Today, Shakespeare Theatre Company becomes the first of the subscription theaters in DC to announce its 2014-15 season. As the various companies in and around town announce what they’re doing next season, we’ll use this space to give you the lowdown–and some first impressions.
Company trademark: The classics, and then some.
–“As You Like It,” directed by Michael Attenborough.
–“The Tempest,” directed by Ethan McSweeny.
–“The Metromaniacs,” directed by Michael Kahn.
–“Man of La Mancha,” directed by Alan Paul.
–“Tartuffe,” directed by Dominique Serrand.
–“Enrico IV,” directed by Kahn.
Dates for these main stage productions were not announced. (“The Tempest,” “Man of La Mancha” and “Enrico IV” will be housed in the larger Sidney Harman Hall on F Street NW; “As You Like It,” “The Metromaniacs” and “Tartuffe” in the Lansburgh Theatre on 7th Street NW.) The handful of special presentations that it imports from elsewhere, such as this season’s “Mies Julie” and “Man in a Case,” will be unveiled later.
Highlights: Attenborough, former head of London’s Almeida Theatre (and son of actor/director Richard Attenborough) is working at Shakespeare for the first time. So is Serrand, co-founder of Theatre de la Jeune Lune in Minneapolis, who will be staging Moliere’s best-known comedy with Steven Epp in the title role. You may remember Epp in the company’s highly enjoyable 2012 presentation of “The Servant of Two Masters.” Kahn’s direction of “Enrico IV,” by Luigi Pirandello, will showcase a rarely revived 20th Century play, in a translation by Tom Stoppard. And Kahn’s staging of “The Metromaniacs” by Alexis Piron, a 17th Century French dramatist, is being billed as yet another world premiere adaptation for the company by prolific David Ives (“The Liar” and “The Heir Apparent”).
Analysis: This is a far more balanced and intriguing season than the chestnut-packed roster for 2013-14, when the company has not only produced “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum” and “The Importance of Being Earnest,” but “Private Lives” as well. The syrupy “Man of La Mancha,” with “Forum” director Paul again at the helm, is filling what seems to be a new slot at Shakespeare, a position for an old musical that we’ll call its Offering-Of-Last-Resort.
While it’s disconcerting to think of “La Mancha” as the season’s likely top earner, serious playgoers can overlook the nod to box-office realities by focusing on all the other potential goodies. “The Tempest” and “As You Like It” and even “Tartuffe” are mainstream choices that nonetheless might be surprising, given their accomplished directors. (Interestingly, only 33 percent of the Shakespeare main stage season will be Shakespeare; this season, it’s 50 percent.) Adding Pirandello’s 1921 play, about an actor who falls off a horse and wakes up thinking he’s the emperor he had been playing onstage, is refreshing. The return of Ives, again mining French classical theater for modern wit, is always a positive indicator. And let’s hope the inclusion in the season of an actor like Epp–the only casting so far to be announced–is the harbinger of other enticing refreshments.