Michael Urie in BUYER & CELLAR, 'VANYA AND SONIA' & More Set for CTG's 2014 Season at Mark Taper Forum
The Taper's 2014 season, the 47th season at the Music Center of Los Angeles, will begin with the deliciously witty 2013 Tony Award-winning play "Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike" by Christopher Durang, directed by Nicholas Martin; and continue with the world premiere production of Daniel Beaty's illuminating play with music about Paul Robeson, "The Tallest Tree in the Forest," directed by Moisés Kaufman; the United States premiere of a play filled with Vatican intrigue - Roger Crane's "The Last Confession" starring David Suchet and Brian Bedford, directed by Jonathan Church; Michael Urie featured in the off-the wall, off-Broadway hit comedy of Jonathan Tolins' "Buyer & Cellar," directed by Stephen Brackett; the world premiere of Jordan Harrison's fascinating play "Marjorie Prime," directed by Pam MacKinnon, and featuring Lois Smith; and the classic Joe Orton farce "What the Butler Saw" directed by John Tillinger and featuring Paxton Whitehead.
"It's a season of well-crafted comedies and of powerful dramas filled with intrigue and compassion," said Ritchie. "We have the perfect balance with three comedies ranging from clever homage to the nutty absurdities of improbable situations, and three dramas - a murder mystery, the story of a towering American figure, and a humane play that turns immortality on its ear.
"I'm proud that so many of these plays will be seen for the first time in Los Angeles, including two world premiere dramas, and two comedies that are fresh from Broadway and off-Broadway. And, along with some of the most interesting playwrights of today (and yesterday), we have a roster of truly gifted theatre artists joining us: actors David Suchet, Brian Bedford, Lois Smith, Daniel Beaty, Michael Urie and Paxton Whitehead and directors Moisés Kaufman, Nicholas Martin, Pam MacKinnon, John Tillinger, Stephen Brackett and Jonathan Church."
"This is a season that encapsulates all that theatre offers," said Ritchie. "Vivid stories and characters sweep us away for a few hours as we are thinking, learning, feeling, laughing and sharing. There is no better place for this communal act than the sweet intimacy of the Mark Taper Forum. Come join us."
Christopher Durang's 2013 Tony Award-winning Best Play, "Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike," will open the Mark Taper Forum's 2013-2014 season. The hysterically funny and affecting new play, directed by 2013 Tony Award-nominee Nicholas Martin, will run January 29 through March 9, 2014. The opening is scheduled for February 9.
Set in 21st century Bucks County, Pennsylvania, with hints of 19th century Russia, "Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike" is a riotous comedy with the Chekhovian set-up of a middle-aged Vanya and his stepsister, Sonia, who live together in their ancestral farmhouse, complete with a pond and a cherry orchard.
Their normally quiet existence is thrown into upheaval by the surprise visit from their glamorous, movie-star sister, Masha, and her 20-something boyfriend, Spike, the unlikely prophecies of their cleaning lady and an all too important costume party.
Christopher Durang's plays include "The Idiots Karamazov" (co-authored with Albert Innaurato), "A History of the American Film" (Tony Award nomination), "Sister Mary Ignatius Explains It All for You" (Obie Award), "Beyond Therapy" (off- and on Broadway), "Baby with the Bathwater," "The Marriage of Bette and Boo" (Obie Award), "Laughing Wild," "For Whom the Southern Belle Tolls," "Betty's Summer Vacation" (Obie Award), "Miss Witherspoon" (2005 Pulitzer Prize finalist), "Why Torture is Wrong and the People Who Love Them," "Cabaret: Das Lusitania Songspiel," co-authored and performed by Sigourney Weaver and Durang (Drama Desk nominations for both performers); "Chris Durang and Dawne" (Bistro Award for Durang and cohorts John Augustine and Sherry Anderson). He won the Harvard Arts Medal, the PEN/Laura Pels Award for a Master American Dramatist, and was recently inducted into the Theater Hall of Fame. For 18 years he and Marsha Norman have been co-chairs of the Juilliard Playwriting Program. He is a member of the Dramatists Guild Council.
