From the latest Pulitzer winner for drama to a musical adaptation of a popular board game, and from the Bard to Becky Shaw, Rhode Island theaters are certainly starting 2011 with varied offerings.
UNWELCOME VISITOR Jeanine Kane and Steve Kidd in the Gamm's A Doll's House.
That 2010 Pulitzer went to NEXT TO NORMAL, of course. The rock musical treats the harsh subjects of drug abuse and suicide and centers on a mother whose bipolar disorder is getting worse. Nothing to hum in the shower, but it was nevertheless on every critic's top 10 list. It will be at the Providence Performing Arts Center March 22-27, and preceded by a more uplifting musical, IN THE HEIGHTS (January 11-16), about plucky immigrants struggling with their bootstraps for better lives.
Gina Gionfriddo's BECKY SHAW has taken a convoluted route to 2nd Story Theatre, where it will be playing January 21-February 20. Works by the 1997 Brown University MFA playwriting grad are not normally available to non-Actors Equity theaters, but a dispensation was granted through the good offices of Perishable Theatre artistic director Vanessa Gilbert, who knows the playwright. By all accounts, the story of two couples is simultaneously funny and troubling, though a plot description can sound exclusively the latter. Horrendous first date; exploitive sex; cynical suspicions; potential suicide. But with a lighthearted dimension? Apparently, you have to be there.
That's being followed at 2nd Story by John Millington Synge's THE PLAYBOY OF THE WESTERN WORLD (March 11-April 10). A young man shows up in a public house, claiming to be running away because he killed his father. The locals are too caught up in his colorful description of the purported deed to condemn the action, to the point that one winsome colleen falls in love with him.
There's nothing to laugh about in Arthur Miller's THE CRUCIBLE, which Trinity Repertory Company will stage February 3-March 13, directed by Brian McEleney. First performed in 1953 at the height of Senator Joseph McCarthy's Red-menace witch hunt and consequent blacklist, it was written to remind American theatergoers about a similar period in history, the Salem witch trials of the 1690s.
Trinity actor Fred Sullivan Jr. will direct Henrik Ibsen's A DOLL'S HOUSE at the Sandra Feinstein-Gamm Theatre (January 20-February 20). Gamm artistic director Tony Estrella adapted a fresh version of the classic. A cheerful Nora Helmer is preparing for a happy family Christmas in 1959 when a blackmailer's knock on the door threatens to collapse her world around her.
When it comes to spanning the theatrical spectrum, nobody's beating the Courthouse Center for the Arts in Kingston. Starting out with the fun and games of CLUE: THE MUSICAL (February 11-26), audiences soon get shaken into seriousness with the musical RUNAWAYS (March 11-13). Through songs, poems, and monologues, 28 multi-ethnic teenagers explain why they ran away from home. It was written, composed, and originally directed by Elizabeth Swados, based on workshops with actual runaways that she conducted in the late 1970s. Think A Chorus Line meets Charles Dickens.
THE MURDER TRIAL OF JOHN GORDON, by Ken Dooley, will be staged January 14-February 27 at the Park Theatre in Cranston, not far from Sprague Mansion, where the dastardly deed took place 165 years ago.