Matt Shakman Unveils First Geffen Playhouse Season

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Matt Shakman

Included in the lineup is Dule Hill as Nat King Cole, Brian Dennehy in a double bill of Eugene O'Neill and Samuel Beckett, and Debra Jo Rupp in a play from 'This Is Us' writer-producer Bekah Brunstetter.

Leading Los Angeles theater hub The Geffen Playhouse has announced its 2018-19 season lineup, the first under new artistic director Matt Shakman. The nine productions will be presented on the Geffen's two stages starting next fall. 

Among them is the West Coast premiere of Lights Out: Nat "King" Cole, starring Dule Hill as the legendary entertainer approaching the final broadcast of his TV variety show, with Daniel J. Watts as his friend Sammy Davis Jr. Directed by Patricia McGregor, who wrote the show with Colman Domingo, the theatrical exploration of an American icon runs Feb. 5-March 10, 2019.

Bekah Brunstetter, a writer and producer on This Is Us, will reprise the acclaimed Echo Theater Company production of her play The Cake (Sept. 10-Oct. 21), starring Debra Jo Rupp as a devout Christian baker whose beliefs are shaken when her best friend's daughter comes home to North Carolina to plan her wedding to another woman.

Brian Dennehy returns in his celebrated double bill of Eugene O'Neill's Hughie and Samuel Beckett's Krapp's Last Tape (Nov. 5-Dec. 16); and Tony winner Jefferson Mays (I Am My Own Wife) stars in his own new adaptation of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol (Oct. 30-Dec. 2).

Also on the slate are world premieres of Jose Rivera's magic-realist romance with afterlife detours, The Untranslatable Secrets of Nikki Corona (Sept. 4-Oct. 7); a new 21st-century adaptation of Sophocles' Antigone (April 9-May 12); and L.A.-based playwright Inda Craig-Galvan's Black Super Hero Magic Mama (March 5-April 14), about the grieving mother of a 14-year-old boy killed in a police shooting, who retreats into the comic-book fantasy world he created.

Veteran film producer-director Frank Marshall will stage Invisible Tango (May 7-June 16), a new one-man show by magic sensation Helder Guimaraes, whose skills previously dazzled Geffen audiences in the hit Nothing to Hide; and Shakman will direct the world-premiere Geffen commission Mysterious Circumstances (June 11-July 14), Michael Mitnick's play based on a New Yorker article about the suspicious death of the world's foremost Sherlock Holmes scholar.

"The season represents Matt's bold, original vision and marks the beginning of an exciting new chapter for the Geffen Playhouse," said executive director Gil Cates Jr.

"I'm thrilled to help bring to life both new work and re-envisioned classics from some of the greatest theater artists working today," added Shakman. "This season celebrates the power of unique voices in American theater."

Shakman has spent years balancing stage work with television directing gigs on such shows as Game of Thrones, Fargo, Mad Men, It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia and The Good Wife. He took over the Geffen job last August from longtime artistic director Randall Arney.