Onstage: Donna Hoke's picks for 2012–2013
For theater, fall—not spring—is the season of renewal. Marked by the thirty-first annual Curtain Up! on September 14, Buffalo’s new season brings me to the peak of theater geekdom as I compile my list of must-sees ... I’ll worry about the logistics of fitting it all in later. (Disclaimer: More than a few prominent theaters did not have full public schedules available at press time.)
A Streetcar Named Desire
by Tennessee Williams, Torn Space, September 13–October 7
When an innovative theater like Torn Space takes on a classic masterpiece, you can expect “classic” to be thoroughly redefined. Consider the July 29 “preview” at which Blanche Dubois, Streetcar’s tragic heroine took guests through the ruins at Canalside, performing select scenes from the show accompanied by specially designed video projection and sound. If that was just a taste, what might the actual production bring?
Next to Normal
Music by Tom Kitt, book & lyrics by Brian Yorkey, Irish Classical Theatre, September 13–October 7
I love it when musicals explore complex stories that don’t—or can’t—always have happy endings. But if last year’s Floyd Collins at American Repertory Theater of Western New York showed me anything, it’s that these types of musicals are at their most powerful in intimate settings; it just feels off when a character belts about depression to a 600-seat house. I saw the Pulitzer Prize-winning Next to Normal on Broadway, and, while I found it mesmerizing, I can’t wait to see it up close so that it’s not so much a “show” as an invitation into these lives.
by Moises Kaufman, MusicalFare, October 31–December 2
I like musicals as much as the next guy, but when I’ve gotten really excited about a show, it’s most often been non-musical. Obviously, then, I’m thrilled that this season I can get the top-notch quality of a MusicalFare production in a play. Yes, it’s a play about music—specifically Beethoven’s creative process and musicologist Katherine Brandt’s examination of it—and that’s what so brilliant: MusicalFare is completely in line with its mission, even as it offers its audiences a new and horizon-broadening experience.
The Irish Curse
by Martin Casella, Buffalo United Artists, November 9–30
A play about five guys in a support group for men with small penises could be completely ridiculous, and I’m sure that there will be much catharsis before they conclude that we are more than the size of one body part (women can even relate to that). But sometimes silly laughs make for a perfect night of theater, especially when you’ve got the likes of Jonathan Shuey, Matthew Crehan Higgins, Michael Seitz, and Dave Hayes on stage delivering the material.
2012: The End of the Road
by Jon Elston, Road Less Traveled Productions, November 9–December 2
Not since 2007’s Buffalo Movie have we had a full-length solo Jon Elston original on stage in WNY, and that’s far too long. An assemblage of Elstonesque characters trapped in a Southtowns rest area as the apocalypse threatens? Sounds like a surefire way for this multiple Artvoice Best Writer and Artie award winner to deliver trademark humor and something to think about the morning after … if there is one.
by Caryl Churchill, New Phoenix, November 22–December 16
Recent offerings at the New Phoenix have surprised in all the best ways. This season, we’re getting the Kelly Bocock-Natale-directed Cloud 9, a play that serves up a parallel between colonial oppression in Victorian times and sexual oppression in the 1970s, a complicated piece that calls for no less than seven dual roles that cross both gender and race—and it’s a comedy. There are other theaters in town for which this play might seem a more natural fit mission-wise, but my curiosity is piqued precisely because they aren’t the ones offering it.
Cannibal! The Musical!
by Trey Parker, Theater Jugend, March 14–30, 2013
Long before Kyle and Kenny, there was Alferd Packer: The Musical, a 1993 indie film college collaboration from South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone. Since redistributed, rechristened, and made into a stage play, Cannibal! The Musical! tells the (true) story of Alferd Packer as he awaits execution for cannibalism—with music. Hordes of Buffalo theatergoers will likely vie for tickets to a better known Parker/Stone project—the Tony-dominating Book of Mormon, which goes up at Shea’s in June—but I find more appeal in a fledgling work that hasn’t been polished to a fine sheen. And it’s nice to see that the fledgling Theater Jugend has finally found an appropriate work to sink its teeth into.
My Name is Asher Lev
by Aaron Posner, Jewish Repertory Theatre, May 9–26, 2013
Adapted from the novel by Chaim Potok, this play tells the story of Asher, a Hassidic-born boy who has a great talent for art—one that isn’t encouraged, let alone nurtured. I’m a sucker for any story that fights for the arts (whether it’s live in Buffalo or on stage), and JRT doesn’t really know how to do a show halfway.
Donna Hoke also anticipates the world premiere of her play, Seeds, March 1–24 at Road Less Traveled Theater.