The coming cold season of theater looks to veer toward darkness, crime, acrimony, and/or moral and sexual ambiguity — excellent news! Topping our list is Martin McDonagh’s Pillowman, which Mad Horse mounts early in the new year (January 31-February 17). In this acclaimed jaunt into the macabre, a writer of grisly murder stories living in a totalitarian state, comes under suspicion when real-world children start being killed in the gruesome ways his books describe.
Another writer has another sort of crisis on his hands in City of Angels (produced by USM, March 14-23), which relates the careening of a young novelist through decadent Golden-Age Hollywood. As he adapts one of his books for the silver screen, he encounters homicides, femmes fatales, and numerous attempts to acquire that most corruptible of commodities, his writerly soul.
The sordid shenanigans of Wait Until Dark involve a different commodity: heroin, purportedly stuffed into a doll that’s found its way into the possession of a single blind woman. The bad guys know where it’s at in the classic thriller (Seacoast Repertory Theatre, February 21-March 23).
Preying on a blind woman for the sake of a nasty controlled substance is pretty unambiguously bad. Things are harder to prove in Doubt, John Patrick Shanley’s widely acclaimed drama, when Sister Aloysius suspects that a priest has been up to sinful things. Both the Public Theater (January 25-February 3) and Portland Stage Company will stage this Pulitzer-winning parable of suspicion and certainty (April 29-May 25).
The Sisters themselves are up to disturbing things in Eclipsed, a drama about Ireland’s infamous Magdalene Laundries. These were work-homes for young girls who had “sinned,” and were run by some pretty nasty nuns. The American Irish Repertory Ensemble presents this stark portrait at the St. Lawrence, from January 10-27.
The institutional dynamics of the marginalized are detailed with particular spirit in Ken Kesey’s classic novel One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.The despot Nurse Ratchet and her asylum inmates take the stage at Portland Players, March 21-April 6.
One might feel like checking in with someone like Nurse Ratchet after contemplating the subject of Wallace Shawn’s Fever — global economics. Produced by the young company Open Waters January 10-20, at Zero Station, it is a harrowing one-person reflection on how our lives as consumers affect and compare to the lives of others around the planet.
Speaking of economics, how about a pound of flesh as a unit of currency? That’s the debt one unfortunate Italian is looking at in The Merchant of Venice, which Acorn Productions’ Naked Shakespeare Ensemble will produce May 8-11. Mounting at One Longfellow Square, Naked will remain true to its invigorating ethos of environmental staging, and it will cost you nothing — not even a pinkie.
More Shakespeare arrives at Portland Stage Company this spring, and this one has some of the best banter ever written for two people who hate each other so much they don’t notice they’re in love. It’s Much Ado About Nothing, and it’s decadent in its shenanigans and wit. I expect a gorgeous staging at the Portland Performing Arts Center, February 26-March 23.