HOUSTON – Artistic director Rob Bundy has announced Stages Repertory Theatre's 1998 - 1999 season, its 20th anniversary. And befitting a company whose annual subscriptions doubled this year,(Bundy's second with the troupe, from a little more than 300 to nearly 700), leading the upcoming bill are recent hits from off-Broadway and London's Fringe. "Our choices for next season reflect Stages' commitment to presenting Houston premieres of plays that are not easily labeled or branded," Bundy declared in a prepared statement. "We seek out innovative plays that break the mold of our expectations, keeping our perceptions of live theater fresh and pliable."
The season beings October 7 - November 1, 1998 with The Pitchfork Disney, British playwright Philip Ridley's first play, which debuted in 1991 at the Bush Theatre in London. Best known for the screenplay of the 1990 hit movie The Krays, which he also directed, Ridley has written numerous novels for adults and for children as well as a few other plays. The Pitchfork Disney. depicts eerily antisocial twins, 28-year-olds who subsist on chocolate and sleeping pills while sequestering themselves in their London flat. When they open their door to a larger-than-life cabaret performer and his grotesquely disfigured assistant, their fear of the outside world does, in fact, come to fruition. Bundy returns to the play that, under his direction, swept the Helen Hayes Awards in Washington, D. C., a little while back.
Another type of funny business occurs November 25, 1998 - January 3, 1999 with Funny Girl. Music by Jule Styne, lyrics by Bob Merrill, and book by Isobel Lennart, Funny Girl made a star out Barbra Streisand, as she portrayed Fanny Brice's rise from "ugly" chorus girl to Ziegfeld Follies' headliner. "I'm the Greatest Star" is one of the show's standards: Stages' greatest star is yet to be revealed. Bundy directs.
Things get more serious January 20 - February 14, 1999, as Mark Ramont helms Athol Fugard's recent off-Broadway triumph Valley Song. In yet another examination of the shackles of apartheid, the award-winning playwright of, among others, Master Harold…and the Boys and The Blood Knot examines, through an emboldened granddaughter and a fearful grandfather, South Africa after oppression has finally been lifted.
Another country, another horror is contemplated March 3 - 28 in Kindertransport, which depicts a little-known rescue operation of Jewish children from Nazi Germany. Playwright Diane Samuels tells the miracle amid the horrors from the point of view of a quintessential middle-aged Englishwoman who has kept her origins from everyone, including her own daughter. Co-winner of the 1992 Verity Bargate Award and the winner of the 1993 Meyer Whitworth Ward, Kindertransport premiered at the Soho Theatre Company at the Cockpit in London and made its American debut at Manhattan Theatre Club in New York in 1994. One type of battle leads to another April 9 - May 2 in Russell Lees' Nixon's Nixon, the off-Broadway smash that "eavesdrops" on Nixon and Kissinger the night before Tricky Dick resigns. The real trick here for Stages will be to see how well the chosen actors resemble the historic personages, if not physically, then surely meta-physically.
Politics may make strange bedfellows. But what about censors? Stages ends its season May 12 - June 6 with F. Hugh Herbert's then-scandalous The Moon is Blue, a 1951 farce in which a virgin flaunts her purity. Deemed risque for using such words as "virgin" and "pregnant," "mistress" and "seduce" in its dialogue, the 1953 film version, with William Holden, David Niven, and Maggie McNamara, and directed by Otto Preminger, was condemned by the Legion of Decency.
For information call Stages at (713) 52-STAGE .
--By Peter Szatmary