We may be in the doldrums of winter, but for theatergoers around Connecticut, things are about to brighten up in a big way.
The winter of 2013 has already given us two world premieres, “January Joiners” by Laura Jacqmin at the Long Wharf Theatre in New Haven and “Breath and Imagination” by Daniel Beatty at Hartford Stage, but neither one received the rapturous acclaim that Hartford Stage’s “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder” or Yale Rep’s “Dear Elizabeth” did in their world premiere engagements last fall. The real excitement of the second half of the 2012-13 season is about to begin (we hope!)
Mikhail Baryshnikov, the renown ballet dancer and artistic director of the Baryshnikov Arts Center in New York City, headlines the world premiere stage adaptation of Anton Chekhov’s 1898 short story, “Man in a Case” for Hartford Stage from February 21 through March 24. Directors Annie-B Parson and Paul Lazar, of the internationally acclaimed Big Dance Theater, will fuse theater, movement, music and video to tell the witty yet haunting story of a shy, reclusive man’s courtship of a carefree young woman which forces him to confront his own rigid nature. A cast of four, all with previous experience with Big Dance Theater, will join Baryshnikov for this unique evening of theater.
Two-time Tony award winner Judith Ivey, now playing to positive reviews in the Broadway revival of “The Heiress,” will be appearing at the Long Wharf Theater from February 13 through March 10 in a revival of Sam Shepard’s provocative family play, “Curse of the Starving Class.” Under the direction of Long Wharf’s artistic director Gordon Edelstein, “Curse” will mark the first time that one of Shepard’s plays has been performed at the Long Wharf.
Another big name scheduled to appear in New Haven this spring is Academy-Award nominee and Emmy winner Paul Giamatti, who will take on the title role of William Shakespeare’s “Hamlet” at the Yale Repertory Theater from March 15 through April 13, under the direction of the theater’s artistic director James Bundy. Giamatti, a graduate of Yale College and the Yale School of Drama, has appeared at Yale Rep previously in Shakespeare’s “As You Like It” and Brecht’s “St. Joan of the Stockyards. He’ll be joined by Gerry Bamman as Polonius, Lisa Emery as Gertrude and Broadway musical star Marc Kudisch as Claudius and the Ghost of Hamlet’s Father. Kudisch recently impressed Connecticut audiences in the title role of “Tartuffe” at the Westport Country Playhouse.
Another Broadway actor, Euan Morton of “Taboo” and “Sondheim on Sondheim,” is currently starring with Fred Arsenault in Yale Rep’s production of Marie Jones’ “Stones in his Pocket” through February 16. Evan Yionoulis directs this production which tells of the impact on an small Irish village of a production team for a major Hollywood production. Morton and Arsenault are playing all of the dozen+ characters, including the star-struck locals and the temperamental ingénue.
Also playing this week and featuring cast members in multiple parts is John Cariani’s “Almost, Maine,” which runs at Hartfords’ Theaterworks through March 3. Under the direction of Amy Saltz, four actors play a variety of residents of a small fictional Maine town who experience the joys and mysteries of love while in awe of the surrounding Northern Lights in this heartwarming comedy.
Later in the season, Theaterworks will be bringing Debra Jo Rupp, the mother in television’s “That ‘70’s Show,” to the Hartford theater to revive her acclaimed performance from last summer at the Barrington Stage Company in Mark St. Germain’s “Dr. Ruth: All the Way.” Julianne Boyd will be repeating her directing chores as Rupp plays the much-admired sex therapist Dr. Ruth Westhheimer. That will play from May 31 through July 7, only after a rising name in theater circles, the playwright Katori Hall, brings her popular play “The Mountaintop” to Theaterworks from March 29 through May 5. This play visits Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., in Memphis on the night before his assassination as his evening is interrupted by a hotel maid.
For those who like big Broadway blockbusters, the Bushnell’s Broadway series has several upcoming shows of interest, including “American Idiot” a rock musical derived from the Green Day album, from February 26 through March 3, “Sister Act,” based on the popular Whoopi Goldberg film, from April 16-21, “Catch Me If You Can,” based on the Tom Hanks-Stephen Spielberg movie, from May 28 through June 2, and the smash hit “Billy Elliott” from June 18 through 23.
For an opportunity to catch a rare review of one of the more popular musicals of the 1930’s, Goodspeed Musicals is reviving “Good News” at their flagship Opera House from April 12 to June 22. The rest of the season in East Haddam will include Jerry Herman’s “Hello, Dolly!” from June 28 to September 8, and Frank Loesser’s “The Most Happy Fella,” from September 20 through December 1.
Known mostly for his films, Woody Allen was a successful playwright in the early days of his career. The Playhouse on Park in West Hartford will be reviving his comic look at a romantic loser who turns to the ghost of Humphrey Bogart for advice, “Play It Again, Sam” from March 6 to 24. Later in the spring, the Playhouse will demonstrate their growing capabilities by staging Kander and Ebb’s “Cabaret” with the company’s co-artistic directors handling direction (Sean Harris) and choreography (Darlene Zoller).
Other shows to look forward this spring at Hartford Stage include Beth Henley’s “Abundance” running from April 4 to 21 and a new production of Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night” under the direction of Artistic Director Darko Tresjnak and featuring Kate McCluggage, who wowed audiences last season in “Bell, Book and Candle.” This production will run from May 18 through June 16.
Long Wharf’s spring season will include William Mastrosimone’s “Ride the Tiger” directed by Artistic Director Gordon Edelstein from March 17 to April 21, followed by Eric Ting’s production of the Pulitzer-Prize winning “Clybourne Park” by Bruce Norris, running from May 8 to June 2.
At Yale Rep, the season will conclude with “A Year with 13 Moons” adapted from the screenplay and film by Rainer Werner Fassbinder by director Robert Woodruff and actor Bill Camp, who will star in the production, which will play from April 26 through May 18.
Of course, just as most of these theaters are concluding their seasons, summer schedules will be getting underway at places like the Westport Country Playhouse, Goodspeed’s Norma Terris Theater and the O’Neill Center in Waterford. We’ll have more about their schedules as the year progresses. But this should give area theatergoers an idea of what’s worth looking forward to on stages throughout Connecticut over the next several months.