By Bill Hirschman
GableStage Artistic Director Joe Adler may be one of the last to announce his season each year, but, as usual, the 2013-2014 slate is worth the wait, including the just- coronated Tony winner for best play, Christopher Durang’s hilarious Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike.
Equally notable is the debut of hometown hero Tarell Alvin McCraney’s reinterpretation of Antony and Cleopatra in a joint production with the Royal Shakespeare Company and the Public Theatre in New York City that is likely to attract international attention.
Also in the mix is The Mountaintop about the last days of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., The Whale about a brilliant but morbidly obese tutor trying to reestablish connections with the daughter he abandoned as his death closes in, off-Broadway’s current My Name Is Asher Lev based on the novel by Chaim Potok, and The Performers billed as a romantic comedy about two high-school friends who reconnect at the Adult Film Awards in Las Vegas.
The shows continue GableStage’s respected reputation for producing thought-provoking plays that have been a hit in New York or other regional theaters during the previous two or three seasons, such as its current show about modern relationships, Cock.
“We’re not just looking for Tony winners. We’re just looking for good theater,” Adler said Friday. “I’m always keeping in touch with what’s going on (in theater with new plays). I try to stay abreast of what’s out there. I read all the New York papers and Backstage (the industry magazine) and Chicago (publications). During the year I make a list and then go after them.”
Although he scouts potential shows in New York City, he doesn’t always see the production of the shows he eventually chooses. For instance, he has not seen the Vanya production, which has been extended twice through this summer; he has only read the script.
Each year, several area theaters seek the licensing rights for the buzziest new plays. The licensing companies usually choose only one theater in a geographical area each season in the years shortly after a play is made available. In South Florida, there has often been interest from more than one company to do the same show and Adler said at least two of these titles were sought by other troupes.
The licensing decision is often based on which theater has the largest auditorium and can sell the most tickets, but some of it is based on long-running relationships such as those Adler has with the licensing staffs. In a conversation with this reporter this spring, a licensing company official immediately asked how Adler was doing.
The slate is:
Nov. 23-Dec. 22: My Name is Asher Lev:
A drama by Aaron Posner, adapted from the popular novel by Chaim Potok (The Chosen) is set in post-WWII Brooklyn. It tells of a young Jewish painter torn between his Hasidic upbringing, and the desperate need to fulfill his artistic promise — against the will of family, community and tradition. The play premiered in 2008 and had 15 productions at regional theaters such as the Long Wharf Theatre. The most recent version opened in New York last November and has been extended through the end of the summer. It won the Outer Critics Circle Award for Best New Off-Broadway Play.
Jan. 11-Feb. 9: Antony & Cleopatra: by William Shakespeare, adapted and directed by Tarell Alvin McCraney. As discussed in our previous story (click here), this is a new reimagining of the classic play as McCraney did with Hamlet this season. It still uses the Bard’s language, but McCraney transports the tale to the late 1700s on the eve of the Haitian Revolution against the French. The play will use a cast drawn from England, New York and South Florida, and will play first at the Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford-Upon-Avon, then GableStage and finally the Public Theatre in New York. The plan is to perform it at the 430-seat Colony Theatre in Miami Beach instead of GableStage’s 155-seat theater at the Biltmore Hotel because it will have a shorter than usual run in Florida. Thousands of Miami-Dade school children will see the production during the day.
March 15-April 13: The Mountaintop: by Katori Hall, is described in a news release as “The night before his assassination, after delivering one of his most memorable speeches, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. retires to room 306 in the now famous Lorraine Motel in Memphis. While a storm rages outside, a mysterious young maid arrives with some surprising news — and King is forced to confront his past and the future of his people.” The play won the 2010 Olivier Best New Play Award and has been produced around the country including editions in Houston, Washington, D.C., and a New York production starring Samuel L. Jackson and Angela Bassett.
May 17-June 15: Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike: GableStage rarely stages comedies, but its predilection for wry social commentary is perfectly in line with this hilarious yet incisive satire from Christopher Durang’s famously offbeat vision. Read our review of the New York production by clicking here. Vanya won the Tony Award less than a week ago (and a raft of others honors). In a modern riff on Three Sisters and the entire Chekov canon, Durang posits a sextet of offbeat characters stirred together at a family gathering at the landed gentry’s farmhouse in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. Among many notable moments is the family dressed up as Disney’s Snow White and some of the seven dwarves, plus a red hot diatribe from a Baby Boomer excoriating a Millenial for his ignorance of anything that came before the iPad.
July 19-Aug. 17: The Whale: This deadly serious drama leavened with copious gallows humor by Samuel D. Hunter (A Bright New Boise) was a qualified success last season in New York. But it was a triumph in its world premiere (which we saw) at the Denver Center two years ago. It’s described as: “A 600-pound recluse hides away in his apartment eating himself to death. Desperate to reconnect with his long-estranged daughter, he reaches out to her, only to find a viciously sharp-tongued and wildly unhappy teen. Big-hearted and fiercely funny, the play tells the story of a man’s last chance at redemption and of finding beauty in the most unexpected places.” The subject matter may sound off-putting but it is quite funny and deeply moving, not to mention providing some bravura acting roles.
Sept. 20-Oct. 19: The Performers: David West Read’s romantic comedy about two high-school friends—and the women in their lives—who reconnect at the Adult Film Awards in Las Vegas. When the night takes an unexpected turn and relationships are threatened, Chuck Wood, the hardest-working man in the business, steps in to lend a hand. Sex, romance and Barry Manilow intersect in this comedy about the ups and downs and ins and outs of love. Adler, who is known for uninhibited shows, laughingly notes that there is no nudity. We’ll see.
Season subscriptions for renewing patrons is $225 with new subscribers paying $260. Renewing patrons will receive one complimentary ticket. Subscriptions are “Flex Tickets” that can be used for any performance. Subscribers can bring guests at a reduced rate.
Renew by visiting www.gablestage.com/ membership.php or call (305) 445-1119.