Comedy, allegory highlight coming stage season

Posted: Thursday, January 06, 2000

A comedy about Emily Dickinson and a love story between a cockroach and a cat will be among the plays and musicals in store for Juneau audiences this winter and spring.

Perseverance Theatre will present ``How I learned to Drive,'' ``The House of Blue Leaves,'' ``Wild Nights with Emily'' and ``Fry Tales.''

``Drive,'' a Pulitzer-prize winning drama written in Juneau by playwright Paula Vogel, was first staged here in 1998. Perseverance Theatre is taking the current production on a tour to Anchorage and Fairbanks, and will show it only twice in Juneau, on Jan. 14 and 15. Perseverance Theatre artistic director Peter DuBois is directing the show.

``The House of Blue Leaves,'' a dramatic comedy written and set in Vietnam-era America, will open March 10 at Perseverance. The play by John Guare will be staged by guest director Cynthia Croot from New York.

``It's a wonderful absurdist tale about a man who is crushed under the weight of his own dreams. It all takes place inside this apartment in Queens, New York,'' DuBois said.

Perseverance will offer a premiere production of playwright Madeleine Olnek's latest work, ``Wild Nights With Emily.'' The comedy explores renowned and reclusive American poet Emily Dickinson's relationship with her sister-in-law, her hometown and the publishing world. It runs May 5 through 28.

DuBois said a theme runs through three of the four plays - three generations of American comedy.

He said playwright Guare was a big influence on Vogel, and Vogel was a major influence on Olnek.

``Madeleine was Vogel's protege at Brown (University), and you can really see Paula and John's influence in Madeleine's work,'' he said. ``If you put them in a family, Guare is the grandfather, Paula is the mother and Madeleine is the daughter.''

``Fry Tales,'' Perseverance Theatre's final production of the season, will be a one-hour high-energy performance piece of children's theater. Performer and director Roblin Davis will work with Perseverance Theatre to create ``Fry Tales'' as an original production at Perseverance. It runs May 26 through June 18. Davis is also performing this month in ``Drive.''

Davis was born and raised in Anchorage, and he's trained in mask-making, puppetry and clowning. DuBois said he's a skilled collaborator.

``He'll work with adult actors here at Perseverance to create a piece for kids,'' DuBois said.

``Fry Tales'' will deal with the themes of frontiers, neighbors and mythic journeys, DuBois said.

``We're talking about doing a tour to the Valley,'' DuBois said, laughing.

At the Palace Theatre, ``archy and mehitabel'' opens Feb. 18 for a month-long run, said Deborah Smith, who will direct the allegorical musical for Juneau-Douglas Little Theatre. She said a live band will back the cast.

``Most of it is jazz, which is a really different kind of music to have in a show,'' Smith said.

``archy and mehitabel'' is based on the columns by Don Marquis that ran in the New York Sun newspaper between 1916 and 1930.

``They were written as if archy was writing them,'' said Smith. ``The premise was that archy the cockroach typed them on Marquis' Underwood at night by jumping on the keys. Because he couldn't work the shift key, everything is lower case.''

It became a Broadway play in the late 1950s. Mel Brooks and Joe Darion wrote the lyrics and book, and George Kleinsinger wrote the music.

JDLT will also present ``Cemetery Club'' and ``Goodnight Desdemona, Good Morning Juliet'' this season. ``Goodnight,'' a spoof on Shakespeare, will be directed by Deb Stovern and will open in May.

``Cemetery Club'' is a comedy and drama about a group of women who meet in the cemetery tending their husband's graves. Directed by Richard Benavides, it is scheduled to open the first week in April.

Juneau Lyric Opera will be collaborating with the Juneau Symphony to produce Leonard Bernstein's musical ``Candide'' this April. It is based on the book of the same name by 18th century French writer and philosopher Voltaire (the pen name for Francois Arouet).

The musical is described as a madcap, farcical retelling of Voltaire's allegory on the futility of mindless philosophies. Anita Maynard-Losh will direct.

Singers Dan and Kathleen Wayne, Bill Garry, Sandra Strandtmann, John Clough and Brigit Lujan are cast in the leads, and a dozen other singers will perform in the chorus.

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