Smile Politely

Summer breezes into the Station

After the usual careful deliberation, the Celebration Company at the Station Theatre has finally announced the lineup for the summer theatre season. Following a break of about a month (Appropriate, the regular season closer, ends May 9th), the Station will present three additional shows: an intimate chamber musical, a war-time romance, and an urbane comedy.

Check out the synopses of the shows (taken from a Station press release) below, along with some editorial jibber-jabber. Summer is always an interesting time at the Station, with the venerable Celebration Company balancing its love of the idiosyncratic with a desire to have fun and pack ’em in.

From the looks of this summer’s roster, they might have achieved the perfect balance.

June 4-20

A Minister’s Wife

Music by Joshua Schmidt; Lyrics by Jan Levy Tranen; Book by Austin Pendleton

directed by Stephen Fiol

Synopsis: A Minister’s Wife, a musical based on George Bernard Shaw’s Candida, is set in London in the swirl of a love triangle among an admired Socialist clergyman, his strong-willed and beautiful wife, and an idealistic young poet who aims to win her love. The Wall Street Journal called it “The most important new musical since The Light in the Piazza.”

A few summers ago, Fiol’s production of Game of Love was a classy delight that brought some new faces and big voices into the Station’s intimate confines. You should expect a similarly crowd-pleasing time at the theater this time around. An added bonus is the pedigree brought to the project by writer Austin Pendleton (pictured), whose charming blend of intellect and quirkiness is a natural fit for the Station.

July 2-18

Mary’s Wedding

by Stephen Massicotte

directed by Timothy O’Neal

Synopsis: The Station Theatre’s production of this wartime love story commemorates the 100th anniversary of WWI. The action takes place in a dream that Mary has on the night before her marriage to her young soldier, Charlie. The dream story takes us from the prairies of Alberta to war-bound troop ships to the trenches of France and back again before Mary can awaken on the morning of her wedding day and prepare to set forth on the next stage of her journey.

While I’m not as familiar with this play, Massicotte (pictured) is a talented playwright — one that I’m happy to see the Station embracing. Another of his plays, The Clockmaker, is a favorite of mine. (And how can you go wrong with a playwright who also wrote a sequel to the werewolf movie Ginger Snaps?) Timothy O’Neal has already established a solid track record at the Station, having directed last summer’s Orphans and this past season’s romantic Wintertime.

July 30-August 15

Hay Fever

by Noel Coward

directed by Tom Mitchell

Synopsis: Hoping for a quiet weekend in the country with some guests, David Bliss, a novelist, and his wife Judith, a retired actress, find that an impossible dream when their high-spirited children Simon and Sorel appear with guests of their own. A houseful of drama waits to be ignited as misunderstandings and tempers flare. With Judith’s new flame and David’s newest literary “inspiration” keeping company as the children follow suit, the Bliss family lives up to its name as the “quiet weekend” comes to an exhausting and hilarious finale worthy of Feydeau. The New York Times called it “[a]n evening of intoxicating escape.”

I was once told that the plays of Noel Coward (pictured) require a “certain type of director.” The implication was, I believe, that Coward’s plays are so smart — and his rhythms so particular — that only an experienced director with refined sensibilities should dare take them on. (Imagine a play by Oscar Wilde or David Mamet directed by someone who doesn’t understand the music of language, and you start to see the potential for disaster.) The Station has done plenty of Coward over the last 40-some seasons, but they haven’t touched Hay Fever in 25 years. It’s high time they revived it, and it would appear that they have finally found their ideal director in Mitchell, whose productions of Come Back, Little Sheba (at the Station), Around the World in 80 Days (at Parkland College) and Not About Nightingales (at Krannert Center) have shown an affection for the classics and a seasoned director’s touch.

There should be no shortage of fun, well-written shows to choose from this summer at the Station, so start marking your calendar now. Reservations should be possible soon via the Station website or by calling 217-384-4000. And keep an eye on Smile Politely for casting announcements as well as information about the Station’s annual summer benefit.

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