Two shows with recent Broadway pedigrees and two world premieres by in-house playwrights will highlight Huntington Theatre Company’s 2018-19 season.
Fresh from her 2017 Tony Award for directing Paula Vogel’s “Indecent,” Rebecca Taichman will come to Boston to re-create her original staging of the show for a production at the Huntington Avenue Theatre next spring. And “A Doll’s House, Part 2,” Lucas Hnath’s “sequel” to the Henrik Ibsen classic, whose eight Tony Award nominations last year included a nod for best play, will receive its first Boston staging in a production to be directed by Les Waters on the Huntington’s main stage next winter.
“This was that play that just kept growing and growing, and there it was on Broadway and it was so exciting to see the reception that it got,” Huntington artistic director Peter DuBois says of “A Doll’s House, Part 2” (Jan. 4-Feb. 3, 2019). The impetus for the Boston production was Waters, DuBois says, though it’ll provide a nice bookend with the Huntington’s production of “A Doll’s House” last season. “It’s about marriage and gender and society,” he says of the new piece, “but it’s fun and you don’t need to know about Ibsen in the slightest.”
Taichman developed “Indecent” (April 26-May 25, 2019) with Vogel through a series of smaller productions before the show became a surprise hit (and award-winner) on Broadway. The director continues her relationship with the show, the story of the unlikely path of Sholem Asch’s “God of Vengeance” to Broadway in 1923, with productions at the Huntington and Center Theatre Group in Los Angeles next season. Each should include ample representation from the Broadway cast, DuBois says, including Tom Nelis, one of the leads.
The season will open, the Huntington announced Thursday, at the Calderwood Pavilion with a new play by a celebrated local. This production of Eleanor Burgess’s “The Niceties” (Sept. 5-Oct. 7) will be the show’s official world premiere, though it appeared on Washington Post theater critic Peter Marks’s best-of-2017 list, based on its workshop showing at the Contemporary American Theater Festival last year.
The politically charged two-character drama details a conversation between a white college professor and her student, a woman of color, about the under-remembered role of slavery during the American Revolution. Kimberly Senior (“Disgraced” on Broadway) will direct. “It’s a real intellectual barnburner kind of play,” DuBois says. Burgess, a Brookline native, is a playwriting fellow at the Huntington.
The theater’s playwright-in-residence, Boston favorite Melinda Lopez, will premiere her adaptation of Federico García Lorca’s “Yerma” at the Calderwood next year (May 31-June 30). Obie Award-winning director Melia Bensussen will helm the show. Lorca’s 1934 play depicts a rural Spanish woman whose inability (and lack of desire) to have a child propels her to extreme measures.
DuBois stresses that this “Yerma” is “an adaptation for sure, not just a translation” that easily passes his “litmus test” for programming classics at the Huntington.
“They’re creating a world that sounds like kind of a Sam Shepard, 1970s California to me,” DuBois says of Lopez and Bensussen, “which is a really exciting frame when you think about it. This is not what I think when I think Lorca.” Lopez previously adapted Lorca’s “Blood Wedding.”
Celebrated director Michael Greif (“Dear Evan Hansen,” “Rent”) comes to town to helm Michael Cristofer’s “Man in the Ring” (Nov. 16-Dec. 16), a musically infused telling of the story of world champion boxer Emile Griffith, a native of the US Virgin Islands whose bisexuality was mocked by opponent Benny Paret, who would die of injuries suffered in his defeat to Griffith.
“It’s just a dazzling American story,” DuBois says of Griffith’s biography, “and I just don’t think enough people know who he was and what a kind of touchstone in American culture that he represented. And I don’t think a Ken Burns documentary could come close to this very theatrical, very musical take on it.”
DuBois will helm the Huntington’s first Shakespeare production since the 2010-11 season, and it won’t be an obscure selection from the canon. The leads are not yet cast for “Romeo and Juliet” (March 1-31, 2019), and DuBois is still working out his vision for the production. But he says he’s interested in exploring what this story of “two households, both alike in dignity” but pitted in deadly opposition has to say about the tribalism that predominates American political discourse today.
“We’re living in a world in which the Montagues and Capulets feel very real to me,” he says, “but if [the production is] contemporary, it won’t be on the nose.”
The season also includes the return of a Huntington favorite, director Maria Aitken (“Bedroom Farce,” “Alfred Hitchcock’s The 39 Steps”). She’ll continue her exploration of cultural figures dear to her native England with Charles Marowitz’s “Sherlock’s Last Case” (Sept. 28-Oct. 28). “Maria can do ‘period’ better than anyone I know,” DuBois says.
One thing the new season will not include is a musical by Stephen Sondheim, despite the prominence of those works in the theater’s recent seasons and its stated intention to produce a complete Sondheim cycle over time. DuBois did let drop the fact that Billy Porter will direct a Sondheim title at the Huntington in a future season.
“It took us 20 years to do all 11 August Wilson plays, and Sondheim has 15 musicals and counting. It’s going to take us a little while,” DuBois says with a chuckle.
More details of the new season and ticket information are available at www.huntingtontheatre.org/season/2018-2019.Jeremy D. Goodwin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @jeremydgoodwin.