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Milwaukee Repertory Theater's 09/10 Season

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Joe

ARTISTIC DIRECTOR JOE HANREDDY’S FINAL SEASON
Ambitious, Engaging and Eclectic

The artistic compass that guided the months of reading, discussion, reflection and relentless revision that went into the making of the 2009/10 season was to assemble a collection of plays that will illuminate as well as provide welcome comic relief from the issues and concerns of the day. We also designed a season that will inspire our artists with the kind of creative challenges and opportunities that result in inspiring experiences for audiences. The final line-up offers an array of genres, periods and styles all tied together by our love of each of these plays and our belief in their power to live in your imagination long after you leave the theater.  

There is a brilliant comic equation at the heart of Nikolai Gogol’s THE GOVERNMENT INSPECTOR which will open the Quadracci Powerhouse season. Mix together unchecked power, greed and ineptitude, and then add complete and utter panic minus any semblance of moral principles and you get unbridled chaos. The comedy begins with a letter to the mayor, tipping him off that the government is sending an inspector – incognito – to look into the efficiency of the town’s institutions. Since the whole of the town’s administration is incorrigibly corrupt, the news of an inspection incites abject terror at city hall. Surely, the inspector is bound to discover that although funds were approved and sent to improve hospitals, schools and courts, those agencies are hopelessly dysfunctional while the officials in charge all live luxurious lifestyles. When the mayor and his bureaucratic cronies hear that a young man from St. Petersburg is staying in one of the town’s inns, they naturally assume that he must be the inspector and set out to flatter and bribe him with money, gifts, sex – whatever it takes to convince him to turn a blind eye to their conspicuous corruption. Playwright and screenwriter Jeffrey Hatcher, who adapted past Rep productions of SERVANT OF TWO MASTERS and ARMADALE, has written a brilliantly irreverent and uproarious script based on Gogol’s original. I’ll direct comic treasures Gerry Neugent, Torrey Hanson and other members of the Resident Acting Company.   

The central characters in our fall Quadracci Powerhouse offering, Lucinda Coxon’s contemporary comedy HAPPY NOW, are smart, well-educated and well-paid professionals. Their lives should be great – but long days filled with job and relationship stresses leave precious little time for anything other than getting the kids down, followed by re-runs of Will and Grace. The brilliant humor of HAPPY NOW? comes from its extraordinarily accurate and truthful observations about life among the ‘almost’ affluent. Deborah Staples heads the cast as Kitty – a mom, wife, daughter and family bread-winner with too much on her plate. HAPPY NOW? was a huge hit at London’s National Theatre and the Yale Repertory Theatre. Jon Jory, one of the American theater’s most eminent and respected directors, will make his Milwaukee Rep debut.     

For 47 years, literally millions of people from around the world shared their most intimate secrets and sought the advice of a diminutive Wisconsin native named Esther Pauline Lederer, who wrote a worldwide syndicated advice column under the name of Ann Landers. Topics ranged from the deliciously trivial (the appropriateness of vacuuming in the nude to the proper way to hang a toilet role), to heartfelt pleas for help with depression, divorce and grief, to the cultural lightning rods of abortion and homosexual unions. David Rambo’s beautifully crafted and respectfully-written THE LADY WITH ALL THE ANSWERS imagines Mrs. Lederer finishing the column that begins, “The sad, incredible fact is that after 36 years of marriage, Julius and I are being divorced.” As she struggles to complete the column, “Eppie” re-lives with her readers her funniest and most controversial columns. THE LADY WITH ALL THE ANSWERS will perform in the Quadracci Powerhouse Theater over the holiday season and is a fully emotionally engaging and entertaining evening. The role of the ‘Lady’is a perfect match for veteran Rep Resident actor Laura Gordon. 

Next up in the Quadracci Powerhouse will be YANKEE TAVERN, a new comedy suspense-thriller by Steven Dietz, which tells the story of Adam, a bartender and International Relations grad student, and his friend, Ray, a barfly and conspiracy theorist.  Ray is ever-willing to go on a rant with the slightest of provocation, compelling Adam to debunk Ray’s outlandish theories surrounding the 9/11 attacks – until he finds himself caught up in one of those very theories. Steven Dietz is a master of ingenious plotting, which he blends with perfect pitch, for comic dialogue to create a stimulating and suspenseful tale with genuine insight into how the most outrageous of suspicions can take root in a world where there is reason to distrust the honesty and intentions of leaders.  Central roles will be played by Brian Vaughn, Peter Silbert and Torrey Hanson. John Langs, the director of last season’s beautifully-conceived I AM MY OWN WIFE, will direct. 

