Having remodeled its physical plant, created a small black box playing space, and renamed itself, Baltimore Center Stage has picked a 2017-2018 season designed to shake up its audience’s mind, soul and heart.
The shaking starts with Lucas Hnath’s The Christians, the story of a fundamentalist pastor’s startling decision not only to declare that nonbelievers are welcome in Heaven, but to declare that there is no Hell…and of his congregation’s struggle to stay with him. Reviewing a production at Theater J last year, DCTS observed that “[s]een most broadly, The Christians shows the struggle of anyone who challenges the status quo, whether it is the corporate reformer, or the political leader who attempts to install fiscal discipline. In our fantasies — and in bad art — the change artist is always triumphant, but The Christians shows that he has a hard stubby row to hoe, even if his change is salvation for all us sinners.” The Christians, which Hana S. Sharif will direct, runs from September 7 to October 8, 2017.
He may have been the greatest love poet in the history of the English language, but when it came to his personal life, Bill Shakespeare was a poor schlub like the rest of us. He falls in love with a woman illicitly attempting to play a woman (gasp!) for his troupe, and so magically escapes from his writer’s block. Or so Tim Stoppard and Marc Norman speculated when they wrote the screenplay for Shakespeare in Love, and so it is in Lee Hall’s stage version. “[I]n Lee Hall’s delightful stage adaptation the piece seems to have found its true home,” says the London Telegraph’s Charles Spencer. “It’s funny, often genuinely moving and generates a glow you could warm your hands by.” An old friend of DC-area theater — Blake Robison, late of Round House — directs. The play will run from October 19 to November 26 of this year.
The mindbending Lookingglass Alice, David Catlin’s adaptation of the mindbending Through the Looking Glass, will be Baltimore Center Stage’s holiday show. Catlin developed his adaptation at Chicago’s Lookingglass Theatre (which brought last year’s astonishing Moby Dick to DC), and the Chicago Tribune’s Chris Jones calls it “joyous and smart, playful and wise. It is a reminder that when you believe six impossible things before breakfast, like Alice, you have a better day.” Jones claims that “It is not the kind of Christmas entertainment you can find in other cities.” Until now, Chris. From November 30 to December 31, 2017; Jeremy B. Cohen directs.
Baltimore Center Stage kicks off the new year with the concluding chapter of Dominique Morriseau’s Detroit trilogy, Skeleton Crew. There is a crime, and a mystery, but the bigger crime and mystery is the pending shutdown of one of the few manufacturing plants in Detroit, and the fate of those who work there. DCTS’ Jonathan Mandell compared the play with some of the work of August Wilson, observing that “[a]s in Wilson, the often poetic language is rich but not precious, spoken by down-to-earth characters who embody the comedy and the tragedy of everyday lives.” Skeleton Crew, which will be part of the 2018 Women’s Voices Festival, will run from February 1 to March 11 of next year. Nicole A. Watson directs.
Spring will bring Ian Woolridge’s adaptation of George Orwell’s Animal Farm, the fable in which all animals are equal, but some are more equal than others. The animals on the Jones farm, feeling neglected and oppressed, stage a coup, and exile their erstwhile master. The fine egalitarian spirit of their revolution guides them, until it doesn’t. Stephen Oliver of The North East Theatre Guide calls Woolridge’s adaptation “fresh and relevant”. (Spoiler alert: the pigs win, just like in real life). May Andrales directs. From March 1 to April 1.
Baltimore Center Stage Artistic Director Kwame Kwei-Armah (Beneatha’s Place) will conclude the season with a play of his own creation, but the company is not yet ready to give us any information about it — other than that Kwei-Armah will direct, and that it will run from May 10 to June 17.