Let the casting debates begin!
Paul Giamatti will star as Hamlet next spring at the Yale Repertory Theatre, part of a lively Rep season that includes new works by Sarah Ruhl (with the Clean House playwright devising "a play in letters" from the correspondence between Elizabeth Bishop and Robert Lowell, Nov. 30-Dec. 22), and David Adjmi (letting the scabrous author of The Evildoers loose on the life of Marie Antoinette, Oct. 26-Nov. 17) and a reunion of actor Bill Camp and director Robert Woodruff, who'll co-adapt the Fassbinder film In a Year With 13 Moons.
The Rep season opens Sept. 21 with the historical hysteria of American Night: The Ballad of Juan Jose, written by Richard Montoya of the frantic social satire troupe Culture Clash.
A full-on ferocious and fascinating Yale Rep slate to be sure, but it's Giamatti who's getting most of the attention, even though he's not due to do the Dane until March 15-April 13.
Giamatti went to Yale as an undergrad and also attended the Yale School of Drama. James Bundy, who graduated from the YSD a year after Giamatti and is now dean of the school, will direct the production. Bundy's the guy who got Charles Dutton to star in the Rep's Death of a Salesman a couple years back, so he's doubtless heard all the possible catcalls that allegedly unconventional casting can bring.
The debate will continue to rage until Hamlet struts and frets upon the stage in March. But there's a more immediate casting curiosity to consider — one that opens the Long Wharf Theatre season in October.
Giamatti gained fame in contemporary indie films, and will be portraying a classical theater icon at the Rep. John Douglas Thompson, conversely, is known as one of the greatest classical actors of his generation, and will be taking on 20th century jazz icon Louis Armstrong (not to mention his longtime manager Joe Glaser) in Satchmo at the Waldorf, a one-man two-character show penned by Armstrong biographer (and Wall Street Journal theater critic) Terry Teachout, at Long Wharf Stage II Oct. 3 through Nov. 4. The show got a shakedown a few weeks ago at Shakespeare & Company in the Berkshires, and critics raved.
The rest of the Long Wharf season includes what is an indisputably ideal casting coup — "Serial Mom" Kathleen Turner directing and co-starring in Jeffrey Hatcher's reworking of Frank Marcus' '60s psychodrama The Killing of Sister George (Nov. 28 through Dec. 23). Long Wharf also has new weight-loss-camp "horror comedy" January Joiner by Laura Jacqmin (directed by Long Wharf Associate Artistic Director Eric Ting Jan. 9 through Feb. 10 on Stage II), Sam Shepard's rural revolution Curse of the Starving Class (directed by Long Wharf Artistic Director Gordon Edelstein, Feb. 13-March 10), a new William Mastrosimone drama about Judith Exner's affairs with JFK and mobster Sam Giancana (with Edelstein again directing, March 27 through April 21) and Bruce Norris' current Broadway hit Clybourne Park in a new regional production directed by Ting (May 8 through June 2).
Some theaters don't follow the school-year calendar, and are already in the midst of stellar seasons. Goodspeed Opera House did Mame and is currently in the midst of a smoothly turning Carousel (directed by TheaterWorks stalwart Rob Ruggiero); the bittersweet Rodgers & Hammerstein classic had to be hurriedly recast when the lead actress joined another show on a national tour. In October, Westport Country Playhouse ends its season with Lorraine Hansberry's A Raisin in the Sun — the classic race-based drama which inspired Clybourne Park. (The Long Wharf and Westport Country Playhouse teamed up to offer a package deal on tix to the related shows.)
Broadway shows on tour include Jersey Boys (for a rare two-week run, Sept. 25 through Oct. 7), Shrek the Musical, The Addams Family, Blue Man Group, Les Miserables, American Idiot and West Side Story, all at the Shubert, which also hosts one-night stands of the gospel musical Tell Hell I Ain't Comin', Aaron Caruso in a tribute to Mario Lanza, the swing revue In the Mood, the Second City touring company, John Oliver from "The Daily Show" and Pilobolus Dance Theatre, plus two nights of The Rat Pack is Back Christmas Show.
New London's Garde Arts Center is typically all over the place, with Menopause the Musical, A Chorus Line, Hair and a slew of operas and ballets. The Garde also hosts Nellie McKay, Drumline Live, GIs of Comedy, the flaming fiddlefest Bowfire, Paula Poundstone, "Elvis Lives," the street-circus Traces and many others. John Waters holds a "This Filthy World" talk and booksigning at the Garde November 9.
Hartford's Bushnell, which gets all the first national tours it can fit, has Mary Poppins, Chicago, The Grinch That Stole Christmas, Million Dollar Quartet, Catch Me If You Can, American Idiot, Sister Act and Billy Elliott.
Wesleyan University brings some revered stage experimentalists to the state, such as Anonymous Ensemble (with Liebe Love Amour!, Sept. 22) and Lee Breuer (Glass Guignol, Feb. 16). The Yale School of Drama continues to prophesy the future of performing arts with cutting-edge student productions. And if you enjoyed the recent Yale Summer Cabaret series of storytelling-themed plays, you'll be in good hands at the outset of the school-year Yale Cabaret season, which features many of the same performers and directors, and kicks off with Dustin Wills and Ilya Khodosh's adaptation of the Bulgakov novella The Fatal Eggs Sept. 20-22.
Very little that's tame on local stages this season. Plenty of surprises and hard-to-predict reinterpretations. Brace yourself.Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times