The Jungle Theater is reprising its most popular show ever and is staging a fierce new play by Conor McPherson in the company’s 25th anniversary season.
Founder Bain Boehlke has said this will be his last year as artistic director, although he will be back as an actor and director in future years, as artistic director emeritus.
Boehlke will direct one show and play a key role in another in the coming season, which begins with “Gertrude Stein and a Companion,” Jan. 23-March 8. The Jungle has produced the play seven times, the last time in 2001. It is by far the best-attended show in the Jungle’s history. Claudia Wilkens and Barbara Kingsley return to the roles of Stein and Alice B. Toklas. Boehlke will direct.
Director John Command returns to the Jungle with “And the World Goes ’Round” next spring. This Kander and Ebb musical revue strings together songs from their voluminous catalog. Bradley Greenwald and Tiffany Seymour will be featured. Command directed the wildly popular “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum” in 2011 and “Urinetown” in 2013.
Boehlke returns to the stage in Kaufman and Hart’s “You Can’t Take It With You,” the summer show running from June 19 to Aug. 9. Boehlke will play Grandpa Vanderhof in the 1937 Pulitzer winner. Gary Gisselman, who directed Boehlke in a production of this show at the Arizona Playhouse, will make his Jungle debut as a director. Wendy Lehr, Angela Timberman, Allen Hamilton and Anna Sundberg are slated in the cast. The play, which was made into a Frank Capra film with Lionel Barrymore, raises questions about how we determine happiness and success. An eccentric clan and a wealthy family square off when their children fall in love.
Timberman and Terry Hempleman will star in the two-hander “Annapurna,” Sept. 4-Oct. 18. Joel Sass (who last staged last spring’s searing “Detroit”) will direct this newer play by Sharr White. Megan Mullally and Nick Offerman played the roles in an off-Broadway production this past April. The story is about an estranged couple who visit (reunite would be too strong a term) in the man’s remote trailer home.
Sass then turns to “The Night Alive,” a new play by McPherson that is currently at Steppenwolf in Chicago. The Jungle’s will be only the second production in the country. Sass did terrific work with McPherson’s “The Seafarer” in 2009 at the Jungle. Stephen Yoakam returns from that cast. As often, McPherson finds his story in the rough edges of Irish society. The show runs Nov. 6 to Dec. 20.
Boehlke and friends started the Jungle in a small storefront at Lake Street and Lyndale Avenue S. in Minneapolis and moved into the current 150-seat theater in 1999. The company has been widely credited with reviving the economic vitality of the south Minneapolis neighborhood.
Tickets for the season are available at 612-822-7063 or www.jungletheater.com.