As befits a theatre company that keeps its professional residence at Harvard University, American Repertory Theatre will offer a season featuring Euripides, Moliere, Shakespeare and Brecht. Artistic director Robert Brustein will also have a play staged, and Elizabeth Egloff will set flying a new adaptation of "Peter Pan."
Here's the 1997-98 season line-up for Cambridge, MA's American Repertory Theatre:
The Bacchae (Nov. 21-Jan. 21, 1998, in repertory)
When Thebans deny the existence of the god Dionysus, he punishes them by unleashing the full force of female sexuality -- with results both comic and tragic. Francois Rochaix, who previously staged The Oresteia at ART, will direct Paul Schmidt's translation of Euripides' drama.
Peter Pan And Wendy (Dec. 12-Jan. 22, 1998, in repertory)
Not to be confused with Mabou Mines' Peter And Wendy, this adaptation of J.M. Barrie's fable will follow in the footsteps of ART's family show, The King Stag. Marcus Stern directs this tale, where "Peter discovers that love and family relationships ultimately fill the void we so desperately seek in our traversings through life." Adaptor Elizabeth Egloff's recent works include The Swan and The Lover.
Stern is an associate director at American Rep; he's worked at NY's Public Theatre (The Treatment), Primary Stages, Soho Rep, Actors Theatre Of Louisville and L.A.'s Taper Too.
2.5 Minute Ride (Jan. 6-18, 1998)
A new solo work by "Lesbian Brother" Lisa Kron (101 Humiliating Stories). The writer/actress tells of the trip she took with her 74 year-old father -- a Holocaust survivor -- to Auschwitz. Also part of the mix: other true family travels and her brother's marriage to an internet bride. The Taming Of The Shrew (Jan. 30-March 21, 1998)
Andrei Serban directs William Shakespeare's battle-of-the-sexes, wherein Petruchio woos wild Kate. Shrew marks Serban's return to ART after eight years. Previously plays staged there by Serban include Twelfth Night and The Good Woman Of Setzuan.
And speaking of Bertolt Brecht, running Feb. 20-March 14, 1998 is In The Jungle Of The Cities, translated by Paul Schmidt and directed by Robert Woodruff. A poetic meditation on the American Dream set in Chicago flophouses, Jungle tells of "an inexplicable wrestling match between two men."
Nobody Dies On Friday (April 1998)
Marilyn Monroe continues to inspire playwrights and screenwriters, including Robert Brustein, whose new play will be directed by David Wheeler. Friday tells of Monroe's visits to the house of her acting coach, Lee Strasberg, whenever she needed acting lessons or to seek asylum from Hollywood craziness. The play not only looks at her, but the tensions she brings out among the four Strasbergs, who quarrel over art, theatre and the cult of celebrity.
The Imaginary Invalid (May 8-31, 1998)
Moliere's last play, a satire of the medical profession wherein hypochondriacal Argan decides his daughter must marry a physician so that he'd always have ready healthcare. Shelley Berc translates the farce, which is directed by ART veteran, Andrei Belgarder (Ubu Rock).
American Rep uses a resident acting company, including Remo Airaldi, Thomas Derrah, Alvin Epstein, Benjamin Evett, Kristen Flanders, Jeremy Geidt, Will LeBow, Karen McDonald, Charles Levin, Don Reilly, Stephen Rowe and Jack Willis, alongside Leslie Beatty, Jay Boyer, D'metrius Conley-Williams, Emma Roberts and other new members.
Even before the new season starts, ART will offer audiences a late summer treat with the return of Brustein & David Gordon's Shlemiel The First, Sept. 9-28. The show, conceived at Yale Rep in 1974, eventually made its way to ART, to Philadelphia's American Music Theatre Festival (AMTF), to Lincoln Center's Serious Fun! Festival in New York, and to L.A.'s Geffen Playhouse earlier this summer.
A klezmer musical, Shlemiel is adapted from stories by Yiddish/English author, Isaac Bashevis Singer. You don't have to be Jewish to identify with the denizens of Chelm, the mythical, Eastern European village. In their gentle foolishness, the Chelm dwellers display an odd kind of logic and wisdom. Loosely translated from Yiddish, the word "Shlemiel" denotes a fool with a penchant for harmless bad luck. (The classic definition of shlemiel and shlimazel runs like this: in a restaurant, a shlemiel is the hapless waiter who spills coffee on a customer. A shlimazel is the customer.)
In Shlemiel The First, the hero sets on a journey to spread the town council's wisdom throughout the world. Tricked on his journey, he immediately ends up back in his hometown -- only he thinks it's a duplicate village with people who look and act the same as in Chelm.
Songs in Shlemiel The First include "We're Talking Chelm," "He's Going To Die," "Can This Be Hell?", "Meshugah" and "Yenta's Blintzes."
An eight-piece band backs up this happy foolishness, with music composed, adapted and orchestrated by Hankus Netsky. Zalmen Mlotek added additional music and arrangements, with Arnold Weinstein providing the lyrics. Gordon, whose extraordinary The Mysteries And What's So Funny? played two engagements Off Broadway, is a noted choreographer.
Appearing in Shlemiel The First are Remo Airaldi, Benjamin Evett, Will LeBow, Charles Levin, Marilyn Sokol, Scott Cunningham, Ron Bobb Semple, and Maureen McVerry. Sets are by Robert Israel, costumes by Catherine Zuber, sound by Christopher Walker and lighting by Peter Kaczorowski.
As founding director of the Yale Repertory and American Rep, Brustein has supervised nearly 200 productions. He serves as director of the Loeb Drama Center, Professor of English at Harvard, and drama critic for The New Republic. These days, he's most celebrated for his public arguments with playwright August Wilson about multi-cultural casting.
For tickets and information on the American Repertory Theatre season, call their Info-Line at (617) 547-8300 or check out their website at http://www.amrep.org.
-- By David Lefkowitz