Obie Award-winning writer and performer Daniel Beaty chronicles Paul Robeson's remarkable life as an artist and political activist in an unforgettable theatrical biography, "The Tallest Tree in the Forest." This play with music is the second production of the Mark Taper Forum's new season, April 15 through May 25, 2014. The opening is scheduled for April 19.
Moisés Kaufman ("Bengal Tiger in the Baghdad Zoo," "33 Variations," "I Am My Own Wife") directs the Kansas City Repertory Theatre and La Jolla Playhouse world premiere production in association with Tectonic Theatre Project.
In "The Tallest Tree in the Forest," Beaty embodies not only Robeson but also dozens of the international personalities who crossed Robeson's path. Beaty fills the theatre with the dreams, words and songs (including the American classic "Ol' Man River") of a man who sacrificed everything in the name of liberty.
Stark contrasts are drawn with Robeson's triumphs - All-American linebacker and valedictorian while at Rutgers, NFL linebacker while in Columbia Law School, and eventually an internationally recognized star of stage and screen ("Showboat" on Broadway and on film, and the longest running "Othello" in Broadway history) - and the indignities he suffered when he became a civil rights and labor rights activist during the dark days of the McCarthy era.
Daniel Beaty is an award-winning actor, singer, writer and motivational speaker. His critically acclaimed plays "Through the Night," "Emergency" and "Mr. Joy" have been performed at venues ranging from Lincoln Center to the White House, and garnered numerous awards including an Obie Award for writing and performance and two NAACP Theatre Awards. He is a highly requested keynote speaker and thought leader, an adjunct professor at Columbia University, a diversity trainer and a youth development specialist. In the fall of 2013, Beaty will launch a nationwide initiative (funded by W.K. Kellogg and Ford Foundation, among others) using the tools of storytelling to help individuals and communities heal trauma. He holds a B.A. with Honors in English and Music from Yale University and an MFA in Acting from The American Conservatory Theatre. His poem "Knock Knock" has been transformed into a children's book of the same title, published by Little Brown Books. Penguin-Random House will publish his empowerment book "Transforming Pain to Power" in February 2014.
David Suchet (known by millions as Hercule Poirot on TV) and Brian Bedford will star in a gripping new play of intrigue and mystery in the United States premiere of "The Last Confession" by Roger Crane, June 7 through July 6, 2014. The opening is scheduled for June 11. The Chichester Festival Theatre production, directed by Jonathan Church, will be presented at Ahmanson Theatre.
Set within the corridors of power in the Vatican, "The Last Confession" explores the circumstances surrounding the sudden death of Pope John Paul I in 1978. He died only 33 days after being elected and before he could set his liberal reforms into place.
The Vatican refuses to conduct an official investigation into the death but the politically savvy Cardinal Giovanni Benelli (played by Suchet), who had engineered the election of Pope John Paul I, is determined to find the truth.
"The Last Confession" premiered at the Chichester Festival Theatre, and then transferred to the Haymarket Theatre in London's West End to huge success.
The Los Angeles engagement, which features an international cast of 20 (with actors from Australia, Canada, the UK and the United States), is part of a world tour of "The Last Confession" that will also play in Toronto, Australia and the Nelson Mandela Theatre in Johannesburg, South Africa.
Tony, Olivier and BAFTA nominee David Suchet is a leading British actor with an extensive career in theatre, film and television. Among his numerous theatre credits, he appeared on the West End in "Man and Boy," "All My Sons," "Amadeus" (also on Broadway and at the Ahmanson Theatre in 1999; Tony Award nomination), George in "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" (Critics' Circle Award and Olivier Award nomination), "Long Day's Journey Into Night," "Oleanna" and several more. He also has extensive credits in the regional theatres of the U.K. His films include "Effie," "The Bank Job," "A Perfect Murder," "Sunday," "The In-Laws" and many more. He received a Best Actor BAFTA nomination for the long-running TV series "Agatha Christie's Poirot."
