Starting with the tried and true - You Can't Take It With You by Moss Hart and George S. Kaufman - the Alley Theatre's 2013-14 season announced today will be dominated by American plays and give female actors a special chance to shine, according to Alley Artistic Director Gregory Boyd.
The Alley will also be doing the much talked about Venus in Fur by David Ives, dipping into the Alan Ayckbourn well again, this time with Communicating Doors, and bring a new-to-the-Alley production of Agatha Christie's The Hollow.
Others in a season that doesn't have as many recognizable titles as usual for a general audience include: The Good Woman of Setzuan by Bertolt Brecht, Never the Sinner by John Logan (Red, Skyfall), Other Desert Cities by Jon Robin Baitz, Freud's Last Session by Mark St. Germain and Good People by David Lindsay-Abaire.
Boyd said the six American plays "are about the American character. What's in the American character, right now in terms of what's happening in the economy, what's happening with politics and what's happening with the politics of the established versus the eccentric.
"The other two, the Ayckbourn and the Brecht we wanted to do for a long time," Boyd said. "Next year's season I really wanted to focus on the female characters. This year it was more on the male characters. I wanted to balance that with some extraordinary writing for women."
Boyd said You Can't Take it With You, written during a time of economic crisis, is perhaps more pertinent than ever. "Here you have a clash between a family of eccentrics and a family that represents a sort of established way of thinking. But both of them are so deeply dyed in the American character that it's probably the most American play I know."
"Venus and Fur -- I think it's very sexy and very provocative and very funny and those are three great qualities. I think people who know it are really eager to see that we're doing it," Boyd said. "It's a very clever and wonderful thing that David Ives has created and I think his earlier work as a playwright has sort of been leading up to this. It's got all the kind of theater love that his other work has and all the kind of gamesmanship that his other work has but he's added to that a kind of funny and I think healthy view of sex that's funny and great.
The Alley's present season has been going well in terms of ticket sales and audience approval, Boyd said. "November and Clybourne Park set records downstairs and Death of a Salesman did really well despite the fact we lost a week of performances and A Few Good Men was one of biggest successes the theater's had," Boyd said.
What's missing from the upcoming season are any of the new play initiatives for which the Alley has received so much praise. Boyd said several of them are in the pipeline but probably won't show up on stage in the next season. "Plays are ready when they're ready; you don't want to rush them into production."
Boyd also said when they program they keep in mind that "It's always good when the big stage talks to the small stage and during The Mountaintop and Clybourne Park that was the point. And it's the point for a lot of the programming next year too."
The play Never the Sinner: The Murder Trial of the Century is from early in playwright John Logan's career. "Everybody knows him now as the author of Red and James Bond films and the play he just opened in London called Peter and Alice. This is early on and he takes the Leopold and Loeb case and spins it into this very theatrical and very sort of -- it's not a realistic approach to a trial. At a time when we're looking at a lot of teenage murderers, here's a play about teenage murderers.
"We wanted to do it for a long time. I've known it for 20 years, but I handed it around for people to read again and everybody said yeah we have to do this now because of what it is about. Sensationalism in the coverage of a crime, what the media does when a crime is exploited and the idea of two young killers who kill just to kill. And then the back half of the play is what happens when we really confront the idea of what a death penalty means. These are all issues that are with us today as they were in 1928 when the play is set."
Boyd said he thinks every theater ought to do a play at least every other year by the Alan Ayckbourn, who has worked at the Alley on several occasions and had a couple of his plays premiere here.
Communicating Doors is one of his three so-called science fiction comedies, Boyd said. "And it really is sort of Back to the Future Meets Hitchcock. It's a play about time travel that's also about these two wonderful women characters and how they try to prevent their own murder by going back and forth. And it's a comedy beyond that. I think it's a great piece."
"The Brecht is huge but if I were stranded on a desert island and I could only take three playwrights with me I'd take Brecht and I'd take Euripides and I'd take Chekhov, assuming you always had a Shakespeare with you."
"I think we you're trying to react to what's happening in the world. We try to program seasons of plays and not individual plays because it's a year long conversation with the audience," Boyd said.
From the Alley Theatre's press release about its upcoming season:
You Can't Take It With You By Moss Hart and George S. Kaufman Hubbard Stage September 20 to October 20, 2013
This Pulitzer Prize-winning classic by the team of Kaufman and Hart (The Man Who Came to Dinner, 2009) is perhaps the greatest American comedy ever written. Alice Sycamore must introduce her fiance's straitlaced family to her rather more eccentric family. When the wildly different families meet, the worlds of the wealthy, uptight Kirbys and the off-kilter Sycamores collide. At first the Sycamores seem mad, but it is not long before we realize that if they are mad, the rest of the world is madder. Kaufman and Hart's hilarious You Can't Take It With You features the Alley Resident Company of Actors. Recommended for general audiences.
Venus in Fur By David Ives Neuhaus Stage October 18 to November 17, 2013
Theatrical mastermind David lves' sexy, provocative comedy, Venus in Fur, is an electrifying game of cat and mouse between a young actress and a demanding playwright-director that blurs the lines between fantasy and reality, seduction and power, love and sex. "Role-playing takes on a whole new meaning" (New York Post) in this "don't miss" play The Wall Street Journal says is "deadly serious, madly funny ... you won't see a funnier play this season, or a smarter one." Recommended for mature audiences.
