Classics and Shakespeare

Fall brings plays from the past
By MEGAN GRUMBLING  |  September 12, 2007
inside_theater_pianolesson_
AT PORTLAND STAGE: The Piano Lesson.

Autumn approaches with a theatrical windfall, so I’ll dig right in, sans ceremony.

Let’s start with some uber-local goodness called Longfellow: A Life in Words. Actor, playwright, and Portland Stage Affiliate Artist DANIEL NOEL culled material from the journals of the famous Maine poet, and thereby created a pastiche of the man’s life. The resulting play will run as part of the PORTLAND STAGE STUDIO SERIES (October 25-November 18), and will feature esteemed local actors Mark Honan and Sally Wood, with Noel himself as our quintessential Portland poet.

The work of other classic American writers will grace area stages, as well, including John Steinbeck’s haunting Of Mice and Men, which opens the season of MAD HORSE THEATER COMPANY (September 27-October 14 at the Studio Theater and November 1-11 at Maine State Ballet Theater). PORTLAND STAGE COMPANY mounts another Depression-era classic this fall in August Wilson’s The Piano Lesson (September 25-October 21), the Pulitzer Prize-winning drama about a black family’s struggle over past and legacy. And then there are the exquisite familial frailties of Tennessee Williams’s The Glass Menagerie, which BIDDEFORD CITY THEATER produces October 5-20.

A few more family dilemmas: In local playwright Michael Kimball’s The Secret of Comedy, it’s the cancer diagnosis of a comedy writer, played by another local great, Lisa Stathoplos, under the direction of one more of our venerable own, Michael Howard (PLAYERS’ RING, September 7-23). At the GASLIGHT THEATER, two traditional Italian-American couples have differences with their modern grandson, in Over the River and Through the Woods (November 1-10). Finally, imagine inheriting from your dad both madness and math! That’s the situation with brilliant but daft Catherine in the Pulitzer-winning Proof, onstage at USM (October 5-14).

Let’s linger with the strong, fascinating, and/or mildly mad women: The comedy Souvenir, mounted by GOOD THEATER (November 1-18) is a bio-show about the eccentric Florence Foster Jenkins, who made a huge name for herself in the 1920s as an operatic singer despite little actual knowledge of such things as pitch, tempo, or rhythm. Once again, ACORN PRODUCTIONS will sponsor the annual CASSANDRA PROJECT, which features a variety of world-premiere works by women artists (October 15-21). And one woman wears a lot of hats in the FREEPORT COMMUNITY PLAYERS’ stage version of The Carol Burnett Show (September 27-30).

Carol might have donned a turban pretty frequently, but she never had to get away with costumes like Rosalind did in As You Like It. Shakespeare’s female-in-disguise masterpiece goes up at SEACOAST REPERTORY THEATRE (October 11-21). Other Shakespearean delights this fall will include, of course, the works of NAKED SHAKESPEARE, who begin their first-Monday-of-the-month Sonnets and Soliloquies series at the Wine Bar, starting in October. Finally, USM will produce my own favorite Shakespeare play, The Tempest (November 9-18).

The spirits and monsters like those of The Tempest will abound elsewhere, corresponding roughly with Halloween. In Interference, a SHARP DRESSED MEN PRODUCTION at the PLAYERS’ RING (October 19-November 4), ghost hunters find more than they came for; and the FREEPORT COMMUNITY PLAYERS will present a staged reading of Dracula (October 27). A bit later, but similarly thrilling, will be Phantom, at LYRIC MUSIC THEATER (November 16-Dec 2).

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