Season’s greetings: The new Syracuse Stage schedule selected by producing artistic director Timothy Bond (standing) boasts classic textures. Michael Davis photo
Or maybe it should be a season
for shoehorning brand names into new interpretations, like the new
musical version of a Louisa May Alcott classic or the circus mounting
of a Lewis Carroll evergreen. And in answer to those naysayers who
thought there was too much gloom this year there’s a comedy set in a
blizzard, yet it’s as cold and sweet as a popsicle.
The season opens with Picasso at the Lapin Agile
(Oct. 14-Nov. 1), Steve Martin’s comedy. In 1904 an unknown painter
named Pablo Picasso and an unknown clerk from the Swiss Patent Office
named Albert Einstein frequented the same cabaret in the Montmarte
district of Paris. In this comedy the previously wild-and-crazy Martin
speculates on what would have been said had they met. Also other
visitors: a model for 20th-century hucksterism and the future whirlwind
of popular culture. Originally seen at Chicago’s Steppenwolf Theatre, Picasso has wowed audiences around the country for 16 years, including in five previous productions in Central New York.
Following the template of producing
artistic director Timothy Bond’s first season, two productions will run
concurrently in December. On the Archbold main stage is the big family
item that is also a co-production with the Syracuse University Drama
Department, continuing a tradition now 10 years old. This year a new
musical version of Little Women (Nov. 24-Dec. 27), workshopped in Marie Kemp’s New Play Program, puts the familiar in a new package.
Alcott’s 1869 adventures of the March
girls growing up has already spawned more than a dozen stage
adaptations, some of them musical. The version we’re seeing features
music and lyrics by (Mr.) Kim Oler and Alison Hubbard, and a book by
Sean Hartley. The original songs won a Richard Rodgers Award in 1998,
but the show never made it to Broadway. Instead, by 2005 there was a
different version by Allan Knee (music), Mindi Dickstein (lyrics) and
Jason Howland (book) that failed to catch fire. The
Oler/Hubbard/Hartley show found new life at the Village Theatre in
Everett, Wash., before further tryouts in Connecticut and now here.
This Little Women is a good bet to lure back patrons put off by last year’s multicultural Godspell. The stories of tomboyish Jo and lofty Professor Bhaer (reputedly based on
Thoreau) have retained their appeal through four film adaptations and
Mark Adamo’s opera, slated for the Mulroy Civic Center in the first
week of May. Oler and Hubbard bring extensive television credits, such
as The Tracey Ullman Show. And Anthony Salatino’s choreography always delivers.
Just around the corner in the Storch
Theatre is Syracuse Stage’s second yuletide offering, a one-man
recreation of Frank Capra’s incomparable 1946 film It’s A Wonderful Life. Retitled This Wonderful Life (Dec.
9-Jan. 3), Steve Murray’s retelling was commissioned by the Portland
(Ore.) Center Stage in 2005, and it has since become a hit in regional
theaters in San Jose, Boston, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati and Sarasota. One
brave actor plays 32 characters, from George Bailey and Old Man Potter
through Clarence the Angel and Zuzu, my little ginger snap.
The new year begins with Arthur Miller’s powerhouse drama The Price
(Jan. 27-Feb. 14). Two estranged brothers, one a successful doctor, the
other a cop, meet to sell off the property of their late father. The
“price” of the title refers initially to what an antiques dealer will
offer for the overstuffed inventory and comes to define what each
brother has paid for choices made and resentments engendered. Less
often seen than Miller’s big three, Death of a Salesman, The Crucible and All My Sons, The Price still contains some of the master’s finest work. Bond directs this co-production with Rochester’s GeVa Theatre.
Next comes David Catlin’s Lookingglass Alice (Feb. 24-March 14). In Chicago where this adaptation of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland has run in sold-out houses for more than 3½ years, the Chicago Tribune proclaimed:
“A free-wheeling, circus-loving, theatrical riff on Lewis Carroll’s
classic yarns that a parent cannot help but love.” Aerial acrobatics
and astonishing physicality bring alive Alice, the Mad Hatter, Humpty
Dumpty, the Cheshire Cat, Tweedledum and Tweedledee. The show will be
co-produced with Chicago’s Lookingglass Theatre Company, Alliance
Theatre of Atlanta and Actors’ Theatre of Louisville.
John Cariani’s Almost, Maine (March
24-April 11) is a quirky off-Broadway hit comedy set in a remote corner
of Maine, 500 miles north of Boston, where heavy snow is a constant
fact of life. Eight unlikely couples fall in love under the celestial
enchantment of the aurora borealis. One assumption at 820 E. Genesee
St. is that another winter like this one will prepare audiences to get
the jokes. An earlier production at Cortland Repertory Theatre in
summer 2007 did turn-away business. The comedy will be directed by Skip
Greer and co-produced with Rochester’s GeVa Theatre.
Wrapping the season is a reprise of August Wilson’s Fences
(May 5-23). The tragedy of a Pittsburgh garbage man whose bitterness
threatens to poison his son’s future, it’s generally regarded as
Wilson’s greatest play and arguably the most admired of all
African-American dramas. Fences, which continues Bond’s pledge
to produce all of Wilson’s Pittsburgh dramas, is set in 1957, the
middle of the cycle. Previously produced to much acclaim by Syracuse
Stage in March 1991, the 2010 version will be co-produced with the
Seattle Repertory Theatre, one of the nation’s leading regional