Other Desert Cities By Jon Robin Baitz Hubbard Stage January 10 to February 2, 2014
A riveting new play by Pulitzer Prize nominee and creator of TV's hit drama Brothers & Sisters, Jon Robin Baitz's Other Desert Cities was named the Outstanding Play by the Outer Critics Circle and called "the best new play on Broadway" by The New York Times. After a six-year absence, Brooke Wyeth returns home to Palm Springs to celebrate Christmas with her parents, brother and aunt. The warm desert air turns chilly when news of her upcoming memoir threatens to revive the most painful chapter of the family's history. The New York Daily News calls this dysfunctional family drama "a winner ... funny and fierce, invigorating and intelligent." Recommended for mature audiences.
Freud's Last Session By Mark St. Germain Neuhaus Stage January 24 to February 23 , 2014
Freud's Last Session centers on legendary psychoanalyst Dr. Sigmund Freud, who invites a little known professor C.S. Lewis, (who later wrote the children's classic The Chronicles of Narnia), to his home in London. Lewis, expecting to be called on the carpet for satirizing Freud in a recent book, soon realizes Freud has a much more significant agenda. On the day England enters World War II, Freud and Lewis clash on the existence of God, love, sex, and the meaning of life. "The humor is plentiful" (The New York Times) in this "thrilling" (Variety) tete-a-tete. Recommended for general audiences.
Never the Sinner: The Murder Trial of the Century By John Logan Hubbard Stage February 21 to March 16, 2014
Playwright John Logan - who received three Academy Award nominations and wrote the recent James Bond film Skyfall, and won the Tony, Drama Desk, Outer Critic Circle and Drama League awards for his play Red (Alley production, 2012) - returns to the Alley with the play that launched his career. Never the Sinner is about two boys who commit a murder- not for gain, or out of passion- just to do it, just to experience the thrill. Based on the infamous 1924 trial of Leopold and Loeb, Never the Sinner is their story, and the story of one of the most famous American lawyers and civil libertarians, Clarence Darrow. In the case of a lifetime, Darrow is called in to defend the monstrous and try to win freedom for the depraved. Recommended for mature audiences.
Communicating Doors By Alan Ayckbourn Hubbard Stage April 4 to April 25,2014
Award-winning playwright Alan Ayckbourn (House & Garden, 2002) returns to the Alley in this ingenious comic tour de force where Back to the Future meets Hitchcock. In 2024 Phoebe, a "private personal services consultant," finds herself with an elderly client in a posh hotel room- she opens the wrong door and fi nds herself running for her life. Soon she is confronting her own past by way of a woman named Ruella, and the two join forces to prevent a murder, while Phoebe's gradual friendship with that remarkable woman changes the future for both of them. Eleven plays penned by Alan Ayckbourn have been produced by the Alley, including the American premiere of Henceforward in 1987. Alan Ayckbourn has been inducted into the American Theatre's Hall of Fame, received the 2010 Critics' Circle Award for Services to the Arts, became the fi rst British playwright to receive both Olivier and Tony Special Lifetime Achievement Awards and was knighted in 1997 for services to the theatre. Recommended/or adults due to language.
Good People By David Lindsay-Abaire Hubbard Stage May 16 to June 8, 2014
Nominated for a 20 11 Tony Award for Best Play, Good People is a funny, tough and tender story about the insurmountable class divide. When Margie Walsh loses her job at a South Boston dollar store, she reaches out to old flame Mike, a neighborhood boy who escaped and became a successful doctor. Margie's attempt to hit Mike up for a job takes on a surprising twist when she realizes the power a secret from Mike's past holds. From Pulitzer Prize-winner David Lindsay-Abaire, Good People looks at the extraordinary consequences of choosing to hold on to the past or leaving it behind. "Thoroughly absorbing ... Good People is good stuff" (Variety) and one of the finest new American plays. Recommended for mature audiences.
The Good Woman of Setzuan By Bertolt Brecht Neuhaus Stage May 30 to June 29, 2014
Can we practice goodness and create a world to sustain it? In Brecht's comic, intriguing epic play, this question is raised by one of his most entertaining characters, Shen Teh, the good-hearted, penniless prostitute who is forced to disguise herself as a savvy businessman named Simi Ta to master the ruthlessness needed to be a "good person" in a brutal world. Recommended/or mature audiences.
SUMMER PRODUCTION ExxonMobil Summer Chills Agatha Christie's The Hollow By Agatha Christie Hubbard Stage July 5 to August 4, 2013
A weekend gathering at The Hollow family estate of Lady Lucy and Sir Henry Angkatell explodes in the murder of one of their guests, physician John Cristow. When the good doctor is found shot, almost everyone is suspect with opportunity and motive including his dim but loyal wife, his current mistress, and his ex-mistress, who lives on a neighboring estate. Don't miss this classic Christie whodunit filled with brilliantly eccentric characters. Recommended for general audiences.
HOLIDAY PRODUCTION: Houston's Holiday Favorite A Christmas Carol- A Ghost Story of Christmas By Charles Dickens Adapted and Originally Directed by Michael Wilson Directed by James Black Hubbard Stage November 15 - December 29, 2013
Houston's seasonal favorite the Houston Press described 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 follows Ebenezer Scrooge's journey with the three ghostly spirits that visit him on Christmas Eve. A Christmas Carol instills a powerful message about redemption and the spirit of the holiday season. Recommended for general audiences.
For ticket information call 713-220-5700 or visit alleytheatre.org,