Hartford Stage has figured out its 2013-14 season, one which both brings back familiar faces from the theater’s illustrious past and updates the repertory-company form with which it was associated for much of its history.
The first two shows on the slate—the second complete season programmed by the theater’s new artistic director Darko Tresnjak—have exactly the same cast members, a nod to Hartford Stage’s legacy as a repertory ensemble for the first couple of decades of its existence, as well as a creative opportunity to explore very different styles with the same acting resources. La Dispute is a mid-18th century comedy about adultery and attraction by Pierre de Marivaux, best known for The Triumph of Love (which has been staged locally both as a straight play and a musical over the years. Macbeth is an early 17th century tragedy about bloodthirsty power by William Shakespeare, most recently performed at a major regional theater in Connecticut when Eric Ting set it in a Vietnam-era American veterans hospital a couple of seasons ago at Long Wharf. Tresnjak’s rendition, which co-stars Kate Forbes as Lady Macbeth, may be more traditional. La Dispute and Macbeth play in repertory September 12 through November 10.
The next two shows will also be familiar to longtime Long Wharf subscribers. Steve Martin’s The Underpants (January 9 through February 2) is actually a co-production with the Long Wharf, which will also be presenting it this season. (No other part of the Long Wharf 2013-14 season has yet been announced, so consider Hartford Stage’s announcement a sneak preview.) The comedy is adapted from Die Hose, a 1910 play by Expressionist German writer Carl Sternheim, Martin’s adaptation was first produced in New York in 2002 and has since become a college and community theater staple. Long Wharf artistic director Gordon Edelstein directs this co-production.
Noel Coward’s A Song at Twilight is recalled hereabouts as one of the swansong productions of Long Wharf’s longest serving artistic director, Arvin Brown. The Hartford Stage staging, February 20 through March 16, is another co-production, this time with Westport Country Playhouse, whose artistic director Mark Lamos directs it. The play, originally presented in the mid-1960s as one-third of Suite in Three Keys (a trilogy of full-length works all set in the same hotel suite), was also a swansong for Coward, who made it one of the last plays he wrote for himself to act in. It’s a prescient-for-its-time romantic drama about a closeted gay writer confronted by a woman he dated years earlier.
Matthew Lopez, whose The Whipping Man was the most produced play of the last regional theater season (and was seen at Hartford Stage in the spring of 2012), wrote Somewhere, getting its East Coast premiere at Hartford Stage April 3-27 (2014). Somewhere is about West Side Story serving as an inspiration for a starstruck Latina mother. Giovanni Sardelli directs, and Priscilla Lopez has already been cast in the lead role of Inez Candelaria, a role she created in the world premiere production in 2011 at the Old Globe in San Diego. The L.A. Times called Somewhere “both a sprawling family drama and a coming-of-age story.”
The main season ends with the May 22 through June 15 (2014) run of Love and Other Fables, a world-premiere musical from Jay Jeffries and John McMahon. John Rando (who did Urinetown, The Wedding Singer and A Christmas Story in New York, and is also active in regional theater new-musical workshops) directs. According to McMahon, Love and Other Fables is drawn from Aesop’s Fables, but not the way you may thin. “It’s not actually based on Aesop’s Fables but about what we know to be his life. We see Aesop relate the fables, use them to manipulate people, reach people and a couple of times, save his own life, but mostly it’s about his early life as a slave to the philosopher Xanthus and how he came to be a member of King Croesus’ court in Lydia, which is today modern Turkey. The style the show closest resembles is Boys From Syracuse.” [Note: McMahon's comments here came from an email clarification of the original posting of this article. I am thankful for the corrections, and regret earlier misstatements.]
Hartford Stage is not forsaking its annual staging of A Christmas Carol—A Ghost Story of Christmas, which has been at the theater since Michael Wilson became artistic director there in the mid-1990s. The piece is now credited as “Adapted and originally directed by Michael Wilson; directed by Maxwell Williams.” The running dates for A Christmas Carol—A Ghost Story of Christmas have not yet been released.
Hartford Stage subscriptions went on sale Friday, March 22. Single tickets to the shows won’t be available until July. For more details, see http://www.hartfordstage.org