Quest for Identity Highlights Drama Department's 2009-10 Season

September 03, 2009

September 3, 2009 — The University of Virginia Department of Drama will look at identity from many angles in a 2009-10 season that spans centuries and genres.

The season kicks off Sept. 24 with Larry Shue's comedy, "The Foreigner." The season will also include:

• Timeless drama "The Seagull" by Chekhov and comedy "Imaginary Invalid" by Molière
• The beloved and enduring musical "Pippin"
• New works from acclaimed contemporary playwrights, "Language of Angels" and "Dead Man's Cell Phone"

"We are very excited to share this collection of extraordinary works with our audiences this year," said Tom Bloom, associate professor and chairman of the drama department. "Each was chosen on its individual merit. However, as we look back at this particular grouping it becomes clear that we have classic and contemporary plays and a musical that, each in their own way, takes us on a journey that transforms our identity and the world around us.

"This ranges from the characters of 'The Seagull,' whose identities are instrumental to their ever-elusive searches for hope and happiness. 'Pippin' is nothing if not a search for identity as a man who could easily assume the throne chooses instead to discover his true self instead. Both 'The Foreigner' and 'Dead Man's Cell Phone' center around characters who, due to happenstance, assume brand-new identities with results that are in are both funny and informative about how we interact with our world today."

Season subscriptions are on sale for $73; $63 for seniors and U.Va. faculty, staff and Alumni Association members; and $50 for students.

Single-show tickets are $14; $12 for seniors and U.Va. faculty, staff and Alumni Association members; and $8 for students. Add $2 at each price level for "Pippin."

With the launch of the U.Va. Arts Box Office, tickets can be purchased online at They also are available weekdays between noon and 5 p.m. by phone at 434-924-3376 and in person at the Arts Box Office, located in the lobby of the Culbreth Theatre. A $3.50 processing fee applies to Internet, phone and mail orders.

Performances begin at 8 p.m. There will be special 2 p.m. matinee of "The Foreigner" on Sept. 26.

Parking for all shows is free at the Culbreth Road Parking Garage, located alongside the theaters.

A closer look at the season:

• The season-opening "The Foreigner," directed by Richard Warner, takes audiences to a backwoods Georgia fishing lodge where a gregarious British soldier and his painfully shy friend arrive for a bit of rest and relaxation. They get neither. When the soldier tries to protect his friend from socializing by telling the lodgekeeper that his friend Charlie speaks no English, the would-be wallflower is suddenly privy to a swirling storm of confessions and deceits and must reinvent himself as a charming foreigner. His life-changing acting job propels a series of increasingly hilarious happenings that build to a comic crescendo and a final faceoff of good versus evil.

"The Foreigner," presented at the Culbreth Theatre, will run Sept. 24-26, Sept. 30 and Oct. 1-2.

"Language of Angels," by Naomi Iizuka, is a haunting tale that begins in a cave on the edge of a rural North Carolina town, where a young girl once went missing. One of nine friends is responsible for her death, yet her ghostly, echoed cries will haunt each of them forever and send them on parallel paths that lead to their own tragic fates. What begins as a classic ghost story morphs into a multi-layered musing on grief, loss, guilt and karma as Iizuka's fascinating puzzle reveals itself one revelation at a time. The play will be directed by American Shakespeare Center associate Doreen Bechtol.

"Language of Angels," presented at the Helms Theatre, will run Oct. 22-24 and Oct. 27-31.

"The Imaginary Invalid," directed by Colleen Kelly, is the story of a hopeless hypochondriac whose "habit" is supported by medical practitioners of all kinds. So when it comes time to marry off his daughter, is it any surprise that he sees it as the ultimate chance to gain a doctor for a son? She has other ideas, of course, and the result is a series of romantic misadventures, mistaken identities and more. Leave it to the winking eyes and sharp wit of Molière to inject humor into a health care debate that still rages some 406 years after he first put pen to paper.

"The Imaginary Invalid" will be presented in the Helms Theatre Nov. 12-14 and Nov. 17-21.

• Anton Chekhov's masterpiece "The Seagull" has given us some of our most unforgettable characters and a story of sadness and longing that has resonated through the generations. The complex tale is the ultimate window into the writer's soul from one of the most celebrated playwrights the world has ever known.

"The Seagull," directed by Drama Department graduate Amanda McRaven, will be presented in Culbreth Theatre Feb. 18-20 and Feb. 24-27. Single tickets go on sale online Jan. 18.

• Are we dead when our hearts stop or when our cell phones stop ringing? This is just one of the questions posed in Sarah Ruhl's smart and quirky comedy "Dead Man's Cell Phone." When a woman chooses to answer a dead man's cell phone at a restaurant, she begins an odyssey that soon has her at the epicenter of the bizarre life he left behind and ensnarled in a web of lies of her own making. Her intricate ruse delivers plenty of laughs along with fascinating observations about mortality and our obsessive need to connect in this digital age.

"Dead Man's Cell Phone," directed by Betsy Tucker, will be presented at the Helms Theatre March 25-27, March 30-31 and April 1-3. Single tickets go on sale Jan. 18.

"Pippin," the musical theater fairy tale, has been delighting audiences since its debut in the 1970s. The tale of the man who would (rather not) be king is a timeless story of passion, power, politics and true love set to a show-within-a-show-stopping score, including the classic "Corner of the Sky," by Stephen Schwartz (of "Godspell" and "Wicked" fame).

"Pippin," directed by directed by Robert Chapel, will be presented in Culbreth Theatre April 22-24, April 28-30 and May 1. Single tickets go on sale Jan. 18.