Robert Hurwitt, Chronicle Theater Critic
Friday, March 26, 2010
"Tales of the City," a new musical adaptation of Armistead Maupin's famed stories - created with veterans of "Avenue Q" and members of the rock band Scissor Sisters - will receive its world premiere in the American Conservatory Theater's 2010-11 season. Bill Irwin, Harold Pinter, and a new take on Sartre's "No Exit" are also featured in the ambitious lineup to be announced today by Artistic Director Carey Perloff, along with the previously announced, three-theater staging of Tarell Alvin McCraney's "The Brother/Sister Plays" trilogy.
"It's a wonderful valentine to the community in which we live," Perloff says of "Tales," noting that Maupin began his opus as a series of columns in The Chronicle. It's the kind of San Francisco story, like her own "The Tosca Project" this season, "that's a big part of the kind of work we want to make at ACT."
Perloff acknowledges that "Tales" has Broadway aspirations, with the participation of "Avenue Q" librettist Jeff Whitty and director Jason Moore, and Scissors songwriters Jake Shears and John Garden. But the premiere "is an ACT production for ACT's audience," she says. "Clearly it's an extraordinary team, and it would be surprising if it didn't have a longer life. But that isn't the first imperative, which is to do a fantastic production for a fantastic city."
"Tales" is also such a large undertaking that it will occupy the last two slots of the season, to allow for added tech rehearsals, two weeks of previews and a possible summer extension. That means ACT is selling a six-play subscription season instead of its usual seven. But patrons will "have other opportunities to see the company" in a series of "alternative programming," Perloff says. Those shows will be announced later.
The season opens in September with Irwin directing and starring in his own (with Mark O'Donnell) adaptation of Molière's "Scapin," in a production that will reunite him with his former Pickle Family Circus clown and co-star Geoff Hoyle. November brings McCraney's "Marcus; or the Secret of Sweet," the third part of the "Brother/Sister" trilogy. The first two plays will open the Marin Theatre Company and Magic Theatre's seasons.
After ACT's annual nonsubscription outing with "A Christmas Carol" and a still undetermined play in January, Perloff will direct Pinter's "The Homecoming." She hopes to use the occasion for an overdue "main-stage memorial celebration" of the work of the playwright, who died at the end of 2008. Though she's staged many of Pinter's plays, this will be her first time with what she terms his "master play. It's outrageous and funny and dangerous and really trenchant, just an uncompromising play."
Vancouver's Electric Company Theatre arrives in April with Kim Collier's live-cinematic take on "No Exit," a piece Perloff compares to the Kneehigh Theatre's buoyantly theatrical "Brief Encounter," which opened the current season. "Tales" opens in May 2011 to close the season. Subscription and other information is available at (415) 749-2250 or www.act-sf.org.
Frances McDormand & Cynthia Nixon read Tales Of The City!
"Tours of the Tales" Walking Tour
Aimee Mann - Charmer
My Tales of the City
Armistead Maupin Store