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Here Comes Summer. W.H.A.T. Gets Catty

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Cat On A Hot Tin Roof. (Courtesy of W.H.A.T./Evan Farley)
Cat On A Hot Tin Roof. (Courtesy of W.H.A.T./Evan Farley)

Just to get us feeling warmer, the Wellfleet Harbor Actors Theater announced its summer season. I wasn't able to get down to the Cape last year, but my colleagues who did were high on many of the productions in W.H.A.T.'s first season under Dan Lombardo. (Harbor Stage Company, which operates in the former W.H.A.T. space on the harbor, also got great reviews in its first year.)

The story behind the opening world premiere is a tragic one. Marina Keegan, an up and coming Wellfleet playwright, was killed in a car crash last May.

The company will also perform a play by comedian Lewis Black, as well as "Cat On A Hot Tin Roof" and "Six Characters in Search of an Author."

Here's the W.H.A.T. statement:

SUBJECT: Wellfleet Harbor Actors Theater Announces 2013 Summer Season:
Four Journeys of Women/Four Decades
WHERE: The Julie Harris Stage, 2357 Route 6, Wellfleet. Next to the Wellfleet Post Office.
Wellfleet Harbor Actors Theater, the award-winning company the New York Times says brought “a new vigor for theater on the Cape,” announces its 2013 summer season today. The theater's 29th season will feature two World Premieres, a new comedy with star power, and a new take on a Tennessee Williams classic. The theme for the season is Four Journeys of Women/Four Decades: WHAT’s 2013 Summer Season brings together plays about the rich lives of women and their families during the 1920s, 1950s, 1980s, and the 2010s.

The Plays

World Premiere
UTILITY MONSTER, by Marina Keegan.
Dan Lombardo,Director
Previews: May 23, 24; Opens: May 25 Closes: June 22
A charming, deeply moving play by rising star Marina Keegan. WHAT's premiere will be part of a memorial celebration of the life of this Wellfleet playwright and will likely attract national attention.
The Decade: 2010s
Sadie’s young life is transformed when her new friend Claude discovers that an African child’s life can be saved for the mere price of his lunch at Taco Bell. This fable about love, personal sacrifice, and how we value human life won “Best Reading” in The Midtown International Theatre Festival in NYC. The New York Times called it “a meditation on charity and ethics.”
Playwright Marina Keegan spent the summers of her short life in Wellfleet. Last May she died in an accident on the way to the family summer home.
Marina had just graduated from Yale and been hired by the New Yorker. Her tragic passing was national news. From The New Yorker: “At 22 years old, (her writing) is intimate and personal. But for some in our field—producers and editors, reporters and writers, the loss of Marina is a different kind of tragedy. We lost a talent before we got to know her.”

World Premiere WHAT Adaptation
SIX CHARACTERS IN SEARCH OF AN AUTHOR, by Luigi Pirandello. Adapted by Matt Foss with WHAT's Dan Lombardo
Dan Lombardo, Director
Previews: June 27, 28; Opens: June 29 Closes: July 20
The Decade: 1920s
This purely WHAT adaptation of a masterpiece of 20th century theater shifts the focus to the character of the “Mother.” Forced by circumstances to return to her first husband after the death of her second, the Mother navigates a lively, absurd world where lullabies turn into wild tarantellas and the characters' fate depends on an unseen author to complete their story.
Two years ago Artistic Director Dan Lombardo visited the Pirandello House in Sicily and attended a Greek theater festival on the island. He returned with a new understanding of the playwright and the roots of SIX CHARACTERS... Pirandello’s Sicilian culture is substantially Greek. The Mother’s unremitting love for one son in opens passions that play out to an ending no one but the Greeks – or Pirandello – could imagine.
WHAT has transformed the play in its WHAT Lab with playwright Matt Foss. On stage the audience sees a rehearsal for a play until six actors suddenly burst in. They appear to be an immigrant family, but “Father” declares they are unfinished characters in search of an author to complete their characters, costumes, and story. Their desperate tale of love and betrayal begins to unfold in a comic/tragic tale that makes full use of the stage, balconies, and auditorium of the
Julie Harris Stage.

