Some say the world will end in fire, the poet Robert Frost observed, and some say in ice, but at Woolly Mammoth next season the world will end with a rampage of feral pigs, a hip-hop Thomas Jefferson selling snack food, a post-apocalyptic nation mourning its beloved cartoon character (this is a musical), Midwesterners yearning for the Rapture, an Improv show in which everybody dies (this is in the title), and a bevy of brand spankin’-new world premieres.
“With recessions, revolutions, and natural disasters dominating the news, how could our playwrights not respond?“ Woolly Artistic Director Howard Shalwitz asked, probably rhetorically. “We’ve had great fun pulling together a season that celebrates the question on all our minds: Does our civilization have an expiration date? And what comes next?
Indeed. Some of the artistic merchants of death will be quite familiar to us. For example, Jason Grote, whose Maria/Stuart, This Storm is What We Call Progress, and 1001 have all recently graced Washington stages, will present a world premiere of his Civilization (all you can eat) from February 13 to March 11 of next year. This tale of Agribusiness Gone Wild! shows us, if not the belly of the beast, at least the beast in our bellies. Featuring the aforementioned feral pigs and hip-hop Jefferson.
The apocalypse wears a different face in another world premiere: Anne Washburn’s Mr. Burns, a post-electric play, which runs from May 28 to July 1, 2012. Specifically, it wears the face of C. Montgomery Burns, Homer Simpson’s magnificently acquisitive boss, who is a beloved reminder to post-apocalyptic Americans of all they have lost. Washburn, whose Orestes, a Tragic Romp at the Folger received a Helen Hayes nomination for outstanding resident play this year, was a Susan Smith Blackburn Award finalist for Mr. Burns. Music is by Obie Award-winner J. Michael Friedman (Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson).
An Improv show is always a world premiere, but Spoiler Alert: Everybody Dies, in which – well, you can guess what happens – is a world premiere in this sense: it is a first-ever collaboration between Woolly Mammoth’s artists and those of Chicago’s Second City. I would tell you what happens in the show, but I don’t know, and neither do they. The company promises that they will “[b]ring back to Washington the most gleeful anti-holiday celebration of doom ever,” which is saying something. Runs December 6, 2011 to January 8, 2012.
If you’re tired of witnessing the end of the world and would like to go back to just waiting for the end of the world, Samuel Hunter’s A Bright New Boise (October 10 to November 6 of this year) might be your cup of tea. Against a backdrop which includes an apocalyptic sect, a disgraced churchman seeks to reconnect with his long-separated son. New York Times reviewer David Rooney says the play “starts out funny and steadily becomes more disquieting as its existential questions are amplified.”
“There’s plenty to chew on here,” Rooney concludes. John Vreeke directs.
Finally, the five-play Woolly subscription includes Arias with a Twist, a collaboration between cabaret artist Joey Arias and the Obie-winning puppeteer Basil Twist involving alien abduction, an economy-sized drag queen, and the Garden of Eden but no deaths (as far as I can tell) which runs from April 4 to 29 of next year.
More information available online at WoollyMammoth.net