'Das Barbecu': one iron in Center Stage's fire for next season

April 19, 1993|By J. Wynn Rousuck | J. Wynn Rousuck,Theater Critic

"We're being aggressive about new scripts," Center Stage artistic director Irene Lewis says of the theater's 1993-1994 season, one of whose most unusual new works will be "Das Barbecu," a musical sendup of Wagner's "Gotterdammerung," set in East Texas.

Commissioned and produced by the Seattle Opera two years ago in conjunction with its production of Wagner's "Ring" cycle, the country-western parody has a score by composer Scott Warrender and librettist Jim Luigs. Center Stage's version will be the show's first major East Coast production.

The 90-minute chamber musical features a cast of five playing two dozen roles ranging from Brunnhilde ("that strange gal from Mesa Rock") to the three Norns ("the weirdo women of the Texas underworld"). In keeping with the show's small scale, Center Stage will give it an intimate cabaret production, upstairs in the Head Theater. "It's very wild," Lewis says. "I think if you pump it up, you might destroy it."

Also new at Center Stage will be a stand-up comedy series, presented throughout the season in whichever theater is available. Lewis calls the series "cutting edge, thoughtful comedy," in contrast to conventional comedy club fare. Performers under consideration include John Leguizamo, whose one-man show, "Spic-O-Rama," was an off-Broadway hit earlier this season, and Reno, who played a sell-out engagement at the Theatre Project in July 1991.

Several selections are still in the either/or category, contingent on the availability of artists. For instance, Lewis has announced that she will produce either Ibsen's "Ghosts" -- possibly in a translation by former Center Stage associate artistic director Rick Davis -- or the American premiere of "Quartet from Dostoevsky's 'Idiot,' " a four-character distillation of the Russian novel by British playwright Gerald McLarnon.

Since "Ghosts" was originally announced for the 1989-1990 season, it's safe to assume that whichever play is not produced has a good chance of showing up in a subsequent season.

The theater will also stage scripts by Shakespeare and August Wilson. The Shakespeare, to be directed by Lewis, will be "Macbeth" or "Othello" -- neither of which has ever been mounted at Center Stage.

The Wilson plays being considered are "Fences," the 1950s installment of the playwright's decade-by-decade chronicle of African-American life, and "Two Trains Running," which is set in the 1960s.

The only other firm title is "The Triumph of Love," by the 18th-century French writer, Marivaux. A play that has been receiving increasing attention at regional theaters, the period drama is described by Lewis as "a very refreshing and bold look at female characters, the pursuit of someone you love and how you get what you want." Center Stage will use a translation by its resident dramaturg, James Magruder.

Finally, continuing her commitment to new plays, Lewis is leaving one slot entirely up for grabs to allow maximum flexibility. Explaining that she hopes to fill it with a comedy, she said, "The reason I leave it open is because it's April right now, and who knows what'll show up in the next few months."

Although in most cases Lewis has not determined the order of the season, or which theater will house which production, she did say that, if possible, she would like to open with Shakespeare and will probably produce everything except "Das Barbecu" and the unnamed new play in the downstairs Pearlstone Theater.

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