As Actor’s Express goes into the final weekend of a successful summer run of Rocky Horror Show, it has already dipped a toe — if not an entire foot — into its 2014-15 season. The five-show lineup includes a drama from Tarell Alvin McCraney (Choir Boy, In the Red and Brown Water), a killer musical and Artistic Director Freddie Ashley in the title role of The Whale, an award-winning new drama about a 600-pound man. And it begins in a month.
It’ll be fascinating to see how the lineup plays out, with the company (arguably) coming off one of the finest seasons in its 27-year history (Venus in Fur, Pluto, End of the Rainbow). Here’s how it lines up.
LES LIAISONS DANGEREUSES. Sept. 6-Oct. 5. Christopher Hampton’s 1987 Broadway drama digs into passion and power plays between rivals and ex-lovers in pre-revolution France. The New York Post called it “vice and depravity wrapped up like a box of bonbons.” Melissa Foulger (Pluto, Wolves) directs. Her cast: Kristin Butler, Diane Dicker, Barrett Doyle, Paul Hester, Park Krausen, Edward McCreary, Tiffany Mitchenor, Jennifer Schottstaedt and Kathleen Wattis. Previews ($20) are Sept. 4-5.
MURDER BALLAD. Nov. 8-Dec. 7. A four-character, through-sung pop-rock musical that thrived off-Broadway in 2012. At its steamy center: a love triangle. The original Manhattan Theatre Club cast featured Atlanta-born, New York-based actor John Ellison Conlee (a Tony Award nominee for The Full Monty) and Will Swenson (now in rehearsals at the Alliance Theatre for the new Bull Durham musical). The book comes from Julia Jordan, the music from Juliana Nash and the lyrics from both. Ashley directs.
BAD JEWS. Jan. 24-Feb. 22, 2015. A comedy about the holy and the holier than though, set in New York, around a relative’s funeral, with war over a family artifact waged between cousins. The script is by Joshua Harmon, who developed it during an Express playwriting residency. It played New York’s Roundabout Theatre last season, where The New York Times’ Charles Isherwood called it “the best comedy of the season.” Ashley again directs.
MARCUS; OR THE SECRET OF SWEET. March 28-April 25. A story of friendship, love and coming-of-age in the Louisiana bayou from the gifted pen of playwright (and MacArthur fellow) Tarell Alvin McCraney. It dabbles in the same mystical and poetic waters as Choir Boy (Alliance, 2013) and Red and Brown (Alliance, 2008). The later was that year’s winner of the Alliance/Kendeda National Graduate Playwriting Competition. Karen Robinson of Kennesaw State University directs.
THE WHALE. May 16-June 14. The place is Idaho, specifically the small apartment and soiled, broken-down couch of a man named Charlie. He desperately tries to reconnect with his teenage daughter before he eats his way into oblivion. The original, written by Samuel D. Hunter and staged off-Broadway by Playwrights Horizon, featured Atlanta native Shuler Hensley as Charlie. Heidi Cline McKerley directs Ashley.
In addition, popular Atlanta singer Libby Whittemore returns in concert, with her guest, Miss Connie Sue Day (the 31st Lady of Country Music) for five holiday shows — 7:30 p.m. Dec. 12-13 and 19-21 ($40 plus fees).
Actor’s Express continues its Director’s Rough Cut performances (each Wednesday before opening night), which are pay-what-you-can at the door. Shows generally preview on Thursday-Friday and open on Saturday, running 8 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday, and 2 p.m. Sunday. Tickets are $26-$45 (with opening nights, which include a reception, on the higher end). Details, tickets ($2 cheaper online) HERE or at 404.875.1606.