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THEATER

American Players Theatre unveils 2014 season filled with Shakespeare, Stoppard and Shaw


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American Players Theatre, the Shakespeare-focused troupe in Spring Green, has announced the lineup of its 35th season, which kicks of on June 7, 2014.

After successfully producing works by contemporary playwrights such as Tom Stoppard and Brian Friel in 2012 and 2013, APT has reduced its Shakespearean lineup slightly and increased the number of plays by playwrights from the past century and a half. The company will stage two beloved plays by the Bard in its outdoor Up-the-Hill amphitheater: the comedy Much Ado About Nothing and the romantic tragedy Romeo and Juliet. Other outdoor offerings include Oscar Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest, George Bernard Shaw's The Doctor's Dilemma and Anton Chekov's The Seagull.

As it approaches its fifth birthday, the intimate Touchstone Theatre continues to explore ways to complement the Up-the-Hill space indoors. It will host another Stoppard play, Travesties, which shares characters with the outdoor production of The Importance of Being Earnest. Also on the docket are an adaptation of Joan Didion's heart-wrenching memoir The Year of Magical Thinking and the company’s first David Mamet play, American Buffalo.

Here are the plays, with APT's descriptions.

Up-the-Hill

The Importance of Being Earnest
Written by Oscar Wilde
Directed by William Brown

Mistaken identity leads to love in this enduring comedy from the wizard of wit. Responsible, mild-mannered Jack Worthing is harboring a couple of secrets. First, he is in love with his friend Algernon's cousin, Gwendolen. And second, they both think his name is Ernest. In fact, Ernest is Jack's imaginary alter-ego -- a troubled younger brother he created so that he could do whatever he liked in London and no one would ever think to judge him. But when Algernon catches on to the scheme, he decides to be Ernest himself in order to woo Jack's lovely young ward, Cecily. Confusion and hilarity reign, as the ladies try to disentangle the stories of their respective Ernests and jump the seemingly impossible hurdles to marry the Ernest they respectively love.

Much Ado About Nothing
Written by William Shakespeare
Directed by David Frank

Masquerades reveal as much as the hide in this hilarious comedy. Leonato's house is a happy one, complete with beautiful daughter Hero and clever niece Beatrice, as well as Beatrice's aging father Antonio. But when Leonato's friends return from war, the household is turned on its ear by the instant attraction between Hero and Claudio, and the constant bickering (and, clearly, also attraction) between Beatrice and Benedick. But there's a snake in the midst of all this affection, and Don John plots to destroy everyone's happiness before some of our couples are even aware that they are indeed a couple.

Romeo and Juliet
Written by William Shakespeare
Directed by James DeVita

The feud between the Montague and Capulet families comes to a head with tragic consequences in Romeo and Juliet, one of Shakespeare's most renowned plays. Romeo is looking for some distraction when he and his friends decide to crash a Capulet ball. There he meets Juliet and the two instantly fall in love. But when her hot-blooded cousin Tybalt finds out there were Montagues at the family party, he becomes furious in a way that can only end in bloodshed, setting in motion a chain of events that will leave a trail of blood, broken hearts and, of course, poetry.

The Doctor's Dilemma
Written by George Bernard Shaw
Directed by Aaron Posner

In this funny and thought-provoking social commentary from George Bernard Shaw, Dr. Ridgeon has developed a cure for tuberculosis. He's at the very top of his game -- and his patient load -- when the charming Jennifer Dubedat comes to him pleading for the life of her husband, the talent-rich (and penny-poor) artist, Louis. But the good doctor and his friends find that, talented though he may be, Louis may have some character traits that could be deemed irredeemable when one life is weighed against another, and against Dr. Ridgeon's feelings for the dying man’s wife.

The Seagull
Written by Anton Chekhov
Directed by John Langs

It's tough to live up to your parents’ expectations, and tougher when your mom is a famous -- and very critical -- actress. Such is the plight of Arkadina's son Konstantin as he tries to make his mark as a playwright, while holding on to Nina, the woman he loves. Artistic temperaments abound as Arkadina, her lover (the famous author, Trigorin) and the rest of the charismatic cast fall in and out of love and the limelight in this darkly funny comedy.

Touchstone Theatre

American Buffalo
Written by David Mamet
Directed by Kenneth Albers

An astounding play from the master of American drama, three men struggle with poverty, friendship and trust while contemplating a robbery. Don, Teach and Bobby discuss their plans to commit the crime in Don's flailing pawnshop; their every word (and silence) meaning more than what it seems. American Buffalo digs into the minds and conversations of the desperate, turning their words into a kind of profane poetry.

The Year of Magical Thinking
Written by Joan Didion
Directed by Brenda DeVita

Based on the book by decorated literary journalist Joan Didion, The Year of Magical Thinking recounts the twelve months following the unexpected death of her husband, and concurrent hospitalization of her only daughter. Featuring APT Core Company member Sarah Day, this beautifully told chronicle of memory and grief is heartbreaking, hopeful and absolutely riveting

Travesties
Written by Tom Stoppard
Directed by William Brown

Travesties is the funny, clever and generally mind-blowing proof of Tom Stoppard's genius. Henry Carr weaves a tale of the famous people he knew in his youth -- from Dadaist Tristan Tzara, to writer James Joyce to Soviet revolutionary Vladimir Lenin -- his past is a veritable who's who of artistic and political history. But as the years have passed, Carr's memories of his former cohorts have become muddled with his long-ago portrayal of Algernon in The Importance of Being Earnest, making the play and its characters an inalienable part of his reality.

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