Arena Stage Explores ‘Chocolate’ and ‘Wilderness’

The glass-walled facade of the Mead Center For American Theater at Arena Stage. (Photo: Paul Trinh)

The theatrical legacy of the American canon is the big theme that comprises the strong and diverse new season at Arena Stage for 2011-12. Based in Washington, D.C., the company will present an expanded schedule of eight subscription plays, plus three add-ons, at the Mead Center for American Theater. An architectural marvel of a space, the Mead Center is the result of a $125 million building makeover that includes three stages under one facility.

Artistic Director Molly Smith will continue to honor the company’s mission by presenting bold American works and developing new plays in the second full season at the Mead. A double-bill of Eugene O’Neill’s masterworks, Ah, Wilderness! and Long Day’s Journey Into Night is the centerpiece for the Spring 2012 schedule. A pre-Broadway musical premiere of Like Water For Chocolate as the opening production is set for September 9-October 31. Based on the best-selling novel and film, D.C. audiences will get a first look at this romantic story of food, lust and magical realism.

Co-productions transferring from visiting companies include the Restoration thriller Equivocation, from Oregon Shakespeare Festival, and Red, from the Goodman Theater in Chicago. Written by Bill Cain, Equivocation is a tense cat-and-mouse story pitting Shakespeare against King James during an important commission in 1605 London. Red, winner of the 2010 Tony Award for Best Play, is John Logan’s remarkable theatrical expression of Mark Rothko’s color canvases. Other intriguing choices include You, Nero, a farce on how Nero attempts to restore a collapsed Rome and Elephant Room, an absurdist piece on revealing truths and vulnerabilities. The Music Man, directed by Molly Smith, will close out the season on May 11-June 22, 2012.

Myself having seen a reverent and well-regarded production of Oklahoma! last fall, Arena Stage has truly impressed and become the theater company to watch, especially under the leadership of Molly Smith. Those D.C. patrons (Corcorans, you too!) should best take advantage of this envied lineup and modern facility. Season information, including details on the forthcoming Albee Festival, is available at www.arenastage.org.

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