ShareThis Page

Public Theater ponders masterpieces

| Monday, Feb. 25, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
Tom Atkins
Pittsburgh Public Theater
Tom Atkins Pittsburgh Public Theater
Gretchen Egolf
Pittsburgh Public Theater
Gretchen Egolf Pittsburgh Public Theater

Ask Ted Pappas to name a theatrical masterpiece, and he offers a half-dozen titles.

Not coincidentally, all six are the Pittsburgh Public Theater producing artistic director's choices for the company's 2013-14 Masterpiece Season.

Between Sept. 26 and June 29, 2014, the Public will offer three dramas, a musical, a comedy and a farce that measure up to Pappas' standards for greatness.

“The idea of greatness is what keeps artists striving,” Pappas says. “I was interested in what (greatness) means to me, to artists and to audiences.”

His interest in masterpieces was fueled, in part, by his disappointment in many of the new works he had been reading and seeing recently.

“It was a reaction against newer works, because they are not written well. They are all auditions for TV series,” Pappas says. “I went back to read some of my favorite writers to refresh my palate and remind myself of the standards I want the company to pursue.”

It wasn't just a reaction against something, Pappas says. “It's also moving toward something. I want a full meal when I go to the theater, and this is a banquet in my opinion.”

The season will open with Thornton Wilder's “Our Town” (Sept. 26 through Oct. 27). The simply told, but profound, Pulitzer Prize-winning play follows the small pleasures and personal tragedies of the citizens in a small New England town.

“I consider it the greatest American play and certainly the most beautiful,” Pappas says.

Tom Atkins, best known for his long-running role as Art Rooney in “The Chief,” wanted to play the role of the Stage Manager as soon as Pappas asked him.

“It requires an actor of power and experience to play the role, and he's excited to be on board with me,” says Pappas, who will direct the production.

Sam Shepard's “True West” (Nov. 7-Dec. 8) follows with its tale of two brothers in an epic rivalry that's full of reversals, physical action and dark, gritty humor.

Stephen Sondheim's musical “Company” (Jan. 23 through Feb. 23) will be directed and choreographed by Pappas. It's been 15 years since the Public performed a Sondheim musical. Pappas looks forward to directing and choreographing the 1971 Tony Award-winning show about a skittish New York bachelor weighing the wisdom of his impending marriage against the backdrop of the five married couples who are his best friends.

Lisa Peterson and Denis O'Hare's “An Iliad” (March 6 through April 6) is the season's newest work. Peterson and O'Hare adapted their play from Robert Fagle's translation of Homer's saga of the Trojan War. It's now a fast-paced drama that employs a single actor to play all of the characters — gods and humans — both male and female, including Helen of Troy.

George Bernard Shaw's “Candida” (April 17 through May 18) will feature Gretchen Egolf in the title role and Pappas as director. Egolf played Rosalind in last season's “As You Like It.” The 1903 comedy is about a woman who finds her emotions being tugged between her practical parson husband and a young and passionate poet.

Michael Frayne's “Noises Off” (May 29 through June 29) concludes the season. The farce gives audiences a backstage and onstage look at a troupe of British actors striving to overcome a mountain of personal and professional challenges.

Six-play packages ($138 to $325) are available now. Single-ticket prices will be available when they go on sale in September.

Details: 412-316-1600 or

Alice T. Carter is the theater critic for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-320-7808 or

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.