Internationally acclaimed actor Brian Bedford has starred in many Broadway productions, receiving seven Best Actor Tony nominations, and winning the award for Molière's "The School for Wives." His most recent international triumph was his staging of "The Importance of Being Earnest" for the Stratford Festival and on Broadway, where he received Tony Award and Drama Desk nominations for his performance as Lady Bracknell. He has directed and acted at the Mark Taper Forum, the Old Globe Theatre, the Kennedy Center, Chicago Shakespeare Theater and for 28 seasons at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival. His one-man Shakespeare show "The Lunatic, the Lover and the Poet" and his Oscar Wilde evening "Ever Yours, Oscar" have taken him around the world. In 1997 he was inducted into the American Theater Hall of Fame.
The outrageous new comedy and this season's biggest off-Broadway hit, "Buyer & Cellar," featuring Michael Urie (from TV's "Ugly Betty"), written by Jonathan Tolins, directed by Stephen Brackett, will have its West Coast premiere as the fourth season production at the Mark Taper Forum, July 9 through August 17, 2014. The opening is set for July 13.
In "Buyer & Cellar" Alex More (played by Urie) has a story to tell. A struggling actor in Los Angeles, Alex takes a job working in the Malibu basement of a beloved megastar.
One day, the Lady Herself comes downstairs to play. It feels like a real bonding in the basement but will their relationship ever make it upstairs?
"Buyer & Cellar" is a hilarious new comedy about the price of fame, the cost of things and the oddest of odd jobs.
Michael Urie played Marc St. James on the hit series "Ugly Betty." His New York theatre credits include "How To Succeed in Business Without Really Trying" (Broadway), "The Cherry Orchard" (CSC), "Angels in America" (The Signature), "The Temperamentals" (Lucille Lortel, Drama Desk, and Theatre World Awards, Drama League nomination), "The Revenger's Tragedy" (Red Bull) and "Another Vermeer" (HB Playwrights). Regionally, he's worked for The Old Globe, Vineyard Playhouse, South Coast Rep, Seattle Rep, Folger Shakespeare, Barrington Stage, Hyde Park (Austin), and The Blank (L.A.). Film includes "He's Way More Famous Than You" (also directed), "Thank You For Judging" (co-director/executive producer), "Beverly Hills Chihuahua," "WTC View," "Jeremy Fink and the Meaning of Life," "The Decoy Bride" and "Petunia." He starred in the television series "Partners" and trained at Juilliard.
Jonathan Tolins' plays include "The Twilight of the Golds" (Booth Theater), "If Memory Serves" (Promenade Theater), "The Last Sunday in June" (Rattlestick and Century Center), and "Secrets of the Trade" (Primary Stages). Jon co-wrote the films "The Twilight of the Golds" and "Martian Child." He was a consulting producer on the recent CBS comedy "Partners" and was a co-producer on the first season of "Queer As Folk" on Showtime. He has written for the Academy Awards and the Tony Awards, and co-wrote Bette Midler's "Divine Miss Millennium Tour" and "The Showgirl Must Go On" in Las Vegas.
The world premiere of Jordan Harrison's profound and engaging "Marjorie Prime" is the fifth production of the Taper's 2014 season, September 10 through October 19, 2014. The opening is set for September 21.
Directed by Pam MacKinnon ("Clybourne Park," "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?"), and featuring Lois Smith, "Marjorie Prime" asks exquisite questions about the difference between a life lived and a life remembered in this compassionate, haunting drama.
Marjorie is a clever, wry woman who, at age 85, finds that her memory is failing. She is living out her days at an assisted living facility where she is frequently visited by her anxious, quick-witted daughter, Tess, and her kind, easygoing son-in-law, Jon. With the urging of Jon and the facility and despite Tess' misgivings, a mysterious young man, Walter, joins the group with the hope that he can help reverse Marjorie's decline.
Through an ingenious series of shifting realities, Walter's nature is revealed, and the family's memories gently unfold into a cathartic meditation on life and loss, and the desire to keep our dearly departed with us.
