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ETHER DOME

East Coast Premiere
By Elizabeth Egloff
Directed by Michael Wilson
A co-production with La Jolla Playhouse and Huntington Theatre Company
September 11 – October 5, 2014

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Terror, murder, betrayal, and ruthless ambition. When a new treatment promises to eradicate pain, a doctor and his student play out an epic battle between altruism and financial gain. Based on the true story of the discovery of anesthesia in 1846 by Hartford’s own Dr. Horace Wells, Ether Dome is a psychological thriller that explores the pain that afflicts humankind, our attempts to find relief, and the beginning of healthcare as big business.

The opening production of our 51st season features a cast of characters whose names may be familiar to you. Dr. Horace Wells. The Wadsworths. The Trumbulls. That is because Ether Dome is set in Hartford in 1846. It is an epic play about Dr. Wells, the discovery of ether as an anesthetic, and the ensuing battle between altruism and financial gain.

The production will coincide with Hartford’s annual Envisionfest. It is a perfect time to produce a play about the scientific discoveries that have shaped our world – and our own city – almost two centuries ago and that influence our lives to this very day.

Ether Dome is a major co-production between Hartford Stage, La Jolla Playhouse, and Huntington Theatre Company in Boston. It will be directed by Michael Wilson, our previous artistic director, whose movie version of The Trip to Bountiful, starring Cicely Tyson and Vanessa Williams, is currently playing on Lifetime Television. I am thrilled to welcome Michael back to Hartford Stage and to introduce our audience to the prodigious voice of our playwright, Elizabeth Egloff.

HAMLET

By William Shakespeare
Directed by Darko Tresnjak
October 16 – November 16, 2014

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Following his critically-acclaimed productions of The Tempest, Twelfth Night and Macbeth, Darko Tresnjak takes on Shakespeare’s masterpiece, Hamlet. A Danish prince returns home to find his father killed, and his mother marrying the murderer. When his father’s ghost rises to demand retribution, Hamlet is put in an impossible situation. In this opulent, Elizabethan staging, Hamlet’s tragic tale of revenge gets the full-on, terrifying — and bloody — treatment. 

Shakespeare’s most famous play is both a bold theatrical thriller and a literary masterpiece. It has captured the imagination of the world, on the page and on the stage, for over four centuries.

But, strangely enough, there is no such thing as Hamlet. There are only Hamlets – three distinctly different versions of the text that survive in the First and the Second Quarto and the First Folio. And scholars have debated for centuries which version reflects Shakespeare’s final and true intent.

Our opulent production, set in the Elizabethan Era, is inspired by James Shapiro’s extraordinary book 1599: A Year in the Life of Shakespeare. It explores the political and the personal events that preceded the creation of the play in 1599. I encourage you to read this informative and entertaining book.

PRIVATE LIVES

By Noel Coward
Directed by Darko Tresnjak
January 8 – February 8, 2015

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Amanda: vivacious, sexy, sophisticated. And Elyot: virile, charming, seductive. The epitome of a 1930′s cosmopolitan couple. Until the divorce. Five years later, they are horrified — yet intrigued — to bump into each other while honeymooning in a French hotel with their new spouses. With its stinging barbs and clever wit, Private Lives is Noel Coward’s finest and funniest comedy. 

Too much snow? The January blues got you down? Well, pack up your swimsuit, put on some fabulous summer clothes, and escape to the French Riviera and to Paris, circa 1930.

Join Elyot and Amanda, the couple who wrote the book on The War of the Roses and taught Mr. and Mrs. Smith everything there is to know about the battle of the sexes.

And enjoy our sun-kissed, exuberant, youthful – and athletic – take on the comedy classic.

REVERBERATION

World Premiere
By Matthew Lopez
Directed by Maxwell Williams
February 19 – March 15, 2015

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From the author of The Whipping Man and Somewhere. After a personal tragedy, Jonathan has withdrawn from the world, with little social life beyond the men he meets online. When charming, flighty Claire moves into the apartment upstairs, she tries to coax him out of his shell. They forge a tenuous connection, but the past reverberates into the present, threatening what happiness they’ve found. (Adult themes, language, violence.)

Clearly, at Hartford Stage we have a great affection for the works of Matthew Lopez, the author of  Somewhere and The Whipping Man. Nevertheless, we debated a great deal about whether to include his new play, Reverberation, in our season.

It is Matthew’s most haunting and imaginative play. It is also rather frank – about love and sexuality; gay, straight, and in between – in our time.

At the end of the day, inspiration and faith in our audience won the day. And a competitive streak kicked in: I wanted Hartford Stage to get the credit for premiering this beautiful work. We hope that you’ll join us for Matthew’s provocative tale about a shell-shocked man, too scared to leave his own apartment, and the mysterious woman who moves into the upstairs flat and draws him out of his shell.

Reverberation  is a bold and imaginative exploration of love, Eros, and friendship in 2015.

THE PIANIST OF WILLESDEN LANE

Based on the Book The Children of Willesden Lane by Mona Golabek and Lee Cohen
Adapted and Directed by Hershey Felder
March 26 – April 26, 2015

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An expression of hope and the life-affirming power of music, The Pianist of Willesden Lane tells the true story of a young Jewish musician, who was sent from Nazi-ruled Vienna to the relative safety of London during the Blitzkrieg. In this inspirational show, piano virtuoso Mona Golabek performs some of the world’s most beautiful music as she shares her own mother’s riveting story of survival. 

Since premiering in 2012, The Pianist of Willesden Lane has riveted the audiences and the critics in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Chicago, and we are thrilled to bring it to Hartford. Performed by the piano virtuoso Mona Golabek, this is an inspirational story about her mother’s flight from the Nazi-ruled Vienna, her journey on the Kindertransport, and her life as a young musician in London during the Blitzkrieg.

The piece was adapted and directed by our friend Hershey Felder, known to Hartford Stage audiences from his pieces George Gershwin Alone and Monsieur Chopin. It is based on the book The Children of Willesden Lane: Beyond the Kindertransport: A Memoir of Music, Love, and Survival. Beyond seeing this unique production, we invite you to read the book, and to introduce it to your reading groups, your families, friends, and students.

KISS ME, KATE

Music and Lyrics by Cole Porter
Book by Bella and Samuel Spewack
Directed by Darko Tresnjak
May 14 – June 14, 2015

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A renowned director of Shakespeare and musical comedy, Darko Tresnjak brings his two passions together in this new revival of Kiss Me Kate. Director of our current Broadway smash, A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder, Darko promises a Kiss Me Kate like none before.

Cole Porter’s joyful and high-spirited musical comedy follows the backstage antics of a touring company performing The Taming of the Shrew, featuring two feuding couples, a few gun-toting gangsters, and some of the best numbers ever written: “Another Op’nin,’ Another Show,” “Too Darn Hot,” “Wunderbar,” “So in Love,” and “Brush Up Your Shakespeare.”

As a director, I have two grand passions – the plays of William Shakespeare and the American musical theatre. They come together, in Kiss Me Kate, Cole Porter’s supreme entertainment about a troupe of actors putting on a musical version of The Taming of the Shrew.

I started working on this musical in 1990, when I fell in love with the influential album “Red, Hot + Blue: A Tribute to Cole Porter.” It introduced his smart and sexy music to a whole new generation. After 25 years, I’m thrilled to finally get a chance to direct this delightful piece.

So “Brush Up Your Shakespeare” and join us for a “Too Darn Hot” evening of song, dance, and laughter to cap our 51st anniversary season. It will be “Wunderbar!”