Two formidable Madison theater companies -- one a mainstay, one barely a year old -- have issued the lineups for their 2010-2011 seasons. University Theatre and Forward Theater Company have packed their schedules with classics, comedy, cross-dressing, and highbrow aaahhht. Oh, and a giant vibrator.
The seven shows UW's troupe has slated run the gamut from a brand-new all-local production to an Australian show aimed at teenagers, and a couple of most welcome old chestnuts. Tickets will be available in midsummer.
Across a Distance (Sept. 17-25): If nothing else, this'll be interesting, as it's "a multimedia bilingual performance piece." Written by UW-Madison grad Nick Lantz, it features professional deaf actor Robert Schliefer and voice professor Julia Faulkner. Music is by Scott Gendel, composer-in-residence for the Festival Choir of Madison -- my wife, an alto in the choir, says he's a genius, and I have to take her word for it, because I have trouble playing Rock Band on medium difficulty.
The Grapes of Wrath (Oct. 1-16): We're promised a "stark" and "minimalist" production of the Pulitzer-winning Steinbeck story. After the disaster that was the sci-fi musical version of East of Eden, probably a wise choice.
Valparaiso (Oct. 22, Nov. 6): For this "intellectual comedy" by Don DeLillo, about a business trip gone wrong in a media-oversaturated world, the company wants to join forces with UW's Department of Communication Arts and School of Journalism. Careful, University Theatre -- some journalists aren't useful for anything except cracking dumb jokes.
The Yum Yum Room (Nov. 12-20): This will be the American premiere of this play by Australia's Stephen House. A richly realistic tale of blossoming first love and a father and son struggling to get along, it's aimed at young audiences and garnered good reviews back in the home country. Teens are the intended audience, but grown-ups can tag along.
The Rocky Horror Show (March 4-5): It's the troupe's first production in some time in the Wisconsin Union Theater, and the question is: Will the crowd participation it's so famous for be encouraged? (Some theaters put the nix on it.) "Oh, we are waaaaay encouraging it," says production manager David Stewart. Excellent.
Eurydice (April 1-16): Writers from Salman Rushdie to Neil Gaiman have put their own spin on the Greek myth of Orpheus, but this retelling by Illinois native (and Pulitzer nominee) Sarah Ruhl examines the story from the perspective of the original rock star's ill-omened wife. The production will feature dancing.
You Can't Take It With You (April 15-30): A comedy that won the Pulitzer in 1937, this show pits the seemingly loony Sycamore family against the uptight Kirbys. You'll laugh, you'll -- probably just laugh some more, and not cry at all. Hey, nothing wrong with that.
Forward Theater Company
With one quick season under its belt, the company is moving, uh, forward, with three shows and a festival planned. Subscription packages are on sale now.
In the Next Room (or The Vibrator Play) (Nov. 4-21): Sixth-grade-level responses like my own notwithstanding, this show about a Victorian doctor who treats delighted female patients with "a strange new electrical device" -- for which writer Ruhl snagged her Pulitzer nomination -- is a comedy, but not snicker-snicker funny. Frankly, it sounds great.
Monologue Festival: "The Love That Changed My Life" (Feb. 11 and 12): Just in time for Valentine's Day, Forward has solicited selections riffing on the theme from playwrights from all over the U.S.
Going to St. Ives (March 3-9): The story of a meeting between an African dictator's mother and a British surgeon, dealing with "global politics and moral responsibility," this one probably won't star Tina Fey if it ever gets to the big screen.
Moonlight and Magnolias (April 28 - May 15): Taking its name from Gone With the Wind's original working title, this show takes us into a locked office with three men desperate to coax a decent script out of the epic novel. Two of them are sure it's gonna flop.