Here Comes the Fall Season

*published on Sept 8, 2011 in EDGE

After an earthquake, record heat, and a near miss hurricane (which closed the Broadway, every cultural institution and the entire MTA transit system), we are certainly due for a wonderful inspiring, diverting and hilarious fall season.

Here EDGE offers a few tidbits to whet your palate and get you to unleash your credit cards to make reservations.

Star power

“The Mountaintop,” a drama, by Katori Hall, is set on the evening of April 3,1968, the night before Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated. Samuel L. Jackson, making a return to Broadway after 20 years, plays King. He is a man alone with his thoughts, talking to a hotel employee, played by Jackson’s longtime friend, the incomparable Angela Bassett. At The Bernard Jacobs Theatre. Previews September 22, opens October 13)

Samuel L. Jackson as Martin Luther King in a publicity photo for "The Mountaintop"

Hollywood also comes to Broadway with the World premier of “Relatively Speaking,” three one-act comedies by Oscar nominee Elaine May, and Oscar winners Ethan Coen and Woody Allen. It is directed by John Turturro and stars among others, Marlo Thomas, Julie Kavner, Steve Guttenberg, Ari Graynor, Danny Hoch and Lisa Emery (remember “Footloose,” the original). It begins previews on September 20 at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre with an opening date of October 20.

David Henry Hwang’s play “Chinglish” is about a crash course in Chinese gulped down by an English-speaking businessman. Hwang’s previous plays, including the Tony-winning “M.Butterfly” and the Pulitzer-Prize runner-up “Yellow Man,” excite and create jolts between cultures. At the Longacre Theater. Previews begin October 11 opening October 27.

Sex and the city, 1930s style

Noel Coward’s “Private Lives” comes to Broadway starring Kim Cattrall; do we still need to say, of “Sex in the City” fame? She plays Amanda to Canadian actor Paul Gross’s Elyot. At the Music Box Theater previews November 6, opens November 17.

Kim Cattrall in the London production of "Private Lives," coming to Broadway

Nina Arianda wowed audiences last season (and scored a Tony nom) for “Born Yesterday.” Just prior to that she did the same off Broadway with her performance in David Ives’ provocative “Venus in Fur.” Will she repeat when the show moves to Broadway where she’s paired with British hunk Hugh Dancy? At the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre Previews October 13, Opens November 8.

Also moving up from downtown is the Judson Church version of “Lysistrata Jones,” a sexy jump from Aristophanes regarding the power of chastity via gospel and funk. At the Walter Kerr Theatre Preview November 12, opens December 14.

Back again

Revivals, revivals, revivals. Soon to open is the much anticipated transfer from DC’s Kennedy Center of “Follies,” the Stephen Sondheim/James Goldman musical about a haunted party held in an old Broadway theater featuring Bernadette Peters, Jan Maxwell, Danny Burstein, Ron Raines and Elaine Paige. Will this cult hit at last be a Broadway hit? At the Marquis Theater; in previews, opening September 12.

Bernadette Peters in the revival of "Follies"

Another, but very different, 1970s musical “Godspell” returns at the Circle in the Square with teen-throb Hunter Parrish (from Showtime’s “Weeds”) as its star. Previews start on October 13, with a November 7 opening.

Musicals reinvented

Still scheduled (though rumors are flying that it might be cancelled) is the musicalized version of the opera “Porgy and Bess,” retitled “The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess,” which is currently in a sold-out run at the American Repertory Theater in Cambridge, MA with Audra McDonald and Norm Lewis. But it has found it has two strikes against it – the damning words of both Stephen Sondheim and New York Times critic Ben Brantley, which is said to have the producers thinking of scuttling its New York run, still scheduled at the Richard Rodgers Theatre; previews begin December 17 with a opening scheduled for January 12, 2012.

The most curious revival of all looks to be “On a Clear Day You Can See Forever,” which playwright Peter Parnell turns into a time-tripping, gender-crossing love story featuring Harry Connick, Jr. as a psychiatrist whose patient, a gay florist, may be the reincarnation of a female 1940s nightclub singer, with whom he falls in love. The 1965 Alan Jay Lerner-Burton Lane tuner is being revamped by Michael Mayer, Tony-winner for “Spring Awakening.” At the St. James Theater, previews begin November 12, opens December 11.

