How’s this for casting coups? Kathleen Turner as Mother Courage!
The earthy Turner must have had a blast at Arena Stage last summer playing the tart-tongued liberal columnist Molly Ivins, because she’s coming back to Arena next January, as the pragmatic camp follower of Bertolt Brecht’s anti-war epic, “Mother Courage and Her Children.”
The actress’s participation in Arena’s 2013-14 season — on paper one of the most intriguing of Molly Smith’s 15 years at the helm of Washington’s flagship theater company — is by no means the only big-name news in the lineup. Actors Bill Pullman, Estelle Parsons, Stephen Spinella and Maurice Hines; playwright Lawrence Wright; choreographer Liz Lerman and directors Moises Kaufman, Jeff Calhoun and Kenny Leon all figure in a season that features four world premieres, two other new plays and a lot of drama steeped in 19th- and 20th-century history.
With plays tackling the Civil War, the Camp David peace accords, the war in Afghanistan and the career of Paul Robeson, the new Arena season of nine productions from September to June 2014 is a daring embrace of topical complexity. (For a change of pace, it also encompasses a revival of the jukebox revue “Smokey Joe’s Cafe.”) Its parameters feel more sleekly thematic than Arena’s current season, dominated by popular old titles (“My Fair Lady”) and plays of recent Broadway vintage (“Good People,” “Other Desert Cities,” “The Mountaintop,” “Metamorphoses”).