In the program for the Shaw Festival's 51st season, you have to hunt pretty hard for plays by the festival's namesake, the irascible and prolific George Bernard Shaw. Under Jackie Maxwell, the Shaw's artistic director since 2002, the company has ever so gradually expanded its mandate to include material firmly rooted in Shaw's concerns, but increasingly distant from his experience and his era.
This season's schedule continues the trend, with two productions of Shaw plays ("Misalliance" and "The Millionairess") surrounded by works by some of his myriad artistic descendants, ranging from Terence Rattigan to Terrence McNally. Here's a look at what's on tap for the upcoming season, which is now in previews and officially opens with Noel Coward's "Present Laughter" on Wednesday. Check www.shawfest.com for details and ticket prices.
"Present Laughter," Wednesday through Oct. 28 in the Festival Theatre. Noel Coward's scintillating, sardonic comedy about an aging actor (Steven Sutcliffe) who must fight off admirers while he struggles with the vagaries of fame and fortune. David Schurmann directs.
"A Man and Some Women," Thursday through Sept. 22 in the Court House Theatre. From the pen of Githa Sowerby, largely forgotten in these parts until the show's production of her 1924 play "The Stepmother" in 2008, comes a play about a man who puts his dreams on hold for his family and the women who keep him in his place. Alisa Palmer directs.
"Misalliance," next Friday through Oct. 27 in the Royal George Theatre. Shaw's raucous fantasy comedy in which a terminally bored rich girl is confronted with new ideas about the world after a pair of adventurers crash into her house in their plane. Eda Holmes directs.
"French Without Tears," May 26 through Sept. 15 in the Royal George Theatre. With this play about a group of men learning to speak French and falling in love with the same woman on the west coast of France, British playwright Rattigan became a major name in the theater world. This production, directed by Katy Lynch, stars Robin Evan Willis as the irresistible Diana Lake.
"Ragtime," May 26 through Oct. 14 in the Festival Theatre. Jackie Maxwell directs Terrence McNally, Lynn Aherns and Stephen Flaherty's sprawling adaptation of E.L. Doctorow's 1975 novel.
"The Millionairess," July 5 through Oct. 6. This Shaw play features what Shaw Artistic Director Jackie Maxwell called "one of the most outrageously monstrous characters in theater lore," namely Epifania Ognisanti di Parerga. She is the richest woman in England, and the focal point of this whimsical romance directed by Blair Williams.
"Come Back, Little Sheba," July 6 through Oct. 19 in the Royal George Theatre. Maxwell's production of William Inge's devastating portrait of two quietly desperate lives features Ric Reid and Corrine Koslo in the lead roles.
"Trouble in Tahiti," July 7 through Oct. 7 in the Court House Theatre. Leonard Bernstein's beloved 1952 one-act opera about the American dream, for which he wrote the music and libretto, is directed by Jay Turvey.
"His Girl Friday," July 7 through Oct. 5 in the Festival Theatre. The Shaw is pulling out all the stops for this production of John Guare's adaptation of the 1940 film about a newspaper editor and his reporter ex-wife. Jim Mezon (whose performance in "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof" last summer still resonates) directs.
"Hedda Gabler," Aug. 10 through Sept. 29 in the Court House Theatre. Henrik Ibsen's masterpiece about the potentially destructive nature of desire stars Moya O'Connell in the title role under the direction of Martha Henry.
"Helen's Necklace," Aug. 11 through Aug. 31 in the Studio Theatre. Quebec playwright Carole Frechette's play about a woman's crazed journey to recover a lost necklace is the latest in the Shaw's adventurous series of plays mounted in its smaller Studio Theatre space. Micheline Chevrier directs.