Head back inside for fall’s theater

Leaves fall; curtains rise
By MEGAN GRUMBLING  |  September 12, 2012

THEATER + POLITICS Women's rights from the 19th century, in Tess of the d'Urbervilles by Dead Wessex Fair.

My own first show of the season will be this weekend's opening of Tess of the D'Urbervilles, the classic Thomas Hardy tragedy of the ravished Tess, mounted by the newly formed DEAD WESSEX FAIR (September 14-23, at the sadly soon-to-be former Lucid Stage). The company revisits Hardy's critique of 19th-century morality to ask how views of women have changed between the 1880s and now — a time when, to take just one example, an elected congressman has publicly pronounced some sorts of rape more "legitimate" than others.

Sorry to harsh everyone's mellow with the national politics reference, but we might as well steel ourselves now for the next three months of campaign shenanigans. I'm gratified to report, however, that a theatrical palliative comes just as we approach zero hour for deciding the fate of the nation: David Mamet's November, a biting comedy about an incumbent president's last-ditch run to keep his job, will be presented by MAD HORSE THEATRE COMPANY in its new South Portland venue on Mosher Street (October 11-28).

Other fall shows may help keep our perspective blessedly expansive. Tom Stoppard's Hapgood offers us existential espionage and quantum mechanics (ORIGINALS, November 2-10), while the NEW HAMPSHIRE THEATER PROJECT stages that most beautiful and humane of comedies of the human tragedy, Waiting for Godot (November 9-10). And up in Bowdoinham, the excellently uncommon ZIGGURAT THEATRE ENSEMBLE puts up an original — and al fresco! — ensemble show of dreamworlds, masks, and local Native American mythology called The Medicine Show (October 13-28).

More in the mode of realism comes David Lindsay-Abaire's Good People, a story of class difference and the hard-scrabble living of Southie woman Margie. The marvelous Denise Poirier returns from New York City to lead the GOOD THEATER cast (October 10-18).

Also familiar with hard living are African-American brothers Booth and Lincoln, who make their way by conning marks on the street, as well as each other, in Suzan-Lori-Parks's 2002 Pulitzer Prize-winning Top Dog/Under Dog (DRAMATIC REPERTORY ENSEMBLE, October 25-November 4).

Sororal relations are differently fraught in the late Wendy Wasserstein's The Sisters Rosensweig, which opens the season at PORTLAND STAGE COMPANY (September 25-October 21): The three middle-aged Jewish-American sisters seem to have it all, but their grievances run deep. Up next at PSC is the world premiere of William Donnelly's Homestead Crossing (October 30-November 18), billed as "part love story, part existential mystery" about a long-married couple visited by two young strangers who change everyone's perspectives.

Shifting perspectives are central to Brian Friel's Faith Healer, in which the monologues of three characters weave the complex story of itinerant faith healer Frank Hardy and his tangle of truths and fates (AMERICAN IRISH REPERTORY ENSEMBLE, October 4-21).

An alternative perspective also hones Sarah Ruhl's 2003 updating of Eurydice: This time, it's the woman herself, sought in the Underworld by her lover Orpheus, who tells the story of his fateful turning back (THEATER PROJECT, October 26-November 11).

Other re-tellings of old stories include several musicals: Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat (PORTLAND PLAYERS, September 14-30); the musical "Ugly Duckling" remix Honk (CITY THEATER, November 30-December 16); and a modern pop-rock version of "The Little Match Girl," Striking 12 (Good Theater, November 14-December 9). The classic shipboard foibles of Anything Goes goes up at LYRIC MUSIC THEATRE (September 21-October 6).

Homegrown theater will be on stage at the FREEPORT COMMUNITY PLAYERS in Can u rel8?, featuring works by Maine writers John Cariani, Elizabeth Guffey, Ray Dinsmore, Cullen McGough, EB Coughlin, and Linda Britt (September 19-30). Original work will also be forthcoming from LOREM IPSUM, which is slated to stage a dance piece in December at SPACE, though you can catch its actors before that in October, opening at the premiere screening of scary local Damnationland films.

Rather more genteel scary comes in Dame Agatha Christie's classic Murder on the Nile (GASLIGHT THEATER, November 9-18), and in one phenomenon perhaps even more horrifying than homicide — the suburban book club (The Book Club Play, at PUBLIC THEATRE, October 19-28).

Related: Review: Gamm Theatre stages Glengarry Glen Ross, Review: Mixed Magic's Art of Attack, Review: Mad Horse's new-venue debut with Six Degrees, More more >
  Topics: Theater , Thomas Hardy, David Mamet, Theater,  More more >
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