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Warren Gerds/Critic at Large: Six productions set for 2020 at professional theater in Sturgeon Bay

Critic At Large

Third Avenue Playhouse

Featured artists in 2020 at Third Avenue Playhouse. (Company photo)


Third Avenue Playhouse announced its 2020 season for Studio Theatre in the playhouse.

According to a press release and the website:

The six plays include an early career work from playwright David Mamet, a 1964 musical by the legendary composer and lyricist Stephen Sondheim, a multi-award winning classic about the unlikely friendship between an elderly lady and her driver, the story of an unconventional advice columnist and a farcical take on the making of “Gone with the Wind.”

Returning to the Third Avenue Playhouse stage will be Doug Mancheski (“Gray’s Anatomy,” “Shooting Star”), Karen Moeller (“The Dig”), Drew Brhel (“Red,” “La La Lucille”), Dan Klarer (“Every Brilliant Thing,” “Isaac’s Eye”) and Ryan Schabach (“The 39 Steps,” “The Glass Menagerie”). Full casting will be announced at a later date.  

C. Michael Wright of the Milwaukee Chamber Theatre will be Third Avenue Playhouse’s 2020 guest director. Also directing are Third Avenue Playhouse’s co-artistic directors, Robert Boles and James Valcq. 

The lineup:

+ “A Life in the Theatre,” March 26-April 26. Directing the play by David Mamet is Robert Boles.

Robert (played by Doug Mancheski), an aging actor, is intent on teaching John, a young up and comer, the tricks and truths of the trade. As they spar and critique each other’s performances, the audience becomes a fly on the dressing room wall, eavesdropping on the actors’ conversations and getting a from-the-wings look at snips of their performances.

Works of David Mamet – an author, essayist, playwright and screenwriter – are known for their clever and terse dialogue. He has earned a Pulitzer Prize for “Glengarry Glen Ross” and Oscar nominations for “House of Games,” “The Spanish Prisoner,” “Wag the Dog” and “The Verdict.”

+ “Tiny Beautiful Things,” May 14-June 7. The play is an adaptation by Nia Varadalos (“My Big Fat Greek Wedding”) of the book by Cheryl Strayed. Directing is James Valcq.

The play explores Cheryl Strayed’s time as the anonymous advice columnist, “Dear Sugar.” While navigating her readers’ questions and pleas for advice, Strayed weaves together her personal experiences and finds the courage to create a column full of light, laughter and humanity. The play is “about reaching when you’re stuck, healing when you’re broken, and finding the courage to take on the questions which have no answers.”

Cheryl Strayed is the author of the best-selling memoir, “Wild,” Tiny Beautiful Things” and “Brave Enough” and the novel “Torch.” Strayed’s books have been translated into nearly 40 languages. 

+ “Driving Miss Daisy,” June 25- July 25. Directing the play by Alfred Uhry is C. Michael Wright.

The Pulitzer Prize-winning play is a warm-hearted, humorous and affecting study of the unlikely relationship between an aging, crotchety white Southern lady and a proud, soft-spoken African-American man. What begins as a troubled and hostile pairing, soon blossoms into a profound, life-altering friendship that transcends all the societal boundaries placed between them.

Following its Off-Broadway production in 1987, “Driving Miss Daisy” became a film starring Jessica Tandy and Morgan Freeman that won four Academy Awards, including Best Picture).

Alfred Uhry is only American playwright to have won a Pulitzer Prize, an Academy Award and two Tony Awards. “Driving Miss Daisy” won the Pulitzer Prize in 1988. Other works include: “The Light Night of Ballyhoo” (Tony Award), “Parade” (Tony Award), “Without Walls” (starring Laurence Fishburne), “Edgardo Mine” (at the Guthrie Theatre in Minneapolis) and the book for the Broadway musical “LoveMusik” (Drama Desk nomination).

+ “Anyone Can Whistle,” July 30-Sept. 5. The musical includes music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and book by Arthur Laurents. Directing and choreographing is James Valcq.

The musical is an absurdist social satire about insanity and conformity (among a dozen other things). It’s a highly unconventional, wacky musical that points ahead to Stephen Sondheim’s groundbreaking work in the years since. The melodic Broadway-style score includes youthful energy of experimentation.

Stephen Sondheim is mainly known for his stage works, which include “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum,” “Company,” “Follies.” “Sweeney Todd” and “A Little Night Music.”  He wrote the lyrics for the classic musicals “West Side Story” and “Gypsy.” Sondheim, 89, is working on a new musical based on the life and work of surrealist film maker Luis Buneul. Revivals of “Company” and “West Side Story” will be presented on Broadway during the 2019-2020 season.

Arthur Laurents’ career as playwright, director and screen writer spanned seven decades. His numerous Broadway credits include the books for the musicals “West Side Story” (1957), “Gypsy” (1959), “Anyone Can Whistle” (1964), “Do I Hear a Waltz?” (1965) – all four of these collaborations with Stephen Sondheim – and “Hallelujah, Baby!” (1967), which won a Tony Award for Best Musical. Among his plays are “Home of the Brave” (1945) and “The Time of the Cuckoo” (1952). As a stage director, he won a Tony Award for “La Cage aux Folles” (1983) and enjoyed enormous success with revivals of “Gypsy” (1974) and “West Side Story” (2009). 

+ “Moonlight and Magnolias,” Sept. 10-Oct. 25. Directing the play by Ron Hutchinson is Robert Boles.

Legendary producer David O. Selznick (played by Drew Brhel) has shut down production of his new epic, “Gone with the Wind.” The screenplay just doesn’t work. So what’s an all-powerful movie mogul to do? While fending off the film’s stars, gossip columnists and his own father-in-law, Selznick sends a car for famed screenwriter Ben Hecht (Dan Klarer) and pulls formidable director Victor Fleming (Ryan Schabach) from the set of “The Wizard of Oz.” Summoning both to his office, he locks the doors, closes the shades and provides a diet of bananas and peanuts. Completing this job may take everything these men have to give. This is a farcical look at the behind-the-scenes birth of one of the most beloved films of all time… with many pieces of truth to it.

Ron Hutchinson’s theater work includes “Rat in the Skull” (revival, Duke of York’s Theatre 1995); an adaptation of Mikhail Bulgakov’s “Flight” at the National Theatre, 1997; “Burning Issues,” Hampstead Theatre Club, 1999; “Beau!” Theatre Royal, Bath, national tour and Haymarket, Leicester Square, 2001; “Lags,” national tours 2002-03; “Believers,” for Playbox Young People’s Theatre, 2003; “Head/Case,” Royal Shakespeare Company 2004; “Moonlight and Magnolias,” Goodman Theatre, Chicago, 2004 and Manhattan Theatre Club, 2005. Hutchinson lives in Los Angeles, where he is a writer/producer for features and television. He is the winner of an Emmy for Ben Kingsley’s “Murderers Among Us: The Simon Wiesenthal Story.” 1989.

+ “Holiday Show” (TBD), December.

Third Avenue Playhouse is a year-around professional theater. It was founded in 2000.

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