Jordan Harrison's plays include "Maple and Vine," "Futura," "Doris to Darlene," "Amazons and their Men," "Act a Lady," "Finn in the Underworld," "Kid-Simple," "The Museum Play," and "Suprema," a musical. His work has been produced at Actors Theatre of Louisville, American Conservatory Theater, Berkeley Repertory Theatre, City Theatre, Clubbed Thumb, Minetta Lane Theater, Playwrights Horizons, Portland Center Stage, and Theater @ Boston Court, among others. His children's musical, "The Flea and the Professor," premiered at the Arden Theatre and won the 2011 Barrymore Award for Best Production. Jordan is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Hodder Fellowship, the Kesselring Prize, a Theater Masters' Innovative Playwright Award, the Roe Green Award from Cleveland Play House (for "Marjorie Prime"), the Heideman Award, the Loewe Award for Musical Theater, and a NEA/TCG Playwright-in-Residence Grant. A graduate of the Brown MFA program, Jordan is an alumnus of New Dramatists.
Lois Smith most recently appeared in Sam Shepard's "Heartless" at the Signature Theatre and Amy Herzog's "After the Revolution" at Playwrights Horizons. She also appeared at the Signature in Tony Kushner's "The Illusion," and Horton Foote's "The Trip to Bountiful." She won many awards for "The Trip to Bountiful," both in New York and later when it moved to The Goodman Theatre in Chicago. Other favorite stage roles include two for which she received Tony Award nominations: "The Grapes of Wrath" and "Buried Child." These productions originated at the Steppenwolf Theatre in Chicago, where Smith is a member, and moved to Broadway. Her first film was "East of Eden," followed by many others including "Five Easy Pieces," "Minority Report," "How to Make an American Quilt," "Four Friends" and "Please Give." Her many television appearances include the recent 13-episode drama "Ruth and Erica" on YouTube.
Joe Orton's full-throttle farce "What the Butler Saw" featuring Paxton Whitehead will be the sixth production in the Taper's new season, November 12 through December 21, 2014. The opening is scheduled for November 23.
John Tillinger, a leading interpreter of Orton's work, will direct this savagely funny piece, which became the last play written by England's legendary playwright before his untimely death in 1967 at the age of 34.
Set in the consulting room of a private psychiatric clinic, the action begins when the very proper Dr. Prentice is interrupted by his wife just as he is about to seduce a beautiful, young woman who is applying for a job as a secretary. As his botched efforts to conceal his actions spiral outrageously out of control, Orton ferociously skewers psychiatry, religion, marriage, morality, government and definitions of gender.
In spite of a small body of work that also included television and radio plays, Orton emerged as one of the seminal playwrights of the 20th century - a direct successor to Oscar Wilde, William Congreve and Noel Coward. In addition to "What the Butler Saw," his other well-known plays are "Entertaining Mr. Sloane" and "Loot," which were presented in a repertory directed by Tillinger at the Mark Taper Forum in 1987. John Lahr said of Orton, "Nobody came closer than Orton to reviving on stage the outrageous and violent prankster's spirit of comedy and creating the purest (and rarest) of drama's by-products: joy."
Paxton Whitehead co-adapted "A Flea in Her Ear" and "Chemin de Fer" for the Mark Taper Forum, and performed in Los Angeles in "Woman in Mind" with Helen Mirren, "My Fair Lady" with Richard Chamberlain, "How the Other Half Loves," "Noises Off," "Pirates of Penzance," "Camelot" with Richard Burton, and "Beyond the Fringe." At South Coast Repertory he appeared in "The Circle," "Heartbreak House" and "How the Other Half Loves."
Whitehead is an Associate Artist at Old Globe, San Diego, where he co-adapted "There's One in Every Marriage" and appeared as Malvolio, Benedick, Sir Peter Teazle, Richard III, The Miser, and recently, Col. Pickering, among other roles. His Broadway credits include "Importance of Being Earnest," "Absurd Person Singular," "My Fair Lady," "Lettice and Lovage" with Maggie Smith, "Crucifer of Blood," "Noises Off," and others. In London's West End he appeared in "Heartbreak House" with Rex Harrison, Diana Rigg and RoseMary Harris. His numerous TV credits include "West Wing," "Mad About You," "Frasier," "Friends," "Ellen" and the series "Marblehead Manor." Films include "Kate and Leopold," "Back to School" and "The Adventures of Huck Finn," and others.
