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Alley Theater Announces 2017-18 Season, With World Premieres and the Return of Sherlock Holmes

Brandon Potter as President Lyndon Baines Johnson in Alley Theatre’s All the Way last season. Get ready for Part 2 in The Great Society.
Brandon Potter as President Lyndon Baines Johnson in Alley Theatre’s All the Way last season. Get ready for Part 2 in The Great Society.
Photo by Karen Almond
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With world premieres galore, the next part of the LBJ story and the return of a Sherlock Holmes mystery in the Summer Chills series, the 2017-18 season announced by the Alley Theatre today sounds both challenging and audience-pleasing.

Gifted playwright Rajiv Joseph (Gruesome Playground Injuries, The Monster at the Door, Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo) returns with a specially commissioned work and world premiere: Describe the Night, a story of intrigue and subterfuge through the years starting in 1920.

Another world premiere, Cleo by Lawrence Wright, is a comedy about the tumultuous affair engaged in by Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor during the filming of Cleopatra in 1963.

Robert Schenkkan is back with The Great Society, which follows his Tony Award-winning All the Way about the start of Lyndon Johnson's presidency. In The Great Society, LBJ fights the war on poverty while the Vietnam War looms ever larger.

And there's yet another world premiere from Suzanne Vega, who also performs her work. Entitled Lover, Beloved, it depicts Carson McCullers, author of The Heart is a Lonely Hunter and The Member of the Wedding.

In Satchmo at the Waldorf, playwright Terry Teachout looks at the life of Louis Armstrong, the trumpet player celebrated throughout the world. This is Teachout's first play; he wrote a 2009 biography on Armstrong.

Alley Artistic Director Gregory Boyd will be directing the comedy Picasso at the Lapin Agile by Steve Martin, whose play imagines a meeting of Pablo Picasso and Albert Einstein in a cafe in Paris in 1904.

It's three years after Sherlock Holmes supposedly died and Dr. John Watson receives word that three patients in an asylum all claim to be Holmes. Holmes and Watson, written by Jeffrey Hatcher (Sherlock Holmes and The Adventure of the Suicide Club) and based on the characters of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, is another entry in the Alley's Summer Chills series.

A reality-TV baking show is the setting for The Cake by Bekah Brunstetter. When the cake baker discovers there are two women involved in an upcoming wedding, everything screams to a halt while morality is debated.

Here's more on the lineup from the Alley:

World Premiere
Describe the Night
By Rajiv Joseph
September 20, 2017 through October 15, 2017
Neuhaus Theatre

In 1920, the Russian writer Isaac Babel wanders the countryside with the Red Cavalry. Seventy years later, a mysterious KGB agent spies on a woman in Dresden and falls in love. In 2010, an aircraft carrying most of the Polish government crashes in the Russian city of Smolensk. Rajiv Joseph (Gruesome Playground Injuries, The Monster at the Door, Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo) returns to the Alley with his epic new play Describe the Night which traces the stories of seven men and women connected by history, myth and conspiracy theories.
Describe the Night was commissioned by the Alley Theatre.

World Premiere
By Lawrence Wright
October 4, 2017 through October 22, 2017
Hubbard Theatre

Set during the filming of the disastrous 1963 movie Cleopatra, Cleo is the story of the scandalous romance of Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. Their relationship brought condemnation from the Vatican and the U.S. Congress, and it opened the age of paparazzi and tabloid celebrity, ensuring that the names Burton and Taylor would always be associated with the greatest sex scandal in ancient history, that of Antony and Cleopatra. Acclaimed director and actor Bob Balaban (Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Gosford Park and multiple films with Christopher Guest including Waiting for Guffman and Best in Show) directs.

A Christmas Carol — a Ghost Story of Christmas
By Charles Dickens
Adapted and originally directed by Michael Wilson
Directed by James Black
November 19, 2017 through December 30, 2017

Houston’s seasonal favorite described by the Houston Press as having “Spectacular London sets... the inimitable Dickens’ tale – spiced with the usual fog and an unusual twist on the ghosts past, present and future.” A Christmas Carol - A Ghost Story of Christmas returns this year with a re-telling of Charles Dickens’ classic story, which follows Ebenezer Scrooge’s journey with the three ghostly spirits who visit him on Christmas Eve. A Christmas Carol instills a powerful message about redemption and the spirit of the holiday season.

The Santaland Diaries
By David Sedaris
Adapted for the stage by Joe Mantello
December 2, 2017 through December 31, 2017
Neuhaus Theatre

Company Artist Todd Waite reprises his role as “Crumpet the Elf” in the outlandish, and true, chronicles of David Sedaris’ experience as a worker in Macy’s SantaLand display. This compact, one-character comedy is a hilarious cult classic, featuring comic encounters during the height of the holiday crunch. NPR humorist and best-selling author of Let’s Explore Diabetes With Owls, David Sedaris has become one of America’s preeminent humorists.

