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Spring theater to present new works and old favorites

A new semester on the stage promises an array of emotional and entertaining performances

Theater aficionados and newcomers alike will have plenty to see and talk about this semester as students, faculty members and visiting artists stage an ambitious spring lineup with performances of a vast thematic range. From Neoclassical tragedy to contemporary devised work, the next few months in drama offer works meant to challenge, arrest and delight audiences.

Production Workshop will start off the season next week with Peter Shaffer’s provocative “Equus,” directed by Ben Freeman ’13. Equal parts psychological detective story and cosmic rite, the work examines a boy’s theological and erotic fascination with horses and will play Feb. 8-11 in the PW Downspace.

“What has delighted us about ‘Equus’ is the depth of its ambiguity — ecstasy, doubling as torment, doubling as passion, doubling as madness,” Freeman said. “As a team we have far more questions about the play than answers.”

Also at PW this semester, Jenny Gorelick ’14 will direct “Goose and Tomtom” by David Rabe, a play about small-time jewel thieves that combines scenes of intense violence with crude humor and slapstick gags.

“‘Goose and Tomtom’ is a physical comedy that incorporates elements of the surreal to create an experience that is both hilarious and destabilizing,” Gorelick said. “My vision of the play centers on power — how much we have over each other, our environments and ourselves.”

Power and its erosion will figure prominently in visiting director Young Jean Lee’s “Straight White Men,” which she is producing in residency with Sock and Buskin. Lee has earned an international reputation as an avant-garde playwright. “When starting a play, I ask myself, ‘What’s the last show in the world I would ever want to make?’ Then I force myself to make it,” she wrote in an email to The Herald.

The work is still in development, and much of it will be devised on site. “I write my shows as I’m directing them, working collaboratively with my performers and artistic team and getting feedback from workshop audiences,” she said. “I never really know for sure until I’m in the room with the actors making it happen.”

The performance will feature themes familiar to a Brown audience, such as the deconstruction of gender, race and sexuality. “Our goal is to find ways to get past our audiences’ defenses against uncomfortable subjects and open people up to confronting difficult questions by keeping them disoriented and laughing,” she added. “Straight White Men” will run April 4-7 and 11-14 in Leeds Theatre.

In a shift from the experimental to the canonical, Sock and Buskin will also be producing “Phaedra,” a tragedy by French dramatist Jean Racine, first performed in 1677. The work, which will run Feb. 28 - March 10 in Stuart Theatre, will be directed by Spencer Golub, professor of theatre arts and performance studies. The play revolves around characters from Greek mythology who were first staged by the likes of Greek dramatists Euripedes and Seneca.

At Musical Forum, Alex Ostroff ’14 will direct “Bat Boy” by Keythe Farley and Brian Flemming with music and lyrics by Laurence O’Keefe. The show tells the story of a mysterious bat-like boy who is found in a cave and raised in small town West Virginia. It will run in the PW Downspace in April.

“The music is very catchy and very diverse. It has everything from a hoedown to a rap to a big kickline chorus number,” Ostroff said. “It’s a lot of fun, and my main goal is that everyone involved has a lot of fun making it, because at the end of the day that’s the kind of theater I love watching most.”

Later this month, Shakespeare on the Green will present “Festen” directed by Margaret Maurer ’13. This riff on “Hamlet” was originally a Danish film and was adapted for the stage by David Eldridge. The play dramatizes a dinner party during which a painful family secret is exposed.

“As the night goes on, the party devolves and the family is forced to face the truth,” Maurer said. “This is the party that never ends.”

Brown University Gilbert and Sullivan will stage “Pirates of Penzance,” an irreverent comic opera that satirizes honor, duty and the alleged ferocity of sea marauders. “This show is all about poking fun at those who take themselves a little too seriously, and I look forward to bringing that spirit into the modern era,” said stage manager Robert Volgman. With musical direction by Alec Kacew ’14, “Pirates” will run April 12-14 in the PW Downspace.


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