Pittsburgh Public Theater prepares for season replete with award-winning productions

Sign up for one of our email newsletters.Updated 2 hours ago Next season's lineup for Pittsburgh Public Theater is probably the biggest of the past decade, with accolades galore. The 2017-18 season includes a 2016 Tony Award winner for best play; a possible...

Pittsburgh Public Theater prepares for season replete with award-winning productions

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Updated 2 hours ago

Next season's lineup for Pittsburgh Public Theater is probably the biggest of the past decade, with accolades galore.

The 2017-18 season includes a 2016 Tony Award winner for best play; a possible 2017 best play Tony winner; a big fat musical comedy that won the 1962 Tony for best musical; a drama that won the 1975 best play Tony; plus a Shakespeare play we suspect would have won a Tony — or at least an Olivier — if the awards existed during the Renaissance.

“It always begins with the plays,” says Ted Pappas, the Public's producing artistic director. “And which plays are going to fill in a new or comprehensive experience for the audience.”

Pappas plans seasons about five years out.

“I want to make sure that in those five years, we have a really rich and varied menu — of classics, of new plays, possibly a premiere, works with a political bent, satirical, great parts for actors, something brand new from Broadway, and something that hasn't been seen in a long time,” he says. “This season is a very good example of that.”

“Equus”: Sept. 28-Oct. 29. This 1973 drama by Peter Shaffer (“Amadeus”), to be directed by Pappas, is about a teen stable hand who commits a horrific crime and the psychiatrist who is treating him. The large cast of 14 players includes people who double as horses. “Although it's modern, it has the rigor of a classical play — the language, ideas, movement,” Pappas says. “It has something I really love in a play: It has melodrama, it has exciting scenes and confrontations and ferocious moments of passion and drama. And staging possibilities are endless.”

“The Humans”: Nov. 9-Dec. 10. Getting the rights to this 2016 Tony-winning best play by Stephen Karam was a coup for the Public. Despite a national tour going out, the producers decided to let a couple companies do their own production. Pamela Berlin returns to direct, her eleventh show with the Public.

“It does that modern thing of juggling comedy with drama so well and so expertly,” Pappas says. For a play about a Scranton family getting together for Thanksgiving, the timing is perfect.

“A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum”: Jan. 25-Feb. 25, 2018. This blast from the past marks 20 years since Pappas directed and choreographed the hilarious hit as a guest director at the Public. The bawdy 1962 musical comedy combines music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim with a book by Burt Shevelove and Larry Gelbart (“Mash”). Ancient Rome is the setting for love stories, mistaken identities, greed and ambition among slaves, nubile dancing girls, noblemen and gladiators.

“It remains, in my opinion, the funniest musical comedy ever written,” says Pappas, who will direct again. “I am curious if I still have the chops to choreograph those girls' numbers.”

“Heisenberg”: March 8-April 8. No, it has nothing to do with Walter White and “Breaking Bad.” The title more likely references Werner Heisenberg's uncertainty principle. The fresh-off Broadway play by Simon Stephens (“The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time”) is the story of an unlikely couple, a 40-something American woman and a 70-something Irishman, who meet and immediately fall in love.

“This is one of those plays that reminds me of the glory days of Broadway,” says Pappas, who is amazed at acquiring the rights. “Wonderful dialogue, really funny situations. Something we can all relate to — falling in love and being in love as an adult.”

“Hamlet”: April 19-May 20. “The success of ‘As You Like It' and ‘Twelfth Night' and ‘Othello' emboldened me to commit the resources of the company to one of the biggest projects we've ever produced. It will be a massive, full-on ‘Hamlet,' ” says Pappas, who will direct the William Shakespeare classic.

The good news: “I didn't have to fight for the rights,” he says, laughing. “And I am very happy to report there are no royalties.”

Still to be announced is the show for May 31-July 1. “Whatever it is, it will be opposite of ‘Hamlet,' ” jokes Pappas. “It will be something completely different.”

“Rocky Bleier in The Play” returns as a special event Dec. 28-Jan. 6. Bleier will be back as the star of his story, written by Gene Collier. The show was such a huge success this season, by the end of the run only standing room tickets were available. Subscribers to the 2017-18 season can order tickets now.

Subscriptions for the six-play season are on sale for $147 to $349.50. Single tickets will go on sale later in the year. Details: 412-316-1600 or ppt.org

Sally Quinn is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.

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