Tackling themes such as rape, an office shooting and kinky sex, the Geffen Playhouse's new season isn't for the faint of heart or the easily offended.
The Geffen said Monday that its 2010-11 season will feature new plays by Jane Anderson and Neil LaBute, plus local premieres of work by Lynn Nottage and Tracy Letts. In addition, Hershey Felder will return with another of his signature stage biographies of a great composer.
In all, there will be five plays on the Geffen's main stage, the same number of productions announced for the current season.
Gil Cates, the company's founder and producing director, said the Geffen is in "good shape" financially, but he expressed continued anxiety about the company's lack of an endowment.
Anderson's "The Escort: An Explicit Play for Discriminating People" (April 6-May 8, 2011) is set in the world of high-class call girls and revolves around the relationship between an escort, her gynecologist and the doctor's 13-year-old son.
"I designed the play to really titillate the audience," said Anderson in an interview. "A lot of theatergoers are over 50, and I want to give them a real goose."
The world-premiere production, which was commissioned by the Geffen and will be directed by Lisa Peterson, features nudity and sexual situations. This marks Anderson's second play at the Geffen after "The Quality of Life," produced in 2007.
LaBute's "The Break of Noon" (Feb. 2-March 6) tells of a survivor of an office shooting who claims to have heard the voice of God and decides to embark on a quasi-evangelical tour. The new play, being co-produced by New York's MCC Theatre, marks LaBute's fourth collaboration with the Geffen. Jo Bonney will direct the drama.
As was previously announced, the season will begin with Nottage's “Ruined" (Sept. 15-Oct. 17), which won the Pulitzer Prize for drama last year. Set during the civil war in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the play focuses on the comings and goings in a brothel and deals with rape and other forms of violence directed toward women. The play, directed by Kate Whoriskey, is a co-production with Seattle's Intiman Theatre.
Letts' “Superior Donuts” -- the play that followed his Tony-winning "August: Osage County" -- will run June 8-July 10, 2011. The comedy, which ran on Broadway, follows the friendship between the grizzled owner of a doughnut shop and an idealistic young man. Randall Arney, the Geffen's artistic director, will stage the production.
The Geffen said it will announce casting information for the productions later.
Rounding out the main-stage season will be the return of Felder, the solo stage artist who specializes in dramatic biographies of noted composers. Felder's "Maestro: The Art of Leonard Bernstein," directed by Joel Zwick, will run Nov. 10-Dec. 12.
The company said it will announce the season for its smaller stage, the Aud- rey Skirball Kenis Theater, later.
In recent years, the Geffen had been dealing with financial problems stemming from past budget deficits and a 2005 construction loan for its expansion and renovation. Cates said Friday that the company has since recovered from some of its woes with help from an anonymous donor and the Skirball Foundation.
But Cates added that his money worries are not over. "Until we have an endowment of a substantial nature, I will be anxious," he said.
The Geffen has been planning to launch an endowment campaign for some years, but Cates said that market conditions haven't been right. He said the company will time the launch to when the fundraising climate improves to a significant degree.
Cates said that he doesn't get paid for his work at the Geffen. He added that the company has new-play commissions going out for the next three years.