“Common Ground,” the landmark book by J. Anthony Lukas about the turmoil that accompanied court-ordered busing in Boston in the mid-1970s, will be the subject of a world-premiere play presented by the Huntington Theatre Company next season.
It will be part of a season, announced Monday, that will also include a rare stage appearance by Calista Flockhart, the star of the quirky TV series “Ally McBeal.” Flockhart will portray the scheming Mrs. Cheveley in Oscar Wilde’s comedy “An Ideal Husband.” To be helmed by Huntington artistic director Peter DuBois, it will run Sept. 25-Oct. 18.
The stage adaptation of Lukas’s Pulitzer Prize-winning “Common Ground,” titled “Common Ground Revisited,” is the work of local playwright Kirsten Greenidge (“The Luck of the Irish,” “Greater Good”), who is collaborating with director Melia Bensussen. Originally commissioned by and developed with ArtsEmerson, “Common Ground Revisited” is slated to run Jan. 8-Feb. 7, 2021.
“It’s a look at this seminal book in Boston history but from a very contemporary perspective,” DuBois said in a telephone interview. “You’re able to look at the history of busing as seen through the lens of the book, but the book is also a jumping-off point, because it’s 2020 and we all know we don’t live in a post-racial era. We are still deeply inside this intractable conversation about race and busing.”
Speaking of Flockhart and “Ideal Husband,” DuBois said he and the actress, whom he described as eager to return to the stage, have been in discussions about what role she might play. “I thought of Mrs. Cheveley; I thought there’s a character that people might not associate with her,” he said. “I could see that she could be so good in this role. She’s got such good comic chops.” He added: “It’s very exciting to have her come back onstage in Boston, where [“Ally McBeal”] was set.”
The Huntington season will also include Heidi Schreck’s acclaimed “What the Constitution Means to Me” (July 28-Aug. 23). Originally performed by the playwright on Broadway, it will star Cassie Beck and will be directed by Oliver Butler. The play blends Schreck’s personal and familial stories with examinations of issues such as domestic violence, sexual assault, and women’s rights, all refracted through the prism of the nation’s founding document and its shortcomings. DuBois said he believes the production will be timely, noting: “I’ve lost count of the number of constitutional crises we’ve had this year.”
Also set for next season are Jen Silverman’s “Witch” (Oct. 16-Nov. 15), to be directed by Rebecca Bradshaw. It’s the tale of a woman — “single and feminist and smart and empowered,” in DuBois’s words — who is accused of witchcraft and gets a tempting offer from the devil. “Witch” is set in the 17th century (it’s an adaptation of a Jacobean drama, “The Witch of Edmonton”) but written in present-day vernacular.
Mike Lew’s “Teenage Dick” will run Feb. 19-March 21, 2021. Directed by Moritz von Stuelpnagel (who also helmed the 2016 Huntington production of Lew’s “Tiger Style!”), “Teenage Dick” is a darkly comic take on Shakespeare’s “Richard III” that reimagines Richard as a high school student with cerebral palsy vying to win the senior-class presidency while wooing a popular girl.
“Songbird,” a musical based on Chekhov’s “The Seagull” that is set in a honky-tonk bar in Nashville, will run March 12-April 4, 2021. DuBois called it “the first country musical I’ve ever heard that really works.” It will be directed by Gaye Taylor Upchurch. From May 21 to June 20, 2021, the Huntington will present Madeline George’s “Hurricane Diane.” Described as “a comedic commentary on climate change,” it will be directed by Jenny Koons.
There will also be two shows this summer that will not be part of the company’s subscription season but will be part of the “Huntington Presents” series. The first will be “The Simon & Garfunkel Story,” a concert-style production that will run June 16-28. The second will be “Lackawanna Blues,” written, performed, and directed by Ruben Santiago-Hudson (July 9-25). Santiago-Hudson portrays numerous characters in the solo play, which was inspired by his childhood and the woman who raised him.