THE MERCHANT OF VENICE F. Murray Abraham brings his Shylock to ArtsEmerson.
Famous historical figures come to life on the Boston theater scene this spring, starting with the Central Square Theater production of BREAKING THE CODE (April 7–May 8; centralsquaretheater.org), Hugh Whitemore's biographical play about revered mathematician Alan Turing and his cracking of the Nazis' Enigma code. Adam Zahler directs the collaboration between Underground Railway Theater and MIT's Catalyst Collaborate.
Merrimack Repertory Theatre takes on painters and politics in A PICASSO (April 21–May 15; merrimackrep.org), Jeffrey Hatcher's story of sexual tension and manipulation between the world-famous painter and a crafty female officer from the Ministry of Culture. Actors' Shakespeare Project considers another cunning, irresistible heroine in Shakespeare's ANTONY AND CLEOPATRA (April 27–May 21; actorsshakespeareproject.org) at the Modern Theatre.
ArtsEmerson also stages the Bard this season, with THE MERCHANT OF VENICE (March 29–April 10; artsemerson.org) at the Cutler Majestic Theatre. Darko Tresnjak's modern staging will feature F. Murray Abraham as Shylock.
Down in Providence at Trinity Rep's Lederer Theater, Brian Mertes helms STEEL MAGNOLIAS (April 15–May 15; trinityrep.com), Robert Harling's comedy drama about a close clique of Louisiana ladies celebrating the wedding of one of their own. SpeakEasy Stage tackles a much goofier wedding in THE DROWSY CHAPERONE (at the BCA's Calderwood Pavilion, May 6–June 4; speakeasystage.com); Paul Daigneault directs the Bob Martin and Don McKellar musical comedy with music and lyrics by Lisa Lambert and Greg Morrison.
The Lyric Stage of Boston deals with family ties and economic woes in BROKE-OLOGY (March 25–April 23; lyricstage.com); Johnny Lee Davenport stars in Nathan Louis Jackson's portrait of an inner-city African-American family. Company One stages a family drama as well, as David Wheeler directs the New England premiere of Suzan-Lori Parks's THE BOOK OF GRACE (April 15–May 7; companyone.org), with Elizabeth Marvel as Grace. The Huntington Theatre Company also considers family in SONS OF THE PROPHET (April 1–May 1, huntingtontheatre.org); the Calderwood Pavilion hosts this world premiere of Stephen Karam's dark comedy about two Lebanese brothers living in Nazareth, Pennsylvania.
Speaking of brutal comedy: Edward Albee gave his 1958 one-act The Zoo Story a new first act in 2009. Zeitgeist Stage takes on Albee's upgraded version, AT HOME AT THE ZOO, at the BCA's Plaza Theatre (May 6–May 28, zeitgeiststage.com).
Meanwhile, Jon Lipsky has combined his eight years of Boston Theater Marathon entries into WALKING THE VOLCANO (April 14–May 1; bu.edu/bpt). Elaine Vaan Hogue directs each of Lipsky's 10-minute one-acts for Boston Playwrights' Theatre.
For those who prefer their theater to groove, New Repertory Theatre takes on Stew and Heidi Rodewald's Tony–winning musical PASSING STRANGE (May 1-22; newrep.org), in which a young black man journeys through LA, Amsterdam, West Berlin, and beyond. Still not groovy enough? The Age of Aquarius dawns once more in Broadway Across America's tour of the bohemian hippie rock musical HAIR, the revival production originally staged by ART director Diane Paulus in New York; it comes to the Colonial Theatre (March 22–April 10; broadwayacrossamerica.com/boston).