The Great Society
By Robert Schenkkan
Co-production with Dallas Theater Center
January 31, 2018 through February 18, 2018
Hubbard Theatre

The tumultuous beginning of Lyndon Johnson’s presidency was dramatized by Robert Schenkkan in his Tony Award-winning play All the Way, seen in a spectacular Alley production last season. The LBJ journey continues in part two, The Great Society. From 1965 to 1968, LBJ struggles to fight a war on poverty even as his war in Vietnam spins out of control. Besieged by political opponents, Johnson marshals all his political wiles while the country descends into chaos over the war and backlash against civil rights.

World Premiere
Lover, Beloved
An Evening With Carson McCullers
Written and Performed by Suzanne Vega
Songs by Duncan Sheik and Suzanne Vega
February 14, 2018 through March 11, 2018
Neuhaus Theatre

Grammy Award-winning singer/songwriter Suzanne Vega pays homage to renowned Southern writer Carson McCullers (The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, The Member of the Wedding) in this new play with music about the outspoken, perceptive and wild dreamer who became one of the brightest literary lights of the 20th century. The songs, co-authored by Duncan Sheik (Tony Award for Spring Awakening), richly capture McCullers’ instinctively rebellious nature and forward-thinking philosophies on race, gender and love.

Satchmo at the Waldorf
By Terry Teachout
March 7, 2018 through March 25, 2018
Hubbard Theatre

March 1971. Backstage at the Empire Room of New York’s Waldorf Astoria Hotel. Louis Armstrong, the greatest trumpet player in the world, sits in his dressing room trying to pull himself together to do one final show. Because as long as they clap, Louis will go out there and play. His mind wanders through the amazing journey of his life and his complex relationship with his manager Joe Glaser. In a tour de force performance, one actor journeys into the mind and heart of an American musical genius and the man behind the legend.

Picasso at the Lapin Agile
By Steve Martin
April 25, 2018 through May 13, 2018
Hubbard Theatre

Paris. 1904. Picasso and Einstein walk into a bar. Humorous, contemplative and wholly imaginative, comedian and film star turned playwright Steve Martin’s play surprises and provokes. Jumping off from the notion that these two great men were close in age and in Paris at the same time, Martin leaps into a fantastical contemplation of what they might have discussed and who else might have joined them at the Lapin Agile bar.
Artistic Director Gregory Boyd directs the Alley Resident Acting Company in this toast to the 20th century.

Holmes and Watson
By Jeffrey Hatcher
May 30, 2018 through June 24, 2018
Hubbard Theatre

Three years after the mysterious death of beloved detective Sherlock Holmes off Reichenbach Falls, Dr. John H. Watson receives a telegram that suggest his old friend may still be alive. The mysterious wire was sent from a doctor who states that three patients in his asylum’s care have each claimed to be the late Sherlock Holmes. Watson embarks on a journey to disprove these claims. Could Sherlock Holmes really be alive after all this time? Holmes and Watson is a riveting new adventure from award-winning writer Jeffrey Hatcher.

The Cake
By Bekah Brunstetter
June 20, 2018 through July 8, 2018
Neuhaus Theatre

Jen lives in New York but has always dreamed of getting married in her native North Carolina. With the wedding six months away, she heads down South to ask Della, her late mother’s best friend who owns a bakery there, to do the honors of making her wedding cake. Della's cakes are the best—she's going to compete on the Great American Baking Show, no big deal. Della is overjoyed to make Jen’s cake—until she realizes that there isn’t just one bride, but two. She can't really bake a cake for such a wedding, can she? Moral quandaries, reality TV and loads and loads of butter form this play by Bekah Brunstetter (NBC’s This Is Us) about three women trying to reach out across a divide that just keeps growing.

Previously announced 2017 Summer Chills:

Alfred Hitchcock's The 39 Steps
Adapted By Patrick Barlow
July 26, 2017 through August 20, 2017
Hubbard Theatre

ExxonMobil’s Summer Chills returns in July with the comedy thriller Alfred Hitchcock’s The 39 Steps. Packed with nonstop laughs and over 150 eccentric characters (played by four actors) the play is about a man with an ordinary life who meets a woman with a strong accent who says she's a spy. When he takes her home, she is murdered. Soon, a mysterious organization called "The 39 Steps" is hot on the man's trail in a nationwide manhunt that climaxes in a death-defying finale. A riotous blend of virtuoso performances and wildly inventive stagecraft, The 39 Steps amounts to an unforgettable evening of pure pleasure. Mark Shanahan returns to the Alley to direct The 39 Steps.

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