Written by Ariana Cardenas
This season, the Annie Russell Theatre will present “The Humans,” “Private Lies,” “The Good Person of Setzuan,” and “Mamma Mia!” The diverse group of directors is excited for this year’s line-up and looking forward to the shows’ intricate plots, tones, and themes.
“The Humans,” a one-act play that was a finalist for the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Drama and winner of the 2016 Tony Award for Best Play, will be the opening show of the season. This will be its Orlando premier.
The play is about a family dealing with illness, aging, and financial changes.
“I’m drawn to the play because it is the story of a working class family—the sort of people that theatre generally ignores,” said Thomas Ouellette, director of “The Humans.” He added, “I like the tonal shifts, too; the play is at times deadly serious but also laugh-out-loud funny.”
The show will open the theater’s eighty-seventh season on Sept. 27 and close on Oct. 5.
The next scheduled show, “Private Lies,” is directed by Dr. David Charles and will be his fifth original long-form improvisation show, which features storylines with connecting scenes. Though Dr. Charles specializes in improvisation, he said this show “is unlike anything else I’ve created before.”
Although “Private Lies” is set in 1932, the major issues that the characters wrestle with, including immigration, identity, gender roles, and poverty, are still relevant today. Dr. Charles said he hopes the show’s exploration of these issues will resonate with the audience.
The show will run Nov. 15-23, with a newly improvised performance every night.
Following “Private Lies” will be “The Good Person of Setzuan,” which is directed by Marianne DiQuattro. DiQuattro said she was interested in the play from the first time she read the script; she was especially enticed by the play’s potential set design, since Setzuan is a fictional location that could be anywhere.
Diquattro was interested in the show’s comments on society’s “binary division between male and female, as the main character feels she has no choice but to divide herself in two—acting sometimes as a man and sometimes as a woman.” She added, “How can we create a future in which the individual struggling to be good can also feel whole?”
“The Good Person of Setzuan” will run Feb. 14-22.
“Mamma Mia!,” the ABBA-inspired hit-musical, will close the theatre season in the spring. Missy Barnes will direct the show alongside Robin Gerchman, choreographer, and Jason M. Bailey, music director.
Barnes said she appreciates the musical’s sylistic differences and that the script was written by a woman.
“When you look at the history of musical theatre, you will find very few women who have written the music, lyrics, or script (libretto) for a musical. This is a reflection of the choices made by producers who are willing to take a chance on backing a new musical rather than a reflection of the women who are writing new musicals,” she said.
The show centralizes around the relationship between a mother and a daughter, taking place on an island in Greece. It deals with romance, female empowerment, and unconventional families.
“Mamma Mia!” will run April 17-25.