Front Row Center
By Michael Warren
The musical The Drowsy Chaperone closed at the end of February, so there wasn’t time for my review to make it into this issue – you will have to wait another month. Meanwhile, the LLT has just announced the plays for next season (Season 49). Here they are:
Local Hero, written and directed by Neal Checkoway.
The Heiress, by Ruth and Augustus Goetz, directed by Roseann Wilshere.
Over The River And Through The Woods, by Joe DiPietro, directed by Ann Swiston.
Blood Relations, by Sharon Pollock, directed by Lynn Phelan.
Hooray For Hollywood!, written and directed by Barbara Clippinger.
Social Security, by Andrew Bergman, directed by Phil Shepherd.
In 2005, Neal Checkoway brought an original adaptation of the cult classic Being There to the LLT stage, including the projection of pre-filmed scenes onto a back screen. I will be interested to see what he makes of Local Hero, which was a 1983 comedy-drama set in a fictional Scottish town called Ferness. The film is about an American oil company representative who is sent there to purchase the town and surrounding property to make way for a refinery. Naturally, he is affected by the strange beauty of the place and some of the odd people he meets – there may be opportunities for actors with Scottish accents!
In different ways, both The Heiress and Blood Relations explore the plight of women trapped in impossible situations in the 19th century. The Heiress is based on the 1880 Henry James novel “Washington Square,” and the play opened on Broadway in 1947. It has since been revived several times, and won a Tony award for a very successful and long-running revival in 1995. The story is set in 1850 and revolves around the person of an initially shy young woman whose character evolves and strengthens during the play. This period drama will be an exciting challenge for actors and director. By contrast, Blood Relations is about Lizzie Borden, and in effect it is a re-trial of her case with the audience as jury. Like Doubt, a play successfully performed here in 2007, the author provides no easy solutions and we are left to wrestle with our own pre-conceived notions of guilt and innocence.
Over The River And Through The Woods is a 1994 play by New Jersey writer-lyricist Joe DiPietro. If you were brought up in a large Italian-American family, you will certainly relate to this comedy-drama. And there will be significant parts for older actors, as young “Nick Cristano” has been having dinner with his four Italian grandparents every Sunday of his life. This play should provide some comic relief, in between two period dramas. Hooray For Hollywood! has been created for our entertainment by Barbara Clippinger, and the title says it all. We can expect plenty of great songs and high leg-kicks. Finally, the season will wind up with Social Security – a risqué comedy by Hollywood screenwriter Andrew Bergman, with plenty of one-liners and a juicy part for a feisty grandmother (no pre-audition selections, please!).
So, Season 49 promises to be an interesting and thought-provoking series of plays, with some serious dramas interspersed with light comedy and a fun musical. Two of the directors (Lynn Phelan and Phil Shepherd) are new to LLT and Neal Checkoway returns after an 8-year absence. It’s a lot of work directing a play, and in some cases the work for next year begins now with consideration of the characters, and how to make the play come across successfully for this local audience. Good luck to all – break a leg, but don’t fall off the stage!