GUENEVERE AND ARTHUR Rebecca Gibel and Stephen Thorne in Trinity Rep’s Camelot.
If we've come to know anything about 2nd Story Theatre, it's that we shouldn't presume to know what plays to expect. A tried-and-true classic by, say, John Millington Synge, might be followed up by a contemporary Broadway hit about Mae West — which is how the 2010-11 season will conclude, with Playboy of the Western World and Dirty Blonde, respectively.
Things are starting off this fall in a similar vein. Molière's SCHOOL FOR WIVES (November 12-December 12), which has pleased audiences for nearly 350 years, is being preceded by a contemporary tale of comical human anguish in suburban New Jersey. David Lindsay-Abaire's KIMBERLY AKIMBO (September 24-October 24) is about a teenage girl with a rare disorder that causes her body to age faster than normal — Gilmore Girls, meet Benjamin Button.
Ed Shea, 2nd Story’s artistic director, put it on the bill after its playwright was recommended to him by a contemporary master of comedic playwriting, Christopher Durang. The conversation took place in a pub, when Shea said his theater was running out of Durang plays to stage.
"He recommended the work of a former student of his at Juilliard: David Lindsay-Abaire," Shea noted in an e-mail exchange, "essentially saying, 'If you liked my plays, you’ll love his.' The next year, we included Fuddy Meers in the [2007-08] season."
With that play, once Shea began explaining to audiences in his pre-curtain introductions that the intentional comical confusions of Act One would be resolved in Act Two, “We went from audiences sitting in stupefied silence to audiences convulsed with laughter.”
Shea says that both Lindsay-Abaire and his mentor approach subjects with an absurdist eye. However, “While Durang’s ‘mirror up to nature’ is an array of cracked and broken shards, Lindsay-Abaire’s is a gently distorting funhouse mirror.”
Kimberly Akimbo was chosen instead of Lindsay-Abaire’s Pulitzer Prize-winning Rabbit Hole, which is about surviving the death of a child. Why? Kimberly deals with the difficulty of aging; however, Shea points out, “Overall, Lindsay-Abaire sees the humor in it, the ridiculousness of what time does to us, and he encourages us to carpe diem.”
Some other fall highlights:
This year has been a record-breaker for submissions to Perishable Theatre's INTERNATIONAL WOMAN’S PLAYWRITING FESTIVAL, the 15th annual event that will be staged October 1-23. Of the 256 playwrights entering, two of the three winners are from Chicago — Kit Idaszak's Golden Lasso and Laura Jacqmin's This Is How. Also staged will be Swingin' with Petula, by Mary F. Unser from Los Angeles.
Note that none of those are musicals, which is looking like a trend around here this fall. Five song and sometimes dance shows will be encouraging audiences to warble half-remembered lyrics in the shower.
Trinity Repertory Company is starting things off with a little mythical history, as the Lerner and Loewe classic CAMELOT runs through October 10. Next is the most obscure of the offerings, as Center Stage does CHILDREN OF EDEN, with book by John Caird and music by Stephen Schwartz (October 8-23). Based quite loosely on the Biblical story of Genesis, it takes a humorous look at the eternal conflict between parents and children.