Co-workers, students, friends and relatives have asked me, at some time or another, "What should I see?" That is how the question is usually asked. Not, "What's good?" Not, "What would you recommend?" Not, "What would be fun?"
"What should I see?"
Recently Matt Freeman asked for his readers to make their "shameful admissions." He was asking what famous plays people have not read or seen. So, combined with recent comments by Thomas Garvey at The Hub Review, (Thom wants, contrary to Artaud, MORE masterpieces,) this got me to looking at the upcoming seasons of different theaters here in Massachusetts and surrounding states.
By nature, the making of lists is an argument waiting to happen, but I feel confident that this list provides a pretty basic answer to the question of "what SHOULD I see?"
Now, you may have seen all of these plays before, and if that is the case, this is not a list for you, except for you to suggest others or debate my choices. I have tried to include most of what would be considered masterpieces or important works of the theatre that are available for you to see locally, or least a couple of hours away. (I have excluded Shakespeare only because the Bard's works go without saying.) The list is in chronological order of production dates.
- The Seagull by Anton Chekhov at the Publick Theatre, Current to September 7th, and at the American Repertory Theatre*
- Follies by Stephen Sondheim and James Goldman at The Lyric Stage, September 5th-October 11th
- A Chorus Line – at the Colonial Theatre - September 11th –October 5th
- Noises Off by Michael Frayn at the Footlight Club, Jamaica Plain September 19th- October 4th; Hartford Stage April 16th – May 17th.
- Showboat by Hammerstein and Kern at North Shore Music Theatre - September 23rd – October 12th
- Hughie by Eugene O'Neill at Long Wharf Stage – October 8th – November 9th
- Saint Joan by George Bernard Shaw at Wheelock Family Theatre - October 31st - November 30th.
- Peer Gynt by Henrik Ibsen at Portland Stage, January 27th- February 22nd.
- Cabaret by Kander and Ebb at New Repertory Theatre, January 11th – May 4th
- A Raisin in the Sun by Lorraine Hansberry at Trinity Rep, January 30th –March 8th
- Cat on a Hot Tin Roof by Tennessee Williams at The Lyric Stage February 13th – March 14th
- Endgame by Samuel Beckett at American Repertory Theatre, February 14th- March 15th
- Picnic by William Inge at Stoneham Theatre, April 2nd- April 19th
- The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde at Trinity Rep, April 10th- May 17th
- A Moon For The Misbegotten by Eugene O'Neill at Merrimack Repertory Theatre, April 17th-May 30th
- Three Sisters by Anton Chekhov at New Repertory Theatre, April 19th-May 10th
- Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller at Yale Repertory Theatre , April 24th – May 23rd
- The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams at Long Wharf Stage, May 13th – June 7th
- The Pirates of Penzance by Gilbert and Sullivan at the Huntington Theatre Company, May 15th –June 14th
There are others I thought about adding. For instance, Jean Anilouh's Antigone or Dario Fo's We Won't Pay, We Won't Pay, could be argued; and a recent Pulitzer Prize Winner, David Lindsey Abaire's Rabbit Hole, is playing at two different community theatres in the area.
Some on the list just made it on: Follies is still hotly debated critically, Hughie might be considered minor O'Neill by some, and Cabaret, especially through its Sam Mendes-revision, may seem ubiquitous. Ditto The Glass Menagerie and A Chorus Line. And despite its racial baggage, I think it cannot be denied that Show Boat is an important piece of American musical theatre.
There is absolutely no risk in my making this list. I am hardly going out on a limb with any of these. What is most interesting though, is just how limiting this seems. I notice that women and minorities don't appear that much on this list. But it is not that they aren't represented in the pantheon of great drama, it is just that they aren't being produced this season. Now, the Heidi Chronicles by playwright Wendy Wasserstein is being produced at the Longwood Players in Jamaica Plain next spring. It is a Pulitzer Prize Winner, and the play that put Wendy Wasserstein on the dramatic map, but is it essential? I have seen it several times and it grows more and more dated with each viewing.
If there are plays on this list you have not seen in performance, well, you probably should make the effort. (I haven't seen Peer Gynt, Picnic or The Pirates of Penzance.)
If there are productions anybody can note that I have missed, please let me know.
*If you have never even read The Seagull, I would advise seeing the Publick Theatre performance first. I just say this because, the American Repertory Theatre can sometimes play games with the classics to the point where they are unrecognizable from the original.