Stage worthies

By CAROLYN CLAY  |  September 12, 2007

Midsize regional theatres
Boston’s Off Broadway has become a longer street, stretching from Lowell, where Merrimack Repertory Theatre has recovered its financial health, to Cape Cod, where Wellfleet Harbor Actors Theater recently unveiled a new $7 million stage named for five-time Tony winner Julie Harris. MRT opens its season with the second play of Richard Dresser’s trilogy exploring class in America, the comedy THE PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS (October 4-28), helmed by artistic director Charles Towers. That’s followed by the world premiere of the intriguing-sounding TUNNEY/SHAKESPEARE IN SIX ROUNDS (November 15–December 9), which is about heavyweight champion Gene Tunney, who went on to teach Shakespeare at Yale. (Put your dukes up, Harold Bloom.) And WHAT extends its season into fall with the East Coast premiere of John Kolvenbach’s LOVE SONG (October 25–November 25), which is about an “oddball” whose well-meaning family can’t figure out why a burglary has made him happy.

Here in town, Actors’ Shakespeare Project follows its all-male Titus Andronicus with an all-female MACBETH (BU College of Fine Arts’ Studio 102; October 18–November 11). Adrianne Krstansky directs Marya Lowry as the Thane, with Paula Plum as his spurring spouse. Lyric Stage Company of Boston and New Repertory Theatre both offer works new to the area. The Lyric presents Christopher Shinn’s Off Broadway hit DYING CITY (October 19–November 11), in which an Iraq war widow is unexpectedly visited by her dead husband’s twin brother; the New York Times labeled it a “transfixing tale of grief and violence.” New Rep gets in on the National New Play Network “rolling world premiere” of Thomas Gibbons’s A HOUSE WITH NO WALLS (October 24–November 18), in which “the grounds of George Washington’s presidential home erupt into an emotional minefield when two opposing African-American politicos weigh in on how to honor both American liberty and the memory of the nine slaves who lived in the eight-by-eight-foot-square quarters on site.” Gibbons is the author of the provocative Permanent Collection, which the New Rep previously produced.

Americana pops up on area stages. Wheelock Family Theatre will produce an adaptation of Harper Lee’s TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD (October 26–November 25), with Voice of Frontline Will Lyman fulfilling his destiny to play Atticus Finch. Stoneham Theatre offers Greg Thompson’s MARILYN: FOREVER BLONDE (October 25–November 11), which is billed as the carefully researched “Marilyn Monroe story in her own words and music.” In a different nook of the zeitgeist, Jewish Theatre of New England imports THIS IS SO NOT ABOUT THE SIMPSONS (AMERICAN VOYEURS). In this mix of “music, incisive humor, and derisive video” to be presented at Leventhal-Sidman Jewish Community Center (October 27-28), comedian Harry Shearer, of The Simpsons and This Is Spinal Tap, joins with chanteuse Judith Owen to “take on the culture and politics of the country.”

Smaller venues
There’s everything from one-night stands to festivals on our smaller stages in the coming months. On October 1, Boston University School of Theatre and the Howard Gotlieb Archival Research Center at BU serve up the single-performance treat of George Bernard Shaw’s DON JUAN IN HELL. Presented at the BU Theatre, this benefit for the Rex Harrison Scholarship Fund features Tony winner and Shavian specialist Philip Bosco.

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