Huntington’s new season examines age, race, and more

By Laura Collins-Hughes
Globe Staff / March 29, 2011

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In the American theater, one quest is eternal: the pursuit of the hot young playwright of the moment, the sort with a freshly minted MFA from Yale or Brown or NYU, living in Brooklyn or on the Lower East Side.

Someone who happens to be, say, a little-known local playwright 50 years out of Radcliffe is a bit removed from that demographic. So the Huntington Theatre Company is very much bucking the trend with its world premiere production this fall of Huntington Playwriting Fellow Rosanna Yamagiwa Alfaro’s “Before I Leave You.’’

But to Alfaro, who is 71, has lived in Harvard Square for 45 years, and began writing plays three decades ago, it makes a certain kind of sense.

“You look over a theater audience in Boston, anyway, and it’s full of people my age,’’ said Alfaro, a veteran of the Boston Theater Marathon who has written eight full-length plays and been produced in New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. “So I think it’s only fitting that some of the playwrights should be that age as well.’’

Her play — about a quartet of longtime friends in Harvard Square who are “on the cusp of old age,’’ she said — will be part of the Huntington’s just-announced 2011-12 season, running at the Wimberly Theatre, Boston Center for the Arts, Oct. 14-Nov. 13.

Also slated are an adaptation of Leonard Bernstein’s “Candide’’ by Tony Award-winning director Mary Zimmerman; “The Luck of the Irish,’’ a locally set, world-premiere play by West Medford playwright Kirsten Greenidge; Yasmina Reza’s Tony-winning comedy “God of Carnage’’; the August Wilson drama “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom’’; and Molière’s satirical “Tartuffe,’’ the only one of the productions that Huntington artistic director Peter DuBois will direct. A seventh play is to be announced.

“Candide’’ will open the season, running Sept. 10-Oct. 16 at the Boston University Theatre. DuBois said that Zimmerman, who won a Tony in 2002 for her Ovid adaptation “Metamorphoses,’’ roots the reworking in Voltaire’s novel and leaves Bernstein’s music intact. “She’s just reshaped the book, which has always been problematic,’’ he said.

“God of Carnage,’’ directed by Daniel Goldstein, will run Jan. 6-Feb. 5, 2012, at the BU Theatre. “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom,’’ directed by Liesl Tommy (“Ruined’’), will follow there March 9-April 8, 2012. It is the only work in Wilson’s 10-play Century Cycle that the Huntington has not yet staged.

“The Luck of the Irish,’’ directed by Melia Bensussen (“Circle Mirror Transformation’’), will run March 30-April 29, 2012, at the Wimberly Theatre. Set in Boston, it examines the history of “ghost buying,’’ in which a white person would act as a front for a black person who wanted to purchase a home in an all-white neighborhood. Greenidge, 36, is also a Huntington Playwriting Fellow.

“I think race has been a fraught and complicated thing in Boston, and I think that this piece offers an opportunity to be told a story about the past that impacts the present,’’ DuBois said.

DuBois’s production of “Tartuffe’’ will close the season, running May 25-June 24, 2012, at the BU Theatre. Richard Wilbur, who is also the principal lyricist of the Bernstein “Candide,’’ wrote the translation.

Laura Collins-Hughes can be reached at