Taking a closer look at Madison theater
Oct 29, 2013
04:31 PM
Stage Write

APT's New Season: Playing the Hits

APT's New Season: Playing the Hits

It’s both an anniversary season and a farewell tour—why wouldn’t you play the hits?

American Players Theatre just took the wraps off next year’s summer season lineup, set to launch June 7, 2014. And it’s packed with works by the playwrights who helped the Spring Green company form its classical identity over the past thirty-five years: Shakespeare and Shaw (obviously), Chekhov and Wilde.

Romantic couples are the central theme for the front half of the season, which will be the last that longtime artistic director David Frank will program in an official capacity for APT (artistic director-in-waiting Brenda DeVita takes the reins for 2015). First up are bickering socialites Gwendolen Fairfax and Cecily Cardew, who must sort out their paramours’ dopey deceptions in Oscar Wilde’s hilarious and witty The Importance of Being Earnest. APT last staged the play in 1998, six years into Frank’s tenure. It’s still one of his favorites.

Next up, a double dose of the Bard frames both the wonder and tragedy of love: Frank himself will direct Much Ado About Nothing a play that’s fresh on our pop-culture radars thanks to Joss Whedon’s big-screen adaptation. Can’t help but look forward to enjoying the wonderful and biting romantic repartee between Beatrice and Benedick. Romeo and Juliet gives director Jim DeVita a crack at Shakespeare’s best-known romantic tragedy in—you guessed it--Romeo and Juliet.

APT’s August shows tour the tragicomic hallway of the classical canon. George Bernard Shaw’s The Doctor’s Dilemma—a Shavian selection APT’s never staged before—finds a talented (and hopelessly overloaded) physician hamstrung over which patient he should cure when he’s faced with treating the dying husband of a woman he’s fallen for. Not everyone considers Anton Chekhov funny, but David Frank does, and he’s turned to director John Langs, who just gave us a sure-handed staging of Hamlet this summer, to find the hilarity in Chekhov’s romantic, um, comedy The Seagull. Casting choices haven’t been announced yet, but the role of Arkadina has Tracy Michelle Arnold written all over it.

Meanwhile, the 200-seat Touchstone Theatre’s where the company stretches its legs and pushes a few boundaries. In a deft touch that echoes this season’s side-by-side staging of Hamlet and Tom Stoppard’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, APT will stage Travesties, another Stoppard play, one that mashes up one man’s musings on history with The Importance of Being Earnest . Brenda DeVita makes good on her promise to stage David Mamet in the Touchstone, teeing up the rat-a-tat-tat rapport of American Buffalo, one of Mamet’s most famous plays. (Hey, Brenda, how about casting your husband as Teach?) DeVita then puts on her director’s cap to stage author Joan Didion’s The Year of Magical Thinking, a play about Didion’s experience of enduring her husband’s death while dealing with her daughter’s hospitalization.  

Looking like a solid, crowd-pleasing season all around, and a great send-off for David Frank. Now, if only summer weren’t another eight months away….

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About This Blog

Once upon a time—okay, it was the mid-'80s—a boy saw a performance of The Two Gentlemen of Verona at the annual summer Stratford Festival in Ontario, Canada, and a spark was ignited. Decades later, that spark’s only grown stronger, burning brightly every time the lights go up and the actors begin to tread the stage.

I’ve spent a long time—okay, more than 15 years—watching and writing about Madison’s theater scene. Now, more than ever, it’s clear our bustling burgh is packed with vibrant theater companies doing important, cutting-edge work, whether it’s original and daring content, stunning musicals or thought-provoking stagings of modern and classic plays. Stage Write is a place where we’ll talk about those plays and the people who make them happen, maybe look behind the curtain a little and gain some new perspective on how and why it all comes together. Theater has the power to transform, to educate, to show us who we are and where we’re going in a way no other medium can. Hey, look: The curtain’s rising.

– Aaron R. Conklin
Follow Aaron on Twitter @arconklin

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