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