Center Theatre Group/Mark Taper Forum Season to Feature Vanya and Sonia..., The Last Confession, Buyer & Cellar and More

By Carey Purcell
27 Aug 2013

Michael Urie
Michael Urie
Photo by Sandra Coudert

The Center Theatre Group/Mark Taper Forum will feature Tony-winning comedies, biographies and celebrity send-ups in its newly announced 2014 season. The lineup will feature Christopher Durang's Tony-winning Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike, Buyer & Cellar and Marjorie Prime.

"It's a season of well-crafted comedies and of powerful dramas filled with intrigue and compassion," Michael Ritchie, CTG artistic director, said in a statement. "We have the perfect balance with three comedies ranging from clever homage to the nutty absurdities of improbable situations, and three dramas — a murder mystery, the story of a towering American figure, and a humane play that turns immortality on its ear."

Additionally, Mark Taper Forum season ticket members will have priority access to Matthew Bourne's Sleeping Beauty and Christopher Plummer's A Word or Two.

The season-at-a-glance follows:



Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike
By Christopher Durang
Directed by Nicholas Martin
Jan. 29, 2014-March 9

"Set in 21st century Bucks County, Pennsylvania, with hints of 19th century Russia, Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike is a riotous comedy with the Chekhovian set-up of a middle-aged Vanya and his stepsister, Sonia, who live together in their ancestral farmhouse, complete with a pond and a cherry orchard. Their normally quiet existence is thrown into upheaval by the surprise visit from their glamorous, movie-star sister, Masha, and her 20-something boyfriend, Spike, the unlikely prophecies of their cleaning lady and an all too important costume party."

The Tallest Tree in the Forest
Written and Performed by Daniel Beaty
A Play with Music
Directed by Moisés Kaufman
World Premiere Production
April 14-May 25

"Obie Award-winning writer and performer Daniel Beaty chronicles Paul Robeson's remarkable life as an artist and political activist in an unforgettable theatrical biography. In The Tallest Tree in the Forest, Beaty embodies not only Robeson but also dozens of the international personalities who crossed Robeson's path. Beaty fills the theatre with the dreams, words and songs (including the American classic "Ol' Man River") of a man who sacrificed everything in the name of liberty." 

The Last Confession
By Roger Crane
Directed by Jonathan Church
United States Premiere
June 7-July 6

"Set within the corridors of power in the Vatican, The Last Confession explores the circumstances surrounding the sudden death of Pope John Paul I in 1978. He died only 33 days after being elected and before he could set his liberal reforms into place. The Vatican refuses to conduct an official investigation into the death but the politically savvy Cardinal Giovanni Benelli (played by Suchet), who had engineered the election of Pope John Paul I, is determined to find the truth."

Buyer & Cellar
Featuring Michael Urie
Written by Jonathan Tolins
Directed by Stephen Brackett
West Coast Premiere
July 9-Aug. 17

"In Buyer & Cellar Alex More (played by Urie) has a story to tell. A struggling actor in Los Angeles, Alex takes a job working in the Malibu basement of a beloved megastar. One day, the Lady Herself comes downstairs to play. It feels like a real bonding in the basement but will their relationship ever make it upstairs?"

Marjorie Prime
By Jordan Harrison
Directed by Pam MacKinnon
With Lois Smith
World Premiere
Sept. 10-Oct. 19

"Marjorie is a clever, wry woman who, at age 85, finds that her memory is failing. She is living out her days at an assisted living facility where she is frequently visited by her anxious, quick-witted daughter, Tess, and her kind, easygoing son-in-law, Jon. With the urging of Jon and the facility and despite Tess' misgivings, a mysterious young man, Walter, joins the group with the hope that he can help reverse Marjorie's decline."

What the Butler Saw
By Joe Orton
Directed by John Tillinger
With Paxton Whitehead
Nov. 12-Dec. 21

"Set in the consulting room of a private psychiatric clinic, the action begins when the very proper Dr. Prentice is interrupted by his wife just as he is about to seduce a beautiful, young woman who is applying for a job as a secretary. As his botched efforts to conceal his actions spiral outrageously out of control, Orton ferociously skewers psychiatry, religion, marriage, morality, government and definitions of gender."

Special Bonus Options for Mark Taper Forum Season Ticket Members

Matthew Bourne's Sleeping Beauty
A Gothic Romance
Music composed by Tchaikovsky
A New Adventures Production
Nov. 21-Dec. 1

"In Matthew Bourne's Sleeping Beauty, the traditional tale of good vs. evil, and of rebirth, is turned upside-down, creating a supernatural love story, across the decades, that even the passage of time itself cannot hinder. Perrault's fairy tale about a young girl cursed to sleep for one hundred years was turned into a legendary ballet by Tchaikovsky and choreographer Marius Petipa in 1890. Bourne takes this date as his starting point, setting the christening of Aurora, the story's heroine, in the year of the ballet's first performance at the height of the fin de siècle period when fairies, vampires and decadent opulence fed the gothic imagination."

Christopher Plummer in
A Word or Two
Written and Arranged by Christopher Plummer
Directed by Des McAnuff
Jan. 19-Feb. 9

"Plummer, who confesses to being "hooked on the intoxication of words," spent much of his time growing up in Montreal reading Ben Jonson, George Bernard Shaw, Shakespeare, Rudyard Kipling, A.A. Milne, Lewis Carroll, Lord Byron, Dylan Thomas, W.H. Auden and Stephen Leacock, and others. His personal take on these literary giants forms a journey from childhood to old age."

Tickets, a full performance schedule and more are available by visiting CenterTheatreGroup.org