A winter’s tale

The season ahead on area stages
By LIZA WEISSTUCH  |  December 28, 2006

ALMOST, MAINE: “A charming midwinter night’s dream” from SpeakEasy.

Even as the family drama of your holiday comes to a close, there’s no need to don a kerchief and settle in for a long winter’s nap. The windows may be frosty, but the city’s stages are in full bloom. The season gets off to a lush start with Noël — Coward, that is. The outdoor Publick Theatre comes in from the cold with the writer’s 1932 comedy about a ménage à trois, DESIGN FOR LIVING (January 4-27 at the Boston Center for the Arts); Lyric Stage Company of Boston honcho Spiro Veloudos directs the once scandalous cocktail of wit and worldliness. Meanwhile, Huntington Theatre Company artistic director Nicholas Martin helms a masterpiece by a literary leviathan of another era, Anton Chekhov’s THE CHERRY ORCHARD (January 5–February 4 at the Boston University Theatre). The production features a new adaptation by Richard Nelson and multiple Tony nominee Kate Burton as Madame Ranevskaya. (Iris Fanger’s preview is on page 18.)

Other theatrical titans are making appearances in Boston this winter. Olympia Dukakis reprises the role she played on Broadway in Martin Sherman’s ROSE (presented by the Celebrity Series January 16-21 at the Calderwood Pavilion), a one-woman show in which a Holocaust survivor recounts her experience in Ukraine and the Warsaw Ghetto and then looks back on her older years in Miami. Two-time Tony winner Cherry Jones, a founding member of the American Repertory Theatre, pays a visit in the role she originated in John Patrick Shanley’s Pulitzer-winning DOUBT (February 6-18 at the Colonial Theatre). This one’s the story of a school administrator, a nun, who seeks the truth about a priest she suspects may be molesting children. Truth is also what the characters crave in SACRED HEARTS (January 26–February 17), which Zeitgeist Stage Company is presenting at the BCA. The tender comedy is set in a Canadian village where faith and reason collide when a Virgin Mary statue seems to move on its own.

Faith plays a part in Leslie Epstein’s KING OF THE JEWS (February 21–March 10) as well. Boston Playwrights’ Theatre presents this dark comedy about the Judenrat, the council of elders who governed the ghettos of Poland. In the play, which Epstein adapted from his 2003 novel, they struggle with the question, as he puts it, “Should Jews collaborate with evil to rescue their own people?” The American Repertory Theatre steps up to the adaptation plate when it brings British director Neil Bartlett to Cambridge to re-create his staging of Charles Dickens’s OLIVER TWIST (February 17–March 24 at the Loeb Drama Center). A hit in London, Bartlett’s adaptation evokes Victorian music halls tinged with Skid Row seediness.

Speaking of England: no theater season would be complete without the Bard. Actors’ Shakespeare Project fills your iambic-pentameter needs with the late romance A WINTER’S TALE (January 25–February 18 at the Cambridge Multicultural Arts Center). Boston Theatre Works takes a puckish frolic in the forest of A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM (February 1–March 3 at the BCA). Meanwhile, SpeakEasy Stage Company offers the Boston premiere of John Cariani’s ALMOST, MAINE (February 16–March 10 at the Calderwood Pavilion), which has been called “a charming midwinter night’s dream.” The small-town-set comedy comprises a series of vignettes chronicling “the joys and perils of romance.”

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