Your cues for great shows in 2013

Places, everyone!
By MEGAN GRUMBLING  |  December 26, 2012

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IMPROV PUPPETS! Monthly, on First Fridays, at Coast City Comics.

Both big performance festivals of 2012 promise to be even bigger in 2013: PORTFRINGE runs June 24-30 at four performing spaces, with another open call and even more performance slots available (submission guidelines at portfringe.com.). The PORTLAND PERFORMING ARTS FESTIVAL will again overlap with PortFringe, running June 26-30 with twice as many acts, including Shoestring Theater's new puppet Alice in Wonderland; Ricky Gordon's song cycle Orpheus and Eurydice; and the Celebration Barn's Thumb's Up (more soon at portlandfestival.org).

The new year will also see two new theater ventures. First, new collective the SEEING SPACE debuts with a double-header at the Portland Stage Studio Theater, staging Griselda Gambaro's Antígona Furiosa and Sam Shepard's Chicago. Second, PSC itself inaugurates PSC STUDIO REP, a new series of works by diverse local theater artists, in its Studio Theater; it launches with Bess Welden's Big Mouth Thunder Thighs; Horn and Ivory Productions' For the Lulz; and Lorem Ipsum's If We Were Birds, Erin Shields' modern re-imagining of the horrific myth of Philomela.

Other shows also involve reinterpretations and adaptations: Joan Didion's The Year of Magical Thinking (THEATER AT MONMOUTH); Chekhov's TheCherry Orchard set in Maine (SNOWLION REPERTORY); a spoof of Hound of the Baskervilles (PUBLIC THEATRE); and Sarah Ruhl's interpretation of Woolfe's Orlando (USM).

Noel Coward's work or spirit will grace stages: in his Song at Twilight (PORTLAND STAGE COMPANY), an aging writer is confronted with the past; and Coward's famous ghost looms in Blithe Spirit (NEW HAMPSHIRE THEATRE PROJECT). A Coward-inspired mystery, Death by Design, mounts at GOOD THEATER (which also stages 4000 Miles and Ancestral Voices).

As for Shakespeare, MAD HORSE stages the horrors of Titus Andronicus; FENIX THEATRE COMPANY brings Romeo and Juliet to Deering Oaks; and the PLAYERS' RING goes post-apocalyptic on Macbeth. Hamlet gets a mash-up with Luther and Faustus at PSC, in Wittenberg, and TAM's one lonely Shakespeare classic this summer is The Taming of the Shrew.

Newer plays include the provocative 2009 Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo (Mad Horse); a new romantic comedy called Love/Sick by Maine-born playwright John Cariani (PSC); a bio-play of women's rights crusader Mrs. Packard (GASLIGHT THEATER); a locally written musical about a fish-scaled girl, The Freak's Club (Snowlion); and ACORN PRODUCTIONS' annual Maine Playwrights Festival. Modern romance is kooky in Swimming in the Shallows (DRAMATIC REPERTORY ENSEMBLE); a young white seminarian dies for his civil rights work in 1965 in Six Nights (SEACOAST REP); and a wartime photojournalist has relationship issues in Time Stands Still (Public Theatre).

Relationships are also fraught in the beloved play-about-actors Noises Off (PORTLAND PLAYERS); even more meta is [title of show], a musical about a musical about a musical (DRE); and Gypsy entertains with the art of the strip-tease (MAINE STATE MUSIC THEATER).

A more restrained kind of art is practiced by the protagonist of Maiden's Prodigy, painter Mary Cassatt, in a two-actor show from the ORIGINALS. Another two-hander comes in the McCourt brothers' A Couple of Blaguards (AMERICAN IRISH REPERTORY ENSEMBLE); and it's sisters who steal the show in Arsenic and Old Lace (Portland Players).

Among 2013's musicals will be Sweeney Todd (Seacoast Rep); Nine to Five (CITY THEATER); and Les Miserables (MSMT). For the kids comes Once Upon a Mattress (LYRIC MUSIC THEATRE); along with Peter Pan and The Country Mouse and the Mystery of the Missing Lunch (CHILDREN'S MUSEUM AND THEATER OF MAINE). Grown-up kids can visit the Improvised Puppet Workshop every first Friday at COAST CITY COMICS.

Finally, an intriguing hybrid: MURMURATIONS, an ecclectic new "theatrical ladies choir" inspired by magical realism and Kurosawa's Dreams, headed up by Elizabeth Armentino-Burd and Kelly Nesbitt. Catch their debut at SPACE on January 4 as part of movement and voice show THAW, sharing billing with LOREM IPSUM, or on January 12, at Mayo Street Arts.

  Topics: Theater , portyearahead2013, PortFringe
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