Baltimore’s Everyman Theatre has devised a 2018-2019 season designed to set you up with prize-winning plays and classics, and then blow you away with acclaimed fresh works, including two from DC playwright Caleen Sinnette Jennings.
The Everyseason will open with a production of Brian Friel’s Tony-winning Dancing at Lughnasa, a story of five Irish sisters grappling with faith, loneliness, and responsibility on a hardscrabble farm eighty years ago. DCTS, reviewing a production of Lughnasa in 2010, called it “a study in the fruitless struggle against the collapse of everything. Sweet and melancholy… a play for grownups.” Amber Paige McGinnes will direct this production, which will run from September 4 to October 7, 2018.
Lynn Nottage’s Pulitzer-winning Sweat, directed by Everyman Artistic Director Vincent M. Lancisi, is next. Nottage’s meticulously-researched piece looks at the men and women who work at a dying factory in Reading, Pennsylvania. As economic pressures exacerbate tension in this tight-knit community, a crime occurs. “Lynn Nottage’s newest work turns the devastation of Reading, Pennsylvania’s blue-collar swan song sirenic by alternating focus on the forerunning and aftermath of a crime left unrevealed until the brutal climax,” said Alan Katz in a DCTS review of a 2016 production. “But Sweat is a mystery of motivation as much as a Who/Howdunit.” Sweat will be on the Everyman stage between October 23 and November 25 of this year.
The holiday show will be the Oscar Wilde classic, The Importance of Being Earnest, in which two highly desirable young ladies assert, improbably, that they can only marry a man named Earnest — never a Willie or a Sam. That’s all right with Jack Worthing and Algernon Moncreiff, both of whom decide that they can be Earnest for a while. However, the imperious Lady Bracknell, who is the mother of one of the young women in question, may have something to say about it. Reviewing a 2014 production, DCTS’ Jeff Walker noted “the paradoxes, sparkling wit, and seductive social satire of Wilde’s brilliant play.” Like several recent productions of Earnest, the Everyman production will cast a man to play Lady Bracknell — in this case, the great Bruce Randolph Nelson. Rep Stage Artistic Director Joseph Ritsch will direct this production, which will run from December 4, 2018 to January 6, 2019.
Everyman will start out the fresh year with a fresh play: Chelsea Marcantel’s Everything is Wonderful, which had its world premiere at last summer’s Contemporary American Theatre Festival in Shepherdstown, WV. A young man appears on the doorstep of an Amish farming family with an unusual request: could they please forgive him for killing their two sons through his negligent driving? But here’s a question for us: is a community that is capable of forgiving such a gross crime willing to accept someone who rejects their values? “This would be an explosive landscape for any playwright, but Chelsea Marcantel navigates it with great care and considerable wit,” DCTS said of the CATF production. “There are themes here which, in less competent hands, could result in a cheap, clichéd story, but Marcantel…know[s] a hawk from a handsaw.” January 29-March 3 of next year; Noah Himmelstein directs.
Lancasi is back to direct another Pulitzer-winning play, Donald Margulies’ Dinner with Friends, in March. Gabe and Karen invite their best friends Beth and Tom over for dinner, and to hear about their lip-smackin’ tour of the best restaurants in Italy. Tom’s a no-show, but until they learn why — he’s left Beth — it doesn’t faze them. The disastrous news turns calamitous when Tom finally shows up, to tell his side of the story. “Dinner With Friends wrestles with people at the juncture of defining life choices, using realistic dialog, and nuanced characters,” DCTS’ Debbie Minter Jackson said. “The production covers the emotional territory with deliberation and care, and characters vacillate along the roving continuum of trust, love, mutual respect and rage.” From March 12 to April 14, 2019.
Everyman will wrap up with the two Caleen Sinnette Jennings one-actor Queens Girl plays in rep between May 7 and June 30 of next year. Queens Girl in the World is the story of Jacqueline Marie Butler, a young African-American girl eager to start high school in the shelter of her Queens neighborhood. Her mother has other ideas, though, and sends her to a predominantly Jewish school where she is only one of four Black students. She shares the major events of the sixties with her new classmates. “Queens Girl in the World is never just a historical play: it is real and relevant because of the intense connection that the audience feels with the main character,” said DCTS’ Jessica Pearson when she reviewed a 2015 production at Theater J. “The historical references used in the play, from the major events of the Civil Rights movement to the kind of perfume worn by Jackie’s mother, never feel forced; they are there to tell Jackie’s story.”
Jackie’s world gets shaken up even more when her father decides to move their family to Nigeria in Queens Girl in Africa, and she must come into adulthood in an environment which questions her own authenticity and identity. “ Queens Girl is a joyful and engrossing window into a very personal story set in a time and place likely unfamiliar to much of the audience,” said DCTS’ Missy Frederick in her review of a Mosaic production earlier this year.
Dawn Ursula and Erika Rose, who originated the role of Jackie at Theater J and Mosaic, respectively, will perform in the Everyman rep, which Paige Hernandez will direct.