Steppenwolf Theatre Company's new season to include Nina Raine, Bruce Norris and Joan Allen
Joan Allen will return to Steppenwolf Theatre Company's stage for the first time since 1991 in the opening production of the 2013–14 season, a slate that will also include new works by Bruce Norris and Mona Mansour and two plays recently seen Off Broadway.
Allen, a Steppenwolf ensemble member since 1977, hasn't appeared in a Steppenwolf production since 1991, the year the company opened its current facility on North Halsted. She'll return, along with fellow ensemble members Tim Hopper, Ora Jones and Yasen Peyankov, in the American premiere of The Wheel (September 12–November 10 in the Downstairs Theatre). Scottish playwright Zinnie Harris's work follows a woman who sets out to reunite a young girl with her soldier father, on a journey that takes them across the major wars of the last century and a half. Tina Landau directs.
Austin Pendleton will direct the Chicago premiere of Nina Raine's Tribes (December 5–February 9 in the Downstairs Theatre), a play about a British family whose deaf son finds a new sense of acceptance in the Deaf community he's introduced to by his girlfriend. After premiering at London's Royal Court Theatre in 2010, Tribes made a splash in an Off Broadway production directed by David Cromer. Ensemble members Alana Arenas and Francis Guinan will be among the cast.
Peyankov helms the Chicago premiere of Erika Sheffer's Russian Transport (February 6–May 11 in the Upstairs Theatre), a family drama about Russian immigrants in Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn, who get wrapped up in a dangerous business when an uncle arrives from the motherland. I saw the Off Broadway production by the New Group last year and was underwhelmed, but Steppenwolf's production, with ensemble member Mariann Mayberry (in the role originated by Janeane Garofalo) along with ensemble members Tim Hopper and Alan Wilder, could change my view.
Amy Morton will direct The Way West (April 3–June 8 in the Downstairs Theatre), a world premiere by Lebanese-American playwright Mona Mansour. Set in a downtrodden town in modern-day California, the play concerns an aging mother who tells pioneer stories to her adult daughters while waiting for her bankruptcy to become final. This look at "our great frontier spirit"—its good side as well as its bad—is sprinkled with prairie songs.
In Bruce Norris's latest comedy, The Qualms (July 3–August 31 in the Downstairs Theatre), the arrival of a new couple upsets the power structure of an apartment complex's swingers' club. For Norris, who had a typically contrarian interview in The Guardian today, it's his first new work at Steppenwolf since winning the Pulitzer for Clybourne Park. Pam McKinnon will direct. No casting has been announced for The Way West or The Qualms.