Maine's quirky summer stage season

History + mystery
By MEGAN GRUMBLING  |  June 15, 2011

PREPPING FOR GORE Naked Shakespeare head to Battery Steele for Cymbeline.
Summertime and a lush arboreal landscape is an unexpected setting for Samuel Beckett's flinty Waiting for Godot, and this reviewer is already stirred. Among my top picks for summer theater fare is Fenix Theatre Company's free al fresco production of this exquisite, timeless tragicomedy in Deering Oaks Park, which runs July 15-August 12, in rotating repertory with Shakespeare's oft-neglected comedy Love's Labor's Lost.

And that's just the beginning of the season's Shakespearean offerings. The Theater at Monmouth takes on the ultimate heavyweight with King Lear, in rotating rep with the lovers' banter of Much Ado About Nothing (non-Bard offerings are the comedy Room Service, which inspired the Marx Brothers movie, and Blithe Spirit; July 7-August 20). The Freeport Shakespeare Festival returns with a star-studded Twelfth Night, free and al fresco on L.L. Bean's Discovery Park Stage (August 2-12). The company also adds a comic glimpse into the world pre-Shakespeare, Before Bill, at the new Freeport Factory Stage (July 28-August 14). Acorn Productions' Naked Shakespeare Ensemble will also be taking the Factory Stage in a new series, Will's Shorts, starting June 20. Finally, don't miss Naked Shakespeare's gory site-specific production of Cymbeline in the dank, dark Battery Steele, on Peaks Island.

For more pastorally inclined theater lovers, the place to be is the Celebration Barn Theater in beautiful South Paris. The talented group of performers celebrate their 40th birthday on July 16 with "Barn Fest," billed as involving 30 performances (including by Tess Van Horn's newly christened Lorem Ipsum) on 11 acres over seven hours, not to mention mime lessons and what are described as "Coke and Mentos fountains" from the Eepybird folks.

If that sounds a little like a fairy tale, consider another: The Ziggurat Theatre Ensemble brings Balinese masks, circus comedy, and the unlikely kingship of Gallandria to the Bowdoinham Town Hall, in the original comic fantasy Fafalo (July 29-14).

Summer is also the time musicals, and this year we get a few that sound a little more wacky than the norm. One is Maine State Music Theatre's Xanadu (July 20-August 6), which somehow will manage to combine roller disco, '80s songs like Love and Rockets' "So Alive," and the Greek Goddess Clio, in a satire of a 1980 Olivia Newton-John musical sci-fi fantasy. (Also: Annie and The Wiz). Another odd choice for musicalization is the orthographic epic of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, which runs June 17- July 16 at Seacoast Repertory Theatre (also: Hairspray). Finally, a show whose musical concept very nearly defies my imagination is Legally Blonde, at the Ogunquit Playhouse (August 24 through September 17; also: one more weekend of Avenue Q, then The Music Man and Miss Saigon).

Other musical fare includes the Gershwin brothers Crazy for You at the Arundel Barn Playhouse (June 28-July 16; also: The 39 Steps and the retro pop of A Taffeta Wedding), and Biddeford's City Theater puts on the classic tale of the famous striptease artist, Gypsy (July 22nd — August 7).

For those who'd like to experience the striptease arts in the here and now, Lucid Stage brings the Boston Babydolls in to shimmy and shake in Madame Burlesque July 22 and July 23, with classes for Portland's ladies offered on the 23rd and 24th.

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