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IN TRTC’S LINEUP: SHAW, BREL & A SPIDER

charlottes-web1Sameerah Luqmaan-Harris (as Charlotte the spider) and Owen Doherty (as Wilbur the pig) perform a scene from CHARLOTTE’S WEB, scheduled to go up in December at Two River Theater. (Click to enlarge)

By TOM CHESEK

There’s a classic work by the most formidable scribe this side of Mr. Shakespeare. A reimagining of one of the most timeless tales in children’s literature. Some long-overdue encores for a couple of New York favorites from the 1960s — and a pair of exciting new items that you may not have heard of.

It’s all on the agenda beginning next September as Red Bank’s resident professional stage troupe, Two River Theater Company, announced its 2010-2011 season of shows with a full-house reception last night at its Bridge Avenue auditorium.

Here’s the lineup:

trtcplaywrightsLynn Nottage, Michael Hollinger, Herb Gardner and Jacques Brel provide the words and/or the music for the next season of shows at Two River Theater.

INTIMATE APPAREL (September 21 – October 3, 2010). Esther, an African-American seamstress working in New York City, creates beautiful undergarments for a variety of women, from prostitutes to socialites. This ensemble piece by Pulitzer Prize winner Lynn Nottage (Crumbs from the Table of Joy) “weaves a charming tale of romance, acceptance, and independence at the start of the twentieth century.”

OPUS (October 26 – November 14, 2010). In this play by violinist-turned-dramatist Michael Hollinger, “personalities clash, tensions rise, and four musicians grapple with how far they will go to achieve excellence,” as the members of a string quartet are forced to scramble to replace a temperamental star player who’s fired just days before the biggest concert of their careers.

CHARLOTTE’S WEB (December 7, 2010 – January 2, 2011). Joseph Robinette scripted this (non-musical) adaptation of E.B. White‘s classic novel for young readers, as a personable pig, a savvy spider and their barnyard friends comprise the cast of characters for the annual Two River family show. The only show in the lineup with a director assigned, this one will be helmed by Matt Pfeiffer (last year’s Charlie Brown) and feature the custom-crafted puppets of Aaron Cromie (whose amazing creations graced the theater’s Our Town a few seasons ago).

A THOUSAND CLOWNS (February 1 – February 20, 2011). A Tony-winning hit on Broadway in the early 1960s (and later a movie starring Jason Robards), the sharply written Herb Gardner comedy concerns a “whip-smart kid,”  his eccentric, fun-loving (and very much unemployed) guardian Uncle Murray — and the choices that have to be made when the social workers knock at their door.

CANDIDA (March 22 – April 10, 2011). Last produced on the Red Bank stage a couple of seasons back with Aaron Posner-directed Heartbreak House, George Bernard Shaw offers a “witty ode to love, faith, beauty, and strong women” in which a clergyman’s wife finds herself torn between her betrothed and a passionate young poet.

JACQUES BREL IS ALIVE AND WELL AND LIVING IN PARIS (May 17 – June 5). A groundbreaking “downtown” hit in the post-Summer of Love era (and subject of a favorite soundtrack album), this “naughty, funny, dark, and romantic” revue of witty, sophisticated songs by the Belgian-born cabaret artist Brel dispenses “a potent mixture of romanticism and cynicism, world-weariness and jaunty whimsy” in a way that continues to influence 21st century Broadway.

Excerpts and songs from several of the announced shows were performed by TRT stage veterans James Sugg, Sameerah Luqmaan-Harris and ten-year-old Owen Doherty of Rumson — while various members of the TRTC family (publicity director Deeksha Gaur, associate artistic director KJ Sanchez, education director Kate Cordaro, director of operations Zeke Zaccaro and head carpenter Duane Noch) took turns speaking and introducing the selections to the capacity crowd.

Saluting Red Bank in his opening remarks, managing director Tom Werder spoke of how the Two River team has come to be “embedded in this amazing community,” and pledged to continue the company’s mission of bringing plays that “celebrate, question, engage and enlighten” to area audiences.

Standing on the set of the current Two River production — an adaptation of the 2,400-year-old Greek tragedy Orestes — company founding father Bob Rechnitz took the stage for some closing remarks, reflecting on the near-religious relationship of the dramatic stage to the earliest theatergoers, and reinforcing the fact that the modern theatrical experience remains “the only temple open to all citizens.”

The company will be operating next season without Sanchez, who is leaving to establish her own troupe (American Records, dedicated to oral-history based projects like last year’s successful ReENTRY). Also departing in June, as reported here and in our satellite site Red Bank Orbit, is artistic director Posner, though he has remained actively engaged in the selection and development of the future mainstage productions.

Meanwhile, Posner’s production of Orestes, A Tragic Romp continues through this weekend in the building’s Rechnitz Theater, joined for one weekend only by the one-man show All Too Human (about which more tomorrow in redbankgreen) in the black-box Marion Huber space. The current season at Two River Theater concludes with a revival of Steve Martin’s Picasso at the Lapin Agile, onstage from May 18 to June 6.

Subscriptions and individual tickets for the 2010-2011 season are available now via the TRTC website; tickets for Charlotte’s Web are sold separately from the season subscription package.

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