Baltimore’s CenterStage this week announced a seven-play 2013-2014 season which includes a favorite from Will Shakespeare, a Christmas play by Paula Vogel, and Bruce Nelson in a role made immortal by Grouch Marx.
The CenterStage season kicks off with a musical comedy version of George S. Kaufman’s Animal Crackers, with veteran actor Bruce Nelson playing Captain Spalding, the role originated by Groucho Marx. The party of the year goes horribly wrong when a valuable painting disappears. Captain Spalding springs to the rescue, with disastrous results. The musical will run from September 4 to October 13 of 2013.
Things sober up considerably with dance of the holy ghosts: a play on memory, Marcus Gardley’s story of a blues singer, near the end of his life, with memories of his daughter, his wife, and his wife’s lover who he killed – and by the very real presence of his grandson. Charles Isherwood, writing in the New York Times, observed that “Mr. Gardley…writes with a ripe lyricism. The richness of his language, which often finds pungent poetry in the African-American vernacular, inevitably brings to mind the work of August Wilson.” Dance of the holy ghosts, which CenterStage Artistic Director Kwame Kwei-Armah will direct, will run from October 9 to November 17 of this year.
Baltimore playwright Paula Vogel will take care of Olney’s holiday season with A Civil War Christmas. Vogel, who won a Pulitzer Prize for How I Learned to Drive, here creates a pageant of the powerful and the dispossessed near the fifth year of a harrowing war. “Ms. Vogel has researched the period thoroughly and is at pains to include all strata of society and a variety of religious and racial backgrounds in her cast, resulting in a very full stage,” Isherwood wrote. “Remarkably, Ms. Vogel manages to humanize most of her many characters in a few crisp strokes of dialogue, so they come across as full-blooded people, glimpsed clearly if quickly, rather than talking statues in a historical diorama.” A Civil War Christmas will run November 19 to December 22, 2013.
CenterStage will kick off 2014 with Marie Jones’ Stones in His Pockets, a story of Hollywood coming to a small Irish town. The townspeople, of course, scramble for roles as extras while dreaming about ways they might fulfill their own artistic, romantic and financial dreams. In this work, which won the Laurence Olivier award for best new play, two actors play all the roles. “[I]t’s the tragicomic mix and the platform it provides for two performers that makes this play special,” says Michael Billington of the Guardian. Stones in His Pockets will run from January 15 to February 23rd of next year.
Shakespeare comes to CenterStage on March 5 with a production of Twelfth Night. In this much-loved story, a young woman makes the mistake of disguising herself as a boy, and entering into the service of a Duke who is courting a Lady with serious lack of success. Of course, the young woman falls in love with the Duke, and the Lady – thinking the young lady to be a boy – falls in love with her. Hilarity, as they say, ensues. Twelfth Night will run through April 6, 2014.
Kwei-Armah will direct another new – but not brand-new – play on April 26 to May 25 of next year: Naomi Wallace’s The Liquid Plain. This is the story of two runaway slaves who find a nearly-drowned sailor and bring him to safety; the sailor has lost his memory but his story – like those of the two runaways – is full of mystery and suspense. The Liquid Plain won the Horton Foote Award for promising new American play in 2012.
The CenterStage season closes with Colman Domingo’s Wild with Happy. When Gil’s mother dies and his boyfriend leaves him and his career as an actor collapses, he decide – to go to Disney world. Wild with Happy, Isherwood says, “mixes sass and sentiment in a manner that suggests a hipper, gay-friendlier version of a Tyler Perry play.” It runs from May 28 to June 29, 2014.
Flex and full season subscriptions are available online, with a special Early Bird discount for those purchasing before April 26, 2013.