A New Comedy with Star Power: ONE SLIGHT HITCH by Lewis Black. With stage, TV, and film stars Mark Linn-Baker and LizBeth Mackay.
Joe Grifasi, Director
Previews: July 25, 26; Opens: July 27 Closes: August 24 The Decade:1980s
As her daughter’s wedding day descends into a riotous farce, Delia Coleman rediscovers her marriage and her soul. As she says, “We ache for life, hoping to flood the world with innocent children, replacing the smell of death with baby powder.” Lewis Black, the popular and prolific political comedian featured on “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart” brings us the story of the Doc and Delia Coleman family. On the morning of the wedding, ex-boyfriend Ryan drops by unannounced. At first oblivious, Ryan wants to share the enlightenment he experienced on the road as a latter-day Jack Kerouac. Mark Linn-Baker, beloved as the golden-age-of-television assistant for Peter O’Toole’s alcoholic character in the 1982 film “My Favorite Year,” plays Doc Coleman. Mark is probably best known as cousin Larry Appleton, with Bronson Pinchot as Balki, on the hit series “Perfect Strangers.” Mark starred in the Broadway revival of A FUNNY THING HAPPENED ON THE WAY TO THE FORUM with Nathan Lane.

A Tennessee Williams Classic: WHAT's production of CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF will open at the theater and move for four final performances to The Tennessee Williams Festival in Provincetown.
Elizabeth Falk, Director
Previews: Aug. 29, 30. Opens on the Julie Harris Stage: Aug. 31. Closes on the Julie Harris Stage: Sept. 22.
Opens at the Tennessee Williams Festival: Sept. 25. Close at the Tennessee Williams Festival: Sept. 28
The Decade: 1950s
Sultry Maggie the Cat struggles to keep the crumbling Pollit dynasty together. For the first time, WHAT will produce a Tennessee Williams classic and move it to the international Tennessee Williams Festival in Provincetown. This Pulitzer Prize-winning gem is an emotionally intense drama that sizzles with passion and greed. In the course of one steamy evening, a prominent Southern dynasty is pushed to the brink when tender memories are relived and life altering secrets are revealed. It’s the 65th birthday of wealthy Southern plantation owner Big Daddy and his family has gathered to celebrate, while sparing him the news that he’s dying. As one son Brick, a hunky former football hero, mysteriously retreats from his desirable but sexually frustrated wife Maggie, his money hungry brother and sister-in-law plot to secure more than their share of the family fortune. In keeping with the theme of the TW Festival, Re-imagined Women, WHAT has engaged director Elizabeth Falk to re-imagine CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF.

Plus: Two Summer Festivals
July – WHAT Summer Music Festival, Tuesdays/Wednesdays Bart Wiesman brings together outstanding groups for a sizzling music festival.
Big Band: Cape Cod Conservatory Big Band, featuring Leslie Boyle on vocals
Folk, Pop, Country & Rock: Peter Donnelly (vocals & guitar), Laird Boles (bass) & Bart Weisman (drums)
Cabaret: Tedi Marsh (vocals) with Paul McWilliams (piano), Laird Boles (bass) & Bart Weisman (drums)
Classical: Cape Cod Chamber Music Festival
Young Jazz Talent: Jessica Curran (19 year old vocalist) & Michael Bliss (17 year old on sax), Fred Boyle (piano), Laird Boles (bass) & Bart Weisman
Blues: George Gritzbach Blues Band with George Gritzbach (guitar & vocals), Michael Critch (keyboard), Rich Hill (bass) & Bart Weisman (drums)
August – Jimmy Tingle and Friends Comedy Fest, Tuesdays/Wednesdays
Jimmy Tingle, nationally known comedian, filmmaker, and commentator for 60 Minutes II, will host nationally known comedians, including Lizz Steadman, from “The Daily Show With Jon Stewart.”
The Julie Harris Stage Home of the Wellfleet Harbor Actors Theater,
the award-winning non-profit theater the New York Times says brought “a new vigor for theater on the Cape.” Now in its 29th year, WHAT has expanded to bring you more in its state of the art theater. The Julie Harris Stage is a tribute to the five-time Tony award- winning actress and WHAT’s Honorary Chair. This stage, together with WHAT 4Kids, is a sounding board for new and bold ideas, presenting “continually adventurous theater” (Boston Globe).

This program aired on January 22, 2013. The audio for this program is not available.

Ed Siegel Twitter Critic-At-Large
Ed Siegel is critic-at-large for WBUR.