Two and four. Four of Syracuse Stage’s productions for the 2011-2012 season will appear in the usual venue, the 499-seat Archbold Theater at 820 E. Genesee St. Two others, the season opener featuring a new adaptation of Henry James’ literary ghost story The Turn of the Screw (Sept. 21-Oct. 16), and the season closer, Tarell Alvin McCraney’s The Brothers Size (April 18-May 13), will appear next door in the newly reconfigured Storch Theater, now up to 260 seats with seating available on three sides of the performance area.
Two and four, again. Two of next season’s offerings are recent Broadway critical hits: Caroline, or Change (taking the feared dead-ofwinter slot of Feb. 1-26) and John Logan’s Red (March 7-25), on the personal and artistic struggles of painter Mark Rothko. Neither, however, was a box-office smash. The others come from off-Broadway, regional theaters or Britain.
Two and four, yet again. Two productions are musicals. Adrian Mitchell’s adaptation of C.S. Lewis’ The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe (Nov. 25-Dec. 31) is based on the enormously popular yarns of four children in the realm of Narnia, where the White Witch holds inhabitants spellbound. The show opened in London in 1998, and has been performed continually in Britain ever since. The score is by Shaun Davey, who is fondly remembered here for his music for James Joyce’s The Dead. This will be the holiday show, co-produced with the Syracuse University Drama Department, with Dianne Adams McDowell as music director, and Linda Hartzell as director. Marcela Lorca directs the second musical, Caroline, or Change, which focuses on a black servant in a Louisiana Jewish household during the turbulent summer of 1963. The book and lyrics from Tony Kushner (Angels in America) combine with a score by Jeanine Tesori (Thoroughly Modern Millie) to present a black/Jewish cultural and musical interface that mixes blues, gospel and traditional Jewish melodies.
One and five. An element of risk-taking and edginess will be general all season. Although several of next season’s shows are based on strong literary properties by the likes of James and Lewis, none has the brand recognition of, say, Rent or The Miracle Worker. The one show that looks like comfort food is Tom Griffin’s The Boys Next Door (Oct. 19-Nov. 6). It’s a heartwarming comedy about developmentally disabled adults in a group home, as the men, and their supervisor, struggle to make sense of their world.
Griffin’s work has been well-received in community theater (it was mounted two years ago by Appleseed Productions), and as a much-loved TV-movie adaptation in 1996. Syracuse Stage producing artistic director Timothy Bond guides The Boys Next Door, which is presented in celebration of the 60th anniversary of ARC of Onondaga, which works with the developmentally disabled of Onondaga County.
The opening production, featuring playwright Jeffrey Hatcher’s take on Henry James’ The Turn of the Screw, should not be confused with The Innocents, staged and filmed many times. This stripped-down version opened in Westport, Conn., in 2007, and features only two players: a woman as the governess in a remote English estate and one male as all the other characters. Playwright Hatcher has been extraordinarily popular with local companies in five different productions. He also wrote A Picasso, a prize-winner for Simply New Theatre, and Crash, an adaptation of a forgotten George Bernard Shaw novel for Le Moyne College. Michael Barakiva directs this show.
British playwright John Logan is equally known for his stage plays (Never the Sinner, Scorched Earth) as he is for film scripts (Gladiator, The Last Samurai, The Aviator). His two-character drama Red was a hit in London before it came to New York City to capture the Tony Award for Best Drama of 2010.
Abstract expressionist painter Rothko has accepted a commission for a series of murals in Manhattan’s posh Four Seasons restaurant and struggles with a young protégé over the methods and purposes of art. Penny Metropulos will direct.
Still only 31, Tarell Alvin McCraney was the most acclaimed American playwright under age 30 when his The Brothers Size emerged from workshops at Yale to dazzle critics at New York City’s Public Theatre. McCraney charts the epic struggle of two brothers in a small place; in a realistic setting, both embody forces harnessed from West African mythology. Although once an assistant to August Wilson, McCraney’s is a distinctly different black voice, drawing on reserves of dance, poetry, music and Yoruba mythology.
The brothers of the title come to blows in the Louisiana bayou. Hardworking Ogun must contend with aimless Oshoosi, just out of prison. An old prison mate, Elegba, proves to be an enticing tempter. Winner of the Olivier Award for best drama in London, Syracuse Stage’s season-closing Brothers Size will be directed by Tim Bond.