Friday, August 12, 2011

Urbana's Station Theater Serves Up an Ambitious 2011-12 Season

Urbana's Station Theater has announced its 2011-12 season, with the usual mix of provocative new plays and musicals. Or musical. "Company" is the only musical listed so far, although there is one open spot next spring that remains to be filled. That's generally the Station's benefit slot, so it definitely could be a musical. Or not.

As for the shows that are already on the schedule, well, they are a pretty impressive array.

First up is Yasmina Reza's "God of Carnage," a bitterly funny play involving two couples whose children had an altercation on the playground. As the couples meet to discuss the playground problem, pretense and politeness are peeled away, revealing the ancient, bred-in-the-bone rage and carnage underneath. "God of Carnage," originally titled Le Dieu du Carnage, was translated into English by Christopher Hampton for its London production, and then Americanized a bit more before it hit Broadway. On Broadway, "God of Carnage" took home Tony awards for Best Show, Best Director (Matthew Warchus) and Best Actress (Marcia Gay Harden). "God of Carnage" will be directed by Station Artistic Director Rick Orr, with performances from October 6 to 22.

The Celebration Company's November show comes from long-time Station actor and writer Mike Trippiedi, who has recently spent more time as a movie-maker than an actor. Trippiedi will direct his own script, called "Way Off Broadway." Since the Station Theater sits on Urbana's Broadway Avenue, I'm wondering if the story is set right there. In the past, Trippiedi's scripts have been more on the dark side, so it will be entertaining to see where he goes with this one. "Way Off Broadway" is set to play the Station November 3 to 19.

After that comes "My Antonia," based on the Willa Cather novel about a young man in 19th century Nebraska and the free-spirited young Bohemian woman he yearns for. No author is listed on the Station's website, but I'm guessing this is the 2009 adaptation of the novel written by playwright Allison Moore. [Note: Turns out I was wrong in my assumption, and this adaptation is by Celebration Company member Jarrett Dapier, who has written a brand-new script especially for the Station.] Gary Ambler directs the world premiere of this adaptation of "My Antonia," with performances scheduled from December 1 to 17.

Director Mathew Green opens the new year with "Gruesome Playground Injuries," playing January 5 to 21. "Gruesome" is a new play by Rajiv Joseph, who recently gained more prominence with "Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo," a finalist for the 2010 Pulitzer Prize. Although it sounds like a companion piece for "God of Carnage," which opens on a playground injury, "Gruesome" concerns two old friends who bump into each over from time to time over the span of 30 years, sharing a propensity for physical and emotional injury. "Gruesome" is not just about hurting, but also healing.

"Company," featuring Stephen Sondheim's music and lyrics and George Furth's book, comes to the Station February 2 to 18, directed by Karma Ibsen. "Company" is all about Bobby, who tries to understand why all his friends have paired off, but he can't quite seem to take the leap into a serious relationship. Songs include the caustic "Ladies Who Lunch" and the stunning "Being Alive" as well as "Getting Married Today," a fun, fizzy look at a bride with seriously cold feet. The recent filmed version starring Neil Patrick Harris was very popular; let's hope the same folks come out to the Station to compare/contrast.

"Becky Shaw," directed by Kay Holley, is the last announced show on the roster, with performances from March 1 to 17. Gina Gionfriddo wrote "Becky Shaw" with an obvious tip o' the hat to Thackeray's "Vanity Fair" and the character Becky Sharp. Gionfriddo's Becky is also a bit of a social climber, with the smarts, the skills and the focus to pull it off. There's a bad blind date, a mugging, dishonesty, cynical romance and even blackmail in "Becky Shaw."

Rick Orr will be back to direct the April show, whatever it turns out to be. Orr kept a slot open for his production of Harold Pinter's "Betrayal" last year. Maybe he will go back to that well and come up with "Old Times" or "The Homecoming" this time. Or, on the subject of betrayal, Tom Stoppard's "The Real Thing." That might be fun.

For more information, you can see the whole schedule here.

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