Mad Horse must-see

Plus Blood Wedding, and other big shows of 2010
By MEGAN GRUMBLING  |  December 29, 2010

TRAGEDY, BOORISHNESS, MUSIC New Hampshire Theatre Project’s Amadeus, running January 7-23.
At the top of my 2011 must-see theater list is the remainder of MAD HORSE's 25th season, a mouth-watering line-up of provocative scripts by some modern masters of the craft. First up is Edward Albee's The Goat, or Who is Sylvia (January 20-February 6), whose audacious central premise is that a successful architect and family man has fallen in love with a goat. The result is a surprisingly sensitive inquiry into the human condition. Later in the season, Mad Horse presents work of another great, Sam Shepard, whose The Late Henry Moss (March 10-27) reunites two estranged brothers over the body of their father. The season closes with Frank Wedekind's 1906 original (non-musical) version of the radical exploration of teen sexuality, Spring Awakening (May 5-22).

Another show theatergoers are lucky to have upcoming in Portland is Federico Garcia Lorca's lyrical masterpiece Blood Wedding (January 13-15), a tragedy of vying love and rage (with the Phoenix's own Deirdre Fulton and Nicholas Schroeder). It will run for one weekend only at SPACE, under the direction of TESS VAN HORN, who last year brought us raucous DIY absurdism in Alfred Jarry's Ubu Roi. Van Horn's approach uses collaborative Viewpoints techniques to make theater production more of a collective experience, and she relocates Lorca's story from Spain to early 20th-century seaside Maine to explore cultural archetypes of the era.

Another innovative theater collaboration to be staged in the new year is the culminating production of OPEN WATERS THEATRE ARTS' extended project about the future of Maine agriculture, Of Farms and Fables (date TBA). This past summer saw its ensemble in residency on three Maine family farms to learn about farming and to engage farmers in storytelling and acting. Open Waters has distinguished itself as one of the most socially involved and vital theater groups in Maine, and the August production of Of Farms and Fables should engage a wide array of our neighbors, as the best art does. The performances will, of course, be staged in the great outdoors.

More outdoor theater will be provided once again by ACORN PRODUCTIONS' NAKED SHAKESPEARE, who will stage the RIVERBANK SHAKESPEARE FESTIVAL in Westbrook, presenting the lesser-performed Antony and Cleopatra, Coriolanus, and Cymbeline (May 5-22). The FREEPORT SHAKESPEARE FESTIVAL will present the rather more frequently performed Twelfth Night (dates TBA), and the Theater at Monmouth's repertory line-up includes the highlights Much Ado About Nothing, Blithe Spirit, and, ambitiously, King Lear (repertory cycle begins July 8).

Almost as tragic as Lear are the characters of Peter Shaffer's Amadeus, which runs at the NEW HAMPSHIRE THEATRE PROJECT (January 7-23). The title composer's notorious boorishness was infuriating to fellow composer and faithful Hapsburg courtier Antonio Salieri, whose jealousy and decline lead him to imagine, in his old age, that he poisoned the musical wunderkind.

More musical conceits appear in PORTLAND STAGE COMPANY's 2 Pianos 4 Hands (January 25-February 20), about two boys coming of age in aspiration of careers as concert pianists. Following this comedy is The Center of Gravity (March 1-20), which is touted as using "mechanical engineering, magical realism, and a little Abbott & Costello" to imagine a world in which the Wright Brothers never got around to inventing their claim to fame.

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