No casting has been announced for the Arena run of Normal, although Michael Greif, who directed the New York engagement, will repeat his work in Virginia. Performance dates are Nov. 21, 2008-Jan. 18, 2009, in Crystal City in Arlington, VA, the DC troupe's temporary location during the renovation of its main facility in Southwest, DC. The acclaimed Off-Broadway production of Next to Normal co-starred Alice Ripley and forthcoming Shrek star Brian d'Arcy James.
Arena describes Next to Normal as such: "How does an almost average family navigate today's over-stimulated and over-medicated world? In this darkly funny and haunting new musical, one suburban household confronts its past and its future. With provocative lyrics and an electrifying score, Next to Normal explores how far two parents will go to keep themselves sane and their world intact."
Next to Normal is part of Arena Restaged, a two-year festival that celebrates "the rich mosaic of our nation's voices." The festival, which coincides with the construction of the Mead Center for American Theater, will feature works by Edward Albee, Tennessee Williams, Daniel Beaty and Karen Zacarías as well as the musicals Irving Berlin's I Love a Piano and the aforementioned Next to Normal.
In a statement Arena Stage artistic director Molly Smith said, "With Arena Restaged we have re-envisioned the structure of programming to be year-round during this time leading up to the 2010 opening of the Mead Center. We've selected productions that preview the breadth of work to come in our new space, and we know our loyal audiences will join us for this adventure as we expand our theater operations and the variety of productions through this celebration of the American voice. Arena also makes a return into the District during this time with productions at the historic Lincoln Theatre."
Arena Restaged will kick off with the world premiere of Daniel Beaty's Resurrection, a co-production with Hartford Stage that will run Aug. 29-Oct. 5 in Crystal City. Featuring music by Daniel Bernard Roumain and direction by Oz Scott, the drama utilizes a mix of "music, poetry, and dance" to tell a story of six African-American men who "collide one evening in an unforgettable look at identity, relationships and, above all, our human connections." Carrie Fisher's memoir, Wishful Drinking, will play the Lincoln Theatre Sept. 5-28. Directed by Tony Taccone, the one-woman production is described as "an incredible tale filled with self-deprecating humor about having Elizabeth Taylor as a stepmother, marrying (and divorcing) Paul Simon, and losing her daughter's father to another man."
Irving Berlin's I Love a Piano — conceived and written by Ray Roderick and Michael Berkeley — will play the Lincoln Theatre Jan. 30-Feb. 15, 2009. The musical utilizes 64 Berlin tunes to "capture the spirit of America from the Ragtime rhythms of the early 20th century through the swinging sophistication of the 1920s and '30s, from the sentimental songs that inspired a nation during two World Wars to the optimism of the 1950s."
Pam MacKinnon will direct Edward Albee's A Delicate Balance, which will play Feb. 6-March 15, 2009, in Crystal City. "Meet Agnes and Tobias," press notes state, "a retired married couple living in a suburban neighborhood with Claire, Agnes's alcoholic sister. When the couple's adult daughter comes home after her fourth failed marriage and two friends move in unexpectedly, the 'delicate balance' of their family life begins to topple. As bitter family rivalries play out over two evenings' cocktails, Albee's sharp and witty dialogue cuts straight to the heart." Balance will boast a cast that includes Kathleen Chalfant, Jayne Houdyshell and Ellen McLaughlin.
Regina Taylor's Off-Broadway and regional hit musical Crowns, adapted from the book by Michael Cunningham and Craig Marberry, will play March 27-April 26, 2009, at the Lincoln Theatre. Crowns, according to Arena, "captures the thrill of self-expression with an intimate look at six women's lives."
Karen Zacarías Legacy of Light will make its world premiere in Crystal City May 8-June 14, 2009. Directed by Molly Smith, the drama concerns "Emilie du Châtelet, an 18th century physicist who falls in love with the renowned writer and philosopher Voltaire. Jump forward to the present day world of Olivia, also a physicist, in remission from cancer. What could these women's stories have in common? . . . Facing motherhood with some trepidation, Emilie fears she will die in labor, leaving her work unfinished, and Olivia wonders how much she will have to sacrifice to be a mother. Both women worry it will cost them their dreams of scientific immortality."
The season will conclude with the classic Tennessee Williams drama, Sweet Bird of Youth, playing May 28-June 27, 2009, at the Lincoln Theatre. Tazewell Thompson will direct the production, "a steamy and suspenseful tale of lost youth and heartbreak. Chance brings the glamorous yet faded actress Alexandra to his Gulf Coast hometown, hoping that the power of her celebrity, however diminished, might ignite his failed acting career and reunite him with a wronged childhood flame. He has no idea of the dangers that lie in wait for him at the Royal Palms Hotel."
Two other productions will be seen in the Arena Presents series: Josh Kornbluth's Citizen Josh (directed by David Dower), Oct. 8-26, 2008 in Crystal City; and Maureen McGovern's A Long and Winding Road. The latter features direction by Philip Himberg and musical direction by Jeff Harris and will play Crystal City March 31-April 12, 2009.
Arena Stage in Crystal City is located at 1800 S. Bell Street in Arlington, VA. Arena Stage at The Lincoln Theatre is located at 1215 U Street, NW in Washington, DC. For more information about the Arena season, visit www.arenastage.org.