Connor McPherson’s THE SEAFARER is set at Christmastime soon after Sharky, a recovering alcoholic with a slippery grip on sobriety, arrives home to look after his irascible, recently-blinded brother. The place is a mess as their hapless friend, Ivan, rummages about looking for the glasses he lost in the previous night’s bash. Sharky’s ex-wife’s new husband and a well turned-out stranger show up to pass the holiday with a friendly game of cards. As the booze flows around Sharky, he suddenly finds himself in a high stakes game with his soul as collateral. THE SEAFARER was a recent London and Broadway hit and garnered a slew of awards for McPherson, considered by many to be one of our finest contemporary playwrights. Former Abbey Theater Artistic Director Ben Barnes will return to The Rep to direct a cast for a February opening that includes Jim Pickering, Jon Daly and Lee Ernst.

As the final project of the Quadracci Powerhouse season, I’m creating a new stage adaptation of George M. Cohan’s SEVEN KEYS TO BALDPATE. Billy Magee, a writer of popular melodramatic romance novels, comes to a summer resort in the dead of winter on a bet with the resort’s owner that he can knock out a bestseller in 24 hours. Billy banks on complete solitude, but throughout the night he finds that there are six keys to Baldpate besides his own – all of which belong to a series of intruders looking to use the resort for their own purposes. Expect strong doses of melodrama, farce, suspense and theatricality – including double coup de theatres at the conclusion that wouldn’t be out of place in a play by Luigi Pirandello. Our last Cohan romp, THE TAVERN, was great fun for the entire company and was one of our most popular shows. Brian Vaughn will lead a cast that will include the entire Resident Acting Company.

Over in the Stiemke Theater, our first production will be a stage version of Joan Didion’s National Book Award-winning memoir, The Year of Magical Thinking. On Christmas Day 2003, Didion was preparing for dinner with her husband, John Gregory Donne. The couple had spent the morning at the hospital bedside of their grown daughter, Quintana, as she lay stricken with a mysterious infection. While Joan fixed a salad, her husband “was sitting across from me talking, then he wasn’t. Wasn’t talking.” THE YEAR OF MAGICAL THINKING is Didion’s inspiring and deeply personal attempt to make sense of the unimaginable loss of the two people most important to her. We’re wonderfully fortunate that Elizabeth Norment, who has given Rep audiences memorable performances in WIT and THE NIGHT IS A CHILD, will confront the role.

Against the dazzling backdrop of the Aurora Borealis, ALMOST, MAINE follows the residents and visitors of a small, northern town as they fall in and out of love at an alarming rate. Love is discovered; hearts are broken and mended – almost – in what the playwright, John Cariani, calls “a midwinter night’s dream.” We’ll be performing ALMOST, MAINE during the Valentine’s season as a romantic and comedic antidote to the Wisconsin winter. Laura Gordon will direct a cast that includes Deborah Staples, Gerry Neugent and Rep favorite Elizabeth Ledo. All will embark on a three-week tour of Wisconsin following our Stiemke run.

August Wilson’s RADIO GOLF, is set in the late-1990s and completes his unparalleled achievement of creating a ten-play cycle that chronicles the African-American experience during each decade of the 20th century. Sadly, August Wilson passed without being able to witness this year’s historic election, but in this fast-paced, dynamic and wonderfully funny play about a charismatic African-American political candidate with dreams to be Pittsburgh’s first black mayor, Mr. Wilson clearly had his eye on the changes, opportunities and challenges of the future. RADIO GOLF is an intimate, character-driven play – a perfect fit for the Stimeke Theater. I couldn’t be more pleased that Timothy Douglas, who worked directly with August Wilson and directed the premiere production of RADIO GOLF at the Yale Repertory Theatre, has agreed to direct the production as the final production in the Stiemke series. Audiences will remember Timothy’s past Rep productions of TROUBLE IN MIND, THE NIGHT IS A CHILD and GEM OF THE OCEAN.

So – that’s the line-up. It’s an ambitious, engaging and eclectic assortment of theatrical experiences that I promise will excite your mind and emotions as well as deliver abundant and much needed levity, whimsy and joy. Please consider joining us as subscribers in one or more of our theaters.

All the very best,

Joe Hanreddy

 
 
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