Saturday, September 25, 2010

The Station Theatre Starts Its 39th Season

Urbana's Station Theatre opens its fall season September 30th with one of the hottest shows in the country. Annie Baker's "Circle Mirror Transformation," a thoughtful, moving little play about the relationships that entangle the members of an acting class in a community center in Vermont, won an Obie for its October 2009 Playwrights Horizons production in New York. Since then, it's shown up on schedules everywhere, like the Guthrie in Minneapolis, Studio Theatre in DC, Boston Center for the Arts, South Coast Rep in California, and smaller theaters in Phoenix, Pittsburgh and Austin. It will come to Victory Gardens in Chicago next February, but the Station looks to be the first Illinois production, with Mikel Matthews directing a cast of five, including Celebration Company favorites Katie Baldwin, David Barkley, Lincoln Machula and Debbie Richardson.

The circle, mirror and transformation in the title refer to exercises the characters take on in their acting class; by playing these games, they begin to grow and change in ways they never would've imagined. "Circle Mirror Transformation" runs Wednesdays through Sundays through October 16.

Next up is Keith Huff's "A Steady Rain" directed by Gary Ambler. This is a successful Chicago play about two cops, long-time partners, trying to work through who should bear responsibility for a dangerous, horrifying screw-up. It hit Broadway with Hugh Jackman and Daniel Craig as the cops, and their star power seemed to overshadow the script a bit. When it was in Chicago, Chris Jones of the Tribune called it "a gritty, rich, thick, poetic and entirely gripping noir tale."

For the Station, Mathew Green and Mike Prosise will step into Craig's and Jackman's shoes, with performances from October 28 to November 13.

Kay Holley directs "Almost, Maine," a quirky love story (or stories) by John Cariani, as the weather gets colder. According to the "Almost, Maine" website, the play "inventively explores the mysteries of the human heart, touching audiences with laughter, heartache and hope." The play runs December 2 to 18.

Theresa Rebeck's "Mauritius," about estranged sisters and some unsavory con men all fighting over an inheritance of valuable stamps, runs January 13 to 29, under the direction of Mike Prosise. Rebeck is best-known as a writer and producer on "Law & Order," and she seems to gravitate toward stories of deception and betrayal. "Mauritius" is no exception.

Playwright Sarah Ruhl, who has merged elements of mythology and magic with everyday life and love in plays like "The Clean House" and "Dead Man's Cell Phone," has offered a new version of the classic Greek tale about Orpheus traveling to the Underworld to bring back his beloved wife in "Eurydice," which director Mathew Green brings to the Station February 10-26. It's non-linear and poetic, taking more of a look at Eurydice and her choices than the original myth.

Celebration Company Artistic Director Rick Orr will direct something yet to be determined in the March slot, and then Michael Foster will take the helm on "The Light in the Piazza," the delicate, beautiful musical with book by Craig Lucas and music and lyrics by Adam Guettel, running from April 7 to 30. "The Light in the Piazza," about a mother and daughter carefully navigating a trip to Italy in 1953, won six Tony Awards for its 2005 Broadway production, including Best Leading Actress (for Victoria Clark, who played the mother), Best Score and Orchestrations, and Best Scenic, Costume and Lighting Designs.

"Glee" fans already know that Matthew Morrison, who plays teacher Will Schuester, was in the Lincoln Center production of "The Light in the Piazza," and he was nominated for a Tony for his performance as the handsome Italian man who pursues the daughter.

I'm guessing that "The Light in the Piazza" will be the Station's spring benefit show. If that's the case, it's a lovely choice.

All Celebration Company shows begin at 8 pm, and ticket prices range from $8 to $15, depending on day of the week. Visit their most instructive website for more information.

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