With an optimistic spirit, Main Street Theater today announces its 2020-21 Season on its MainStage in Rice Village, complete with a Tom Stoppard play — always a more than reliable option for the theater's core audience.
The Real Inspector Hound, a one-act by Tom Stoppard, hasn't been done by Main Street in a long while but it was a staple for them in their formative years, says Artistic Director Rebecca Greene Udden. "We just know that when we do a Stoppard, people come," she said. Originally planned for this summer, the play was moved to summer 2021 after theaters closed, because of the cornavirus.
"It's just one of my favorite plays and it's so much fun and such a tribute to the theater," Udden said.
Mother of the Maid is a different way of looking at the Joan of Arc story, Udden says. "I'm always a sucker for a play about mothers anyway. It's a powerful and interesting play. Very memorable"
"Dog Act has a funny history with us," Udden said. "About 2010 I saw it in a hole in the wall place in New York City. and just thought it was incredible. We brought it to Houston and we did it during the summer. because the first thing in the play, the language is strong. The F bomb is used about every third word. And you quickly become totally desensitized to it. The play is about the evolution of language in the apocalypse.
"We were afraid that our subscriber audience which at the time was pretty senior, we thought would be horrified by this so we'll do in summertime when we have a little bit of a different audience. Well because we didn't have subscribers coming to it and because we didn’t have the marketing expertise that we now have, we did it during the summer and nobody came.
"It was an incredible production. So it also seemed a good time to be doing a post apocalyptic comedy."
The regional premiere of Darwin in Malibu offers a look at Charles Darwin, somehow alive 120 years after his death and transferred to a Malibu Beach. Another regional premiere, The Best of Everything, is an adaptation of the Rona Jaffe book about secretaries set in the late 1950s.
And then there's the encore production of The Wickhams: Christmas at Pemberley, which was a crowd-pleaser last year, so much so that extra performances were added. Once again the theater returns to the characters than Jane Austen first brought to the printed page, with an adaptation by Lauren Gunderson and Margot Melcon.
"People loved it. We did the same thing with the first of the Pemberly plays and had just as good response the second year as the first. So we thought, what the heck. Why re-invent the wheel." They are hoping the original cast members will be able to come back, she said.
As with most Houston theaters, Main Street is going ahead with its plans, not at all sure that they will be able to present all the shows on its list. "We aren't scheduling any future shows but we know that everything is up in the air. We hope that we'll be able to do the whole season but we also know that at any moment this thing could come back strong again and we have to cut down again or if we can even open."
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Also, like most other Houston theaters, Main Street will be trying to figure out the best way to institute audience spacing if needed with an accompanying decrease in the numbers who can attend any one performance. "It would be easy to ask everyone in the audience to wear masks, to provide masks for the audience and to spread people out to create space. We are expecting that the audiences will be smaller because many people will be reluctant to come back unless there's real certainty that you're not exposed to it."
They also have to think about the distance between audience members and the actors themselves, with an eye to protecting both groups from possible spread of the virus. They are considering realigning their theater in the round into a three quarter seating arrangement, she said, to establish more spacing between the actors and the audiences.
"Everybody say your prayers that we get to do this season," Udden said. "These plays are so unique and so thoughtful and so witty that I would just be heartbroken if we didn’t get to do them all."
2020-2021 MainStage 45th Season
Darwin in Malibu
By Crispin Whittell
September 12 – October11, 2020
Previews: September 6, 10, 11
Malibu, California. The present. One hundred and twenty years after his death, Charles Darwin (‘the Devil’s Chaplain’) is hanging out at a beach house overlooking the Pacific with a girl young enough to be his daughter. His peace is rudely disrupted when his old friend Thomas Huxley (‘the Devil’s Disciple’) washes up on the beach, closely followed by the Bishop of Oxford, Samuel Wilberforce. These three find themselves entangled in an enthralling and thought-provoking comedy about God, science — and plastic surgery.
The Wickhams: Christmas at Pemberley
By Lauren Gunderson and Margot Melcon
November 21 – December 20, 2020
Previews: November 19 and 20
Regency romance is back with our favorite literary couple and their entertaining relations: Elizabeth and Fitzwilliam Darcy! Continuing Jane Austen’s beloved Pride and Prejudice, the below stairs servants at the grand Pemberley estate find themselves in the midst of a holiday scandal. An unwelcome visitor has stumbled into the hall in the middle of the night—Mr. Darcy’s nemesis and Lydia’s incorrigible husband, Mr. Wickham! Mrs. Reynolds, the bustling housekeeper, Cassie, the resilient new serving girl, and Brian, the helplessly romantic groomsman, must each balance their holiday preparations with keeping Wickham confined. But before long, everything reaches a boiling point, festivities spiral into chaos, and the truth comes to light! An utterly delightful holiday tale.
Mother of the Maid
By Jane Anderson
February 6 – 28, 2021
Previews: January 21, February 4 and 5
In this riveting new play, Jane Anderson reimagines Joan of Arc’s epic tale through the eyes of her mother. Isabelle Arc is a sensible, hard-working, God-fearing woman. Her headstrong daughter, on the other hand, communes with Saint Catherine, wears men’s clothing, and prepares to lead the French army into battle. Motherhood in the fifteenth century isn’t easy! Isabelle closely follows the baffling yet awe-inspiring journey of her curious, extraordinary daughter. Isabelle remains steadfast in her love and presence for daughter to the end, facing her own fears and doubts about her own faith along the way.
By Liz Duffy Adams
March 27 – April 18, 2021
Previews: March 21, 25. 26
The post-apocalyptic wilderness was never funnier! Follow the adventures of Zetta Stone, a traveling performer, and her companion Dog (a young man undergoing a voluntary species demotion) as they wander through the former northeastern United States. Zetta, Dog and their little vaudevillesque troupe are on their way to a gig in China, assuming they can find it. A theatrical, darkly comic variation on the classic doomsday genre that hysterically and poignantly celebrates the need for language and stories when civilization has fallen into chaos. Recommended for mature audiences due to profanity, violence, and adult situations.
Houston audiences will have a wonderful opportunity to sample Liz Duffy Adams’ work when the Alley Theatre offers the world premiere of her newest play, Born with Teeth, around the same time as Main Street’s production of Dog Act.
The Best of Everything
Adapted by Julie Kramer
Based on the book by Rona Jaffe
May 15 – June 13, 2021
Previews: May 9, 13, 14
Imagine Madmen meets Sex and the City! The Best of Everything is new adaptation of Rona Jaffe’s 1958 bestseller about ambitious secretaries in the big city. These girls want thrilling careers and grand adventures—and husbands and children too, in due time. Today we call that “having it all." These gals call it “the best of everything.” And wisely enough, they’re not sure it’s possible.
The Real Inspector Hound
By Tom Stoppard
July 17 – August 8, 2021
Previews: July 11, 15, 16
Attending the premiere of a new murder mystery, two feuding theater critics soon find themselves inside drawn into the play-within-a-play! In the hilarious spoof of Agatha Christie-style mysteries that follows, the mists roll in around isolated Muldoon Manor, and the critics become implicated in the lethal activities of an escaped madman. It’s brilliant comedy as only Tom Stoppard can do!