Special Bonus Options for Mark Taper Forum Season Ticket Members
"Matthew Bourne's Sleeping Beauty"
A Gothic Romance
Music composed by Tchaikovsky
A New Adventures Production
Mark Taper Forum season ticket members will have priority access to the purchase of tickets to two productions at the Ahmanson Theatre, "Matthew Bourne's Sleeping Beauty" and Christopher Plummer's "A Word or Two."
The New Adventures production of "Matthew Bourne's Sleeping Beauty," A Gothic Romance, will be presented by Center Theatre Group and Glorya Kaufman Presents Dance at the Music Center for two weeks only, opening November 21 and continuing performances through December 1, 2013.
In "Matthew Bourne's Sleeping Beauty," the traditional tale of good vs. evil, and of rebirth, is turned upside-down, creating a supernatural love story, across the decades, that even the passage of time itself cannot hinder.
Perrault's fairy tale about a young girl cursed to sleep for one hundred years was turned into a legendary ballet by Tchaikovsky and choreographer Marius Petipa in 1890. Bourne takes this date as his starting point, setting the christening of Aurora, the story's heroine, in the year of the ballet's first performance at the height of the fin de siècle period when fairies, vampires and decadent opulence fed the gothic imagination.
Bourne has enjoyed a special relationship with Los Angeles audiences and with Center Theatre Group in particular. In addition to "Swan Lake," which had its American premiere at the Ahmanson in 1997, a total of six other Bourne productions have been presented by CTG - "Cinderella," "The Car Man," "Play Without Words," "Nutcracker!," "Edward Scissorhands" and "Mary Poppins."
Academy Award, Tony Award and Emmy Award-winner Christopher Plummer will star in a Center Theatre Group special event, "A Word or Two," written and arranged by Plummer and directed by Tony Award-winner Des McAnuff at the CTG/Ahmanson Theatre.
"A Word or Two," which Charles Isherwood of The New York Times said was "... a passionate love letter to language...," will be presented in association with The Stratford Festival of Canada, January 19 through February 9, 2014.
Plummer, who confesses to being "hooked on the intoxication of words," spent much of his time growing up in Montreal reading Ben Jonson, George Bernard Shaw, Shakespeare, Rudyard Kipling, A.A. Milne, Lewis Carroll, Lord Byron, Dylan Thomas, W.H. Auden and Stephen Leacock, and others.
His personal take on these literary giants forms a journey from childhood to old age. "It's a warm and highly literate tribute to the writers whose work has inspired, sustained and delighted ..." Plummer since his youth, said Isherwood. "Mr. Plummer recites poetry with the ease of man who has been hearing it singing in his head virtually every day of his life. His velvety baritone has lost little, if any, of its beauty or authority."
"A Word or Two" premiered in 2012 at the Stratford Festival of Canada in Stratford, Ontario.
CTG's 2014 Mark Taper Forum Season Available on Membership Only
Tickets for the Mark Taper Forum's 47th season are currently available by season ticket membership only. For information and to charge season tickets by phone, call the Exclusive Season Ticket Hotline at (213) 972-4444. To purchase season memberships on-line, visit www.CenterTheatreGroup.org/Taper. For information regarding audio description and Project D.A.T.E. (sign language interpreted, open caption and audio description performances) call TDD (213) 680-4017 or voice (213) 972-4444.
Center Theatre Group, a non-profit organization, is one of the largest and most active theatre companies in the nation, programming subscription seasons year-round at the 736-seat Mark Taper Forum and the 1,600 to 2,000-seat Ahmanson Theatre at the Music Center of Los Angeles, and the 317-seat Kirk Douglas Theatre in Culver City. In addition to providing theatre of the highest caliber to the rich, diverse communities of Southern California and beyond, CTG supports a significant number of play development and arts education initiatives.
Photo by Joan Marcus