At last, my arm is complete again!

AE bugIf you know that bit of dialogue, you know that Actor’s Express’ 28th season includes Stephen Sondheim’s deliciously macabre musical, Sweeney Todd, with Kevin Harry (Murder Ballad, Aurora Theatre’s Les Miserables) as the Demon Barber of Fleet Street. The season also features three world premieres, one set in 1979 during the Atlanta Child Murders, and two by Los Angeles-based writer, and former Atlantan, Steve Yockey.


In addition to its six-show regular season, the Express will introduce Threshold, a weeklong playwriting festival in December (with this year’s focus on local playwrights), and singer Libby Whittemore will return for three cabaret engagements. If you haven’t visited the West Midtown company recently, you might want to check back in. Artistic director Freddie Ashley & Co. are putting together seasons that are original, daring and different with purpose (this season’s Murder Ballad, the upcoming The Whale and the current Marcus; the Secret of Sweet, for example) and as good as almost anything onstage in Atlanta.

After that endorsement, the details:

STUPID F*CKING BIRD. Sept. 12-Oct. 11. The Atlanta premiere of Aaron Posner’s irreverent sort-of-adaptation of Chekhov’s The Seagull, in which a passionate young director, a famous novelist, a beautiful young actress and an aging Hollywood star discover the joys and disappointments of life and love.  Posner is the playwright behind My Name Is Asher Lev, produced at Theatrical Outfit in 2012. Express artistic director Freddie Ashley directs.

THE THRUSH AND THE WOODPECKER. Oct. 31-Nov. 15. World premiere (in rotating repertory with Blackberry Winter). Danger and destruction detonate, Steve Yockey-style, in this revenge thriller featuring a mother with secrets, her college-age son and a visitor from her past. The cast is led by Express favorite Kathleen Wattis (Yockey’s Pluto). Melissa Foulger, who has teamed with Yockey on AE stagings of Pluto and Wolves, directs.

BLACKBERRY WINTER. Nov. 7-22. A second world premiere from Yockey (in rotating repertory with The Thrush and the Woodpecker). Produced with the help of the National New Play Network in a co-production with Out of Hand Theater. Atlanta actor Carolyn Cook (Theatrical Outfit’s recent Silent Sky) headlines this drama about an adult daughter caring for her mother, who has Alzheimer’s disease. Adam Fristoe, Out of Hand’s co-artistic director, directs.


SWEENEY TODD: THE DEMON BARBER OF FLEET STREET. Jan. 23-Feb. 28. Winner of eight 1979 Tony awards, including best musical and best score for the singular Sondheim. In this dark and timeless tale, a wronged barber (Harry) escapes prison and returns to his native London to exact revenge on the corrupt judge who imprisoned him and stole his wife and child. When the lonely Mrs. Lovett joins his cause, lust, murder and revenge are all cooked into her savory meat pies. A little priest, anyone? Ashley directs.


SERIAL BLACK FACE. April 2-24, 2016. A world premiere from Janine Nabers, whose script won the 2014 Yale Drama Series, besting more than 1,600 entries from 41 countries. The story: Atlanta, 1979, a city in which 23 children are missing. A single mother copes with the disappearance of her young son while trying to give her teenage daughter a fresh start. A potential new love complicates everything. Ashley directs.

New York-based Nabers was born in Houston and raised in Louisiana. Playwright Marsha Norman (‘night, Mother), who judged the Yale competition, called her “an extraordinary writer – powerful and funny and brave. This work is unsettling to read,” Norman said, “but even as you read it, you know it is true. The crackling dialogue and the unswerving honesty are beautiful to experience.”

 SIGNIFICANT OTHER. May 21-June 19, 2016. An Atlanta premiere by Joshua Harmon (AE’s recent Bad Jews). A gay romantic comedy in which one man looks for Mr. Right as he watches all of his closest girlfriends find mates of their own.

Subscription packages are now on sale – at ridiculously reasonable prices – $210 for six opening nights, $168 for any performance except opening night or $132 for shows on Wednesday, Thursday or Friday. To purchase or get more details, go HERE or call 404.607.7469 from 1 to 4 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday.

Actor’s Express is on Atlanta’s West Side, in the King Plow Arts Center at 887 W. Marietta St. If you haven’t checked it out before, this season gives you good reason.


About Kathy Janich

Kathy Janich is a longtime arts journalist who has been seeing, working in or writing about the performing arts for most of her life. She's a member of the Theatre Communications Group, the Literary Managers and Dramaturgs of the Americas, Americans for the Arts and the National Arts Marketing Project. Full disclosure: She’s also an artistic associate at Synchronicity Theatre.

View all posts by Kathy Janich