Suspend your disbelief this fall

 Faith beckons
By MEGAN GRUMBLING  |  September 19, 2013

THE MESSIAH IS COMING Jesus Christ Superstar opens at Portland Players this weekend.
Photo by Audra Hatch

An auspicious partnership begins this fall as the Dramatic Repertory Company teams up with Fenix Theater Company to produce the dark comedy A Bright New Boise (November 13-24). This Obie Award-winner, about an evangelical’s crisis of faith in a craft store, will run in a brand-new venue, the Portland Ballet Studio Theatre. Fenix artistic director Rob Cameron intends for this to mark the beginning of a series of modern works performed indoors, to bookend the classical outdoor theater of Fenix’s summer season.

Other highlights this fall include two highly acclaimed plays about the African-American experience. The first of these is August Wilson’s Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, the 1920s installment of his 10-play American Century Cycle, each of which examines a different 20th-century decade in African-American culture. Ma Rainey, which opens the season at Portland Stage Company (Sept 24-October 20) follows the title’s famous blues singer to a recording studio in Chicago. The second major show this fall about the black experience is Bruce Norris’s Clybourne Park, to be staged by Good Theater (October 2-27). This Pulitzer Prize-winning drama is a theatrical response to Lorraine Hansberry’s groundbreaking 1959 Raisin in the Sun, about a black family’s struggles in entering a white-dominated middle class.

A different demographic — the wealthy elites of 16th-century France — is the cohort of Mad Horse Theatre’s season opening, David Ives’s The School for Lies (September 26-October 12). In this homage to Molière, a beautiful widow’s satire and snarkiness is so renowned that it is getting her sued.

The comedies continue in the Originals’ production of Steve Martin’s social satire The Underpants (November 1-9), based on a German script about a pair of underclothes that just won’t stay up; Maine-born playwright John Cariani’s stylized mini-romances in Love/Sick (October 18-27), produced by the Public Theatre; Neil Simon’s farce Rumors (October 25-November 3) at Biddeford’s City Theater, and Portland Stage Company’s dark comedy Vigil (October 29-17), about a cynic waiting for his dying aunt to die. A darker humor yet emerges in the American Irish Repertory Ensemble’s fall show, Someone Who’ll Watch Over Me (October 3-20), in which an American, an Englishman, and an Irishman are held hostage in Lebanon, and navigate their captivity with increasing absurdity.

Two area companies will present adaptations of Chekhov classics: Snowlion Repertory Company workshops A Cherry Orchard in Maine, and the Portsmouth-based group Kent Stephens’ Stage Force mounts a reiteration of Uncle Vanya, called Uncle John-John in Maine (November 1-10) and featuring Portland’s Brent Askari, at the Star Theater in Kittery.

Broadway gets its own tribute in a Good Theater love letter called The Grand Manner (November 6-24), about a young student who in 1948 comes to New York to see Antony and Cleopatra, and afterwards meets its star backstage; and the classic absurdist meta-theater of Luigi Pirandello’s Six Characters in Search of an Author (November 15-December 1) comes to the New Hampshire Theatre Project. A nod to the film industry is darker in Martin McDonagh’s Cripple of Inishmaan (November 15-24), to be produced by the University of Southern Maine, in which a Hollywood crew descends upon a small Irish town.

Musicals this fall will include Jesus Christ Superstar (September 13-29) and The Sound of Music (November 22-December 8), at Portland Players, and Legally Blonde (September 20-October 5), at Lyric Music Theater.

For the youngsters comes a twist on a classic, Hansel and Gretel (October 18-27), performed by and for children at the Children’s Theatre of Maine, in which the hardy kids navigate a potentially spying bird, a clever witch, and talking breadcrumbs.

As for original work, look this very weekend for King of Crows (September 13 and 14), a showcase of the ten best and likely most raucous scripts from the playwrights-and-actors group Crowbait, at Mayo Street Arts.

Finally, a top-secret mystery venue: The ever-intrepid Lorem Ipsum Collective will produce an original new work by Ian Carlsen called Gargantua (November 16-23), described as a “sprawling, multi-layered and foolishly ambitious theatrical production.” It will be performed at a location that will remain undisclosed until, presumably, the lights come up.

  Topics: Theater , Lorem Ipsum, Portland Stage Company, American Irish Repertory Ensemble,  More more >
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