Old and new

Frank Langella is back on the boards in “Man and Boy” playing a very mean dad in a revival of British playwright Terrence Rattigan’s depression era drama. It failed in 1963, but a recent London revival has sparked interest in this Broadway revival presented by the Roundabout Theatre Company. Previews begin September 9 with an October 9th opening at the American Airlines Theater.

The Roundabout is also presenting the New York premiere of Stephen Karam’s “Sons of the Prophet,” a dark comedy about a pair of gay brothers living in Rust Belt Pennsylvania whose father is killed unexpectedly in a college-prank-turned deadly. Tony-winner Joanna Gleason heads the cast. Karam attracted considerable attention with his earlier play “Speech and Debate.” At the Laura Pels Theatre. Previews begin September 28, opens October 20.

Kelsey Kurz and Joanna Gleason in a publicity photo for "Sons of a Prophet"

Broadway premieres

Theresa Rebeck is building a considerable career with plays like “The Understudy,” “Mauritius” and “Spiked Heels.” Her latest — “Seminar” is a biting satire of the world of literature. Alan Rickman stars as a famous novelist giving writing classes to four aspiring novelists. Among his students are up-and-coming stars Lily Rabe and Hamish Linklater. The literary fur flies at the John Golden Theatre, previews begin October 27, opening November 20.

Alan Rickman, who is to star in Theresa Rebeck’s "Seminar"

One of the most acclaimed plays of recent years to turn up at regional theaters is “Stick Fly,” Lydia Diamond’s piercing look at issues of race and class in a well-to-do African-American family vacationing at their Martha’s Vineyard summer home. Produced by Alica Keys and directed by Kenny Leon, the cast features Dulé Hill, Mekhi Phifer, Tracie Thoms, Ruben Santiago-Hudson and Condola Rashad. At the Cort Theatre, previews start November 18, opening December 8.

Love stories

In December “Bonnie and Clyde” becomes a musical with a Frank Wildhorn/Don Black score. The musical, which follows the criminal exploits of Depression-era folk heroes Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow, arrives after successful runs in Southern California and Florida. Jeremy Jordan and Laura Osnes, who starred in the show’s Florida run, play the title characters. At the Schoenfeld Theatre; previews begin November 4, opens December 1.
Jeremy Jordan and Laura Osnes in the new musical "Bonnie and Clyde"
Tony-winners (both for “Evita”) Patti Lupone and Mandy Patinkin team again for an intimate evening of song that promises something a bit different from the standard concert – a love story told in some of the greatest songs ever written. Called “An Evening with Patti Lupone and Mandy Patinkin,” it comes to the Ethel Barrymore, previews November 16, and opens November 21.

Patti Lupone and Mandy Patinkin bring their evening of love songs to Broadway this November

Mr. Brook & Mr. Beckett

Off-Off Broadway at the Public Theater, in Richard Nelson’s “The Sweet and Sad” a family has lunch on the tenth anniversary of September 11; and, yes, the play opens that same day. The family – the liberal Apple family of Rhinebeck, NY – was seen last season in Nelson’s “That Hopey Changey Thing,” which followed them on Election Night 2010. At the Public Theatre, through September 25.

More at the Public is monologist Mike Daisey musing on the former Apple CEO touring his Chinese factories. “The Agony and Ecstasy of Steve Jobs” which runs at the Public Theatre from October 11 – November 17.

The Theater For A New Audience presents legend Peter Brook directing a collection of Beckett shorts called “Fragments,” opens November 9. Author’s prejudice, (I would watch Brook direct the opening of an envelope.) The show consists of “Rough for Theatre I,” “Rockaby,” “Act without Words II,” “Neither” and “Come and Go.” At the Baryshnikov Arts Center, Howard Gilman Performance Space; runs November 9 and closes December 4.

Acclaimed director Peter Brook

Hemingway on stage

The Elevator Repair Service enacts another prose work, the final in its ’lit’ trilogy. These are the folks who brought you “Gatz” (their innovative stage adaptation of “The Great Gatsby” in which the entire novel was read aloud). this time it is Hemingway’s “The Sun Also Rises,’ called “The Select.” New York Theatre Workshop now previewing opens September 11, closes October 9.

A scene from the Elevator Repair Service’s "The Select"

Playwrights Horizons’ season debuts with Itamar Moses new play “Completeness,” a love story of two scientists colliding. Directed by Obie Award winner Pam MacKinnon; at Playwrights Horizons, September 13 – 25.

