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Performing Art
Arts and Entertainment Wednesday, Jul. 3, 2019 2 months ago

Asolo Repertory Theatre's 2019-2020 season tells several stories of change

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Asolo Rep plans a season of transformative stories for its upcoming season.
by: Marty Fugate Contributor

A play is basically a story on stage. At first glance, the Asolo Repertory Theatre’s upcoming stories have little in common. A sprightly governess who unlocks the heart of a dour widower. A whodunit that turns into a whydunit. A wrestling match for the truth. A bit of Shakespearean cross-dressing. The hole in the heart left behind when a family patriarch dies. All over the map, right? But at second glance, these theatrical tales share a shining thread: transformation. For better or worse, the characters don’t end up the same. Ideally, Asolo audiences will have the same experience. Here’s a sneak peek at the strange changes in the season ahead.

‘The Sound of Music’

Music by: Richard Rodgers; lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II; script by Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse.

When: Nov. 16 to Dec. 28

Tickets: $28 - $97

Salzburg, Austria, 1938. The hills are alive with the sound of music. Unfortunately, the streets are alive with the sound of Nazis. But domestic life goes on. After leaving the nunnery behind, the adorable Maria teaches the seven adorable children of the von Trapp family how to sing. Ah, who am I kidding? Unless you’ve just been recently awakened from cryosleep, you probably know the plot. But Director-Choreographer Josh Rhodes has a fresh take on the familiar material.

Agatha Christie’s ‘Murder on the Orient Express’

Josh Rhodes — Courtesy photo

Stage adaptation by: Ken Ludwig

When: Jan. 10 to March 8

Tickets: $28 - $93

You’re in for a classic, locked room mystery. In this case, the room is a moving train, and there’s no way off. It’s a gleaming, luxury liner for the global elite. What could possibly go wrong? Well, for starters, a snowstorm that stops the train. After that, the discovery of a dead body in a cabin that’s been locked from the inside. An unpleasant American industrialist has apparently been stabbed — 17 times, no less. Who could possibly do such a thing? For what motive? Fortunately, detective Hercule Poirot is on the train. He’ll find the answer. It might prove surprising, at least if you haven’t seen the movies.

‘The Lifespan of a Fact’

Script by: Jeremy Kareken, David Murrell and Gordon Farrell

When: Jan. 24 to March 19

Tickets: $28 - $93

The “new journalists” of the 1960s and ’70s reported on fact with the techniques of fiction. Today, some do away with all that pesky research and make stuff up. Proofreader Jim Fingal suspected that John D’Agata did so when he started fact-checking the author’s essay about Las Vegas suicides. The result was an improbable collaboration, “The Lifespan of a Fact.” In the book, D’Agata and Fingal explored the borderlines of fact and fiction. This theatrical adaptation captures their punchy Socratic dialogue. Do the trio of playwrights get to the truth? I can’t say for a fact.

George Brant’s ‘Into The Breeches!’

When: Feb. 14 to March 21

Tickets: $28 - $93

In Shakespeare’s day, male actors in drag played the roles of women. In 1942, it’s the other way around. The troupe’s male performers are all overseas fighting the Axis powers. It’s now up to the director’s wife to get the female contingent to perform the upcoming play. It’s a production of Shakespeare’s testosterone-fueled “Henry V” no less. So once more into the breeches they go. And thank to these happy few, the show does goes on.

Lauren Yee’s ‘The Great Leap’

When: March 20 to April 12

Tickets: $28 - $93

The American gospel of competitive success and self-actualization finds its perfect expression on the basketball court. (“You can be anyone you want to be! It’s always your turn!”) The self-abnegation of Mao’s communist China found its perfect expression in the “Great Leap Forward,” an inhuman push to industrialize an agrarian society that led to millions of deaths. (“Scatter the old world! Build the new!”) These contradictory philosophies divide the heart of a promising, young, contemporary, Chinese-American basketball player. 

Frank Galati’s ‘Knoxville’

With music by: Stephen Flaherty and lyrics by Lynn Ahrens

When: April 10-25

Tickets: $28 - $93

In 1916, James Agee’s grandfather suffered a heart attack. His father drove off to visit him in the Knoxville hospital and was killed in a car wreck on his way home. Agee’s “A Death in the Family” was a fictionalized account of that devastating loss. His novel explored the ripple effect of the father’s absence in the lives of his family. Agee’s harrowing novel approaches the power of Thomas Wolfe’s “Look Homeward Angel.” No stage adaptation has ever fully done it justice. Galati and his creative collaborators hope to change that.

Lynn Ahrens, Stephen Flaherty and Frank Galati — Photo by Cliff Roles

‘Hood: A Robin Hood Musical Adventure’

Script by: Douglas Carter Beane and Lewis Flinn

When: May 15-31

Tickets: $28 - $93

Hooded figure sighted in Sherwood Forest. Robs from rich, gives to poor. Considered dangerous, approach with caution. Yes, the police report is very old. But as far as we know, Robin Hood is still at large. And his familiar story is still compelling. This rollicking, inventive musical goes back to the story before the story we all know — and the question that lurks behind it. Why would a rich white kid hide in the forest and rip off tourists? 

‘Snow White’

Adapted from: “Grimm’s Fairy Tales” by New International Encounter

When: June 12 – 28

Tickets: $10 - $93

Talk about a dysfunctional family. Snow White’s wicked stepmother (who happened to be the queen) was jealous of her adopted daughter. She ordered her faithful woodsman to take her to the forest and cut out her heart, but he just couldn’t do it. Snow White wound up living with seven dwarfs with entirely altruistic intentions. What can this story tell us today? Absolutely nothing, but it’s a lot of fun in New International Encounter’s cheeky reinvention.

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