CAST MEMBER? An Evening of Steampunk Robot Comedy and Tragedy, September 24-October 10 at the Players’ Ring in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.
Perhaps the most anticipated Maine premiere this season is the darkly caustic family apocalypse of August: Osage County (October 14-November 7), the much-lauded 2007 tragicomedy by Tracey Letts, to be produced by the GOOD THEATER. It’s quite a coup for artistic director Brian Allen to have secured the rights to this epic, which in four acts details an Oklahoma family’s dysfunction and skeevy secrets.
The latest big news of Portland’s theater circuit is the new union of MAD HORSE THEATRE with LUCID STAGE, the company run by Liz McMahon and Adam Gutgsell. Lucid Stage moves into a new performance space on Baxter Boulevard this fall, and it’s there that Mad Horse will open its 25th season with the delicious deceptions of John Guare’s Six Degrees of Separation (October 7-24). It’s part of an utterly ravishing season line-up that also includes works by Albee and Shepard, as well as the original, non-musical Spring Awakening, translated from the German by Jonathan Franzen, about all of which you’ll assuredly be hearing more in this column.
In other news, a new Studio Series is forthcoming this fall from ACORN PRODUCTIONS. The series will produce three-week runs of plays all written, at least this season, by area playwrights. It opens with Michael Kimball’s The Secret of Comedy (October 8-24), a tear-jerker about a comedienne dying of cancer. Acorn also launches Fairy Tale Players, for the young’uns, and continues its hard-won Monday night Sonnets and Soliloquies at the Wine Bar.
The fall season always includes an array of suspense shows, whether or not they’re timed around Halloween itself. At PORTLAND STAGE COMPANY, it comes immediately and in farce form, as the company opens with an adaptation of the Hitchcock spy thriller The 39 Steps (September 28-October 24). Much like their last season’s Irma Vep, PSC’s show requires four actors to play more than 150 characters, with all the quick-changes and self-parody that follow.
The AMERICAN IRISH REPERTORY ENSEMBLE also gets in on the season’s suspense, with the Maine premiere of Conor McPheron’s The Seafarer (October 28-November 13). The Christmas Eve poker and spirits of four old pals takes a turn for the weird when a mysterious stranger shows up, in what AIRE bills as a “supernatural black comedy.”
There’s more supernatural activity, or maybe not, in store at the OLD PORT PLAYHOUSE, which mounts the thriller I’ll Be Back Before Midnight (October 7-24): an archeologist, a wife with a nervous breakdown, and a murdered ghost in a Maine farmhouse.
My final entry in the Halloween category takes us down to the Strawbery Banke Museum in Portsmouth, where HARBOR LIGHT STAGE will once again produce History Theatre in a series of rooms in one of the historic properties. Come Night Fall (October 8-24) explores Portsmouth’s pre-Revolutionary past in a psychological thriller about a museum guide, a possible haunting, and an odd artifact found in a former privy.
An entirely other sense of suspense comes in the adulterous secrets and revelations of Harold Pinter’s Betrayal (November 12-21), which the UNIVERSITY OF SOUTHERN MAINE ambitiously puts on this fall in Gorham. Pinter explores the nuances of “fidelity” between members of a love triangle, and does it in a narrative structure that works backward through time, moving us ever more knowingly and sadly back to the birth of the deceptions.