La MaMa, famed old guard of experimentalism, whose fearless leader, Ellen Stewart passed away this January, will present a gala 50th Season. Too many shows to list but check it out; the official birthday is October 18th day. If you haven’t visited the La MaMa archives, they are open to the public and you can see the receipt for the first theater as well as masks, scripts and videos from the birth of experimental theater. For more information, visit the La MaMa website

Politics take center stage

The Lincoln Center Theater presents a commissioned play (by J.T. Rogers), “Blood And Gifts,” which tells the story of the secret spy war behind the official Soviet-Afghan War of the 1980s. Spanning a decade and playing out in Washington DC, Pakistan, and Afghanistan, the talented Bartlett Sher is at the director’s chair. The play was a sell-out hit last year at London’s Royal National Theatre. Mitzi Newhouse Theater preview Oct 27 with an opening on November 12.

A scene from the Royal National Theatre production of "Blood And Gifts"

And LC goes back to Broadway with Jon Robin Baitz’ “Other Desert Cities” starring Stockard Channing, Rachel Griffiths, Stacy Keach; directed by Joe Mantello. The drama concerns a Republican couple with ties to the Reagan Administration whose comfortable retirement is thrown into turmoil when their daughter announces she is writing a volatile political memoir. The fireworks transpire at The Booth Theatre, previews October 12, with an opening on November 3.

Wilson meets Macheath

And in Brooklyn, BAM, The Brooklyn Academy of Music, celebrates its 150th anniversary presenting the uber-talented Robert Wilson’s vision of Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill’s Berliner Ensemble’s “The Threepenny Opera.” At the Gillman Opera House October 4 – 8. Also don’t miss a talk with BAM artistic director Joe Melillo and Director Wilson on Oct 6, 6pm at BAM Rose Cinemas.

A scene from Robert Wilson’s production of "The Threepenny Opera" by the Berliner Ensemble

The acclaimed performance ensemble Phantom Limb-led by the company’s Co-Artistic Directors Erik Sanko and Jessica Grindstaff presents “69oS.” a show that melds puppetry, theater, film, music, dance, and photography to create dynamic tableaux vivants inspired by explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton’s legendary 1914 trans- Antarctic expedition. The work, presented in its New York premiere, features Sanko’s original score – as recorded by collaborators Kronos Quartet. November 2-5 at the Harvey.

St. Ann’s celebrates

And more Beckett, Krapp’s Last Tape at BAM’s Harvey Theater December 6-18 with John Hurt as the protagonist. St. Ann’s Warehouse, always cutting edge, celebrates its 30th anniversary with (among others) the opera “Stop the Virgins,” co-created by Karen O & KK Barrett and directed by Adam Rapp. (October 12-22).

Among the eight shows that follow in the season are Irish director-playwright Enda Walsh’s apocalyptic solo show “Misterman” with Cillian Murphy (November 30 – December 21); Also an appearance by The Wooster Group, who will be collaborating with the New York City Players on a program of early Eugene O’Neill works bundled together as “Early Plays ,” which runs from February 15 – March 4, 2012.

Cillian Murphy in "Misterman"

Eisenberg writes and stars…

Back in Manhattan at the Cherry Lane Theatre Jesse Eisenberg, the Oscar-nominated star of “The Social Network,” makes his New York debut as a playwright with “Asuncion.” Two liberal friends’ self-perceptions are challenged when a young Filipina woman becomes their new roommate. Eisenberg also acts, Kip Fagan directs. Presented by Rattlestick Playwrights Theater, previews October 12, opens October 27.

Justin Bartha and Jesse Eisenberg. The young Hollywood actors co-star in Eisenberg’s play "Asuncion"

And the Manhattan Theater Club presents at the City Center Stage I, “We Live Here,” a world premiere by Zoe Kazan (yes, Elia Kazan’s granddaughter). The commissioned work is about a contemporary family coming together through grief and celebration. At the City Center Stage I, September 22 – October 30.

And finally, outta town, but worth the travel. The George Street Playhouse, in New Brunswick, N.J. “It Shoulda Been You” directed by David Hyde Pierce, with book and lyrics by his partner Brian Hargrove and music by Music by Barbara Anselmi. It stars Tyne Daly, the always hilarious Harriet Harris, Edward Hibbert, and Howard McGillin; and is designed by the always-divine William Ivy Long. A peek into Long’s studio promises acres of frothy wedding fantasy. The fun begins on October 4 and runs through November 6. For more information, visit the theater’s website.

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