Play by Play: September 25, 2009

By JEFFREY GANTZ  |  September 22, 2009

MISTER ROBERTS | New Repertory Theatre's 2009?2010 season starts with something old: this 1948 Tony-winning comedy/drama by Thomas Heggen and Josh Logan based on Heggen's novel about his experiences in the South Pacific in World War II. Our heroes are aboard a backwater cargo ship that's not going much of anywhere. Junior grade lieutenant Doug Roberts would like to see some action, but he's kept busy defending his crew from the tyrannical Captain Morton and trying to keep his friend Ensign Pulver out of trouble. Thomas Piper, Paul D. Farwell, and Jonathan Popp star in the roles played by Henry Fonda, James Cagney, and Jack Lemmon in the 1955 film; Kate Warner directs. | Arsenal Center for the Arts, 321 Arsenal St, Watertown | 617.923.8487 | Through October 3 | Curtain 7:30 pm Wed [September 30] | 7:30 pm Thurs | 8 pm Fri | 3:30 + 8 pm Sat | 2 + 7:30 pm Sun | $35-$54; $7 discount seniors; half-price students

MOLASSES PANTY TOWN | Pellegrino Productions presents this free staged reading of a new family musical based on the Boston Molasses Disaster of 1919. It starts in 1915, where "we see working-class Anna, our protagonist, struggling to raise her two children by getting a job in a factory making underwear for the soldiers." | Calderwood Pavilion at the Boston Center for the Arts, 527 Tremont St, Boston || Through September 26 | Curtain 7:30 pm Thurs | 8 pm Fri-Sat | Free

THE SAVANNAH DISPUTATION | SpeakEasy Stage Company gets its 2009?2010 season off on a promising foot with the New England premiere of Evan Smith's comedy about the havoc wrought by a Pentecostal missionary when she visits two Catholic sisters ? who fight back by enlisting their parish priest. Theological war ensues. The cast includes Paula Plum and Nancy E. Carroll, seen earlier this summer in David Hare's The Breath of Life at Gloucester Stage; SpeakEasy artistic director Paul Daigneault is at the helm. | Calderwood Pavilion at the Boston Center for the Arts, 527 Tremont St, Boston | 617.933.8600 | Through October 17 | Curtain 7:30 pm Wed-Thurs | 8 pm Fri | 4 + 8 pm Sat | 3 pm Sun | $42-$47; $37-$42 students, seniors; $30 gallery seats | Carolyn Clay's review on page T28

SPEECH AND DEBATE | Stephen Karam's 2007 Off Broadway hit, which the Lyric Stage Company of Boston put on this past spring, comes to Wellfleet Harbors Actors Theater. Set in the chalkboard crucible of high school as well as in the pioneer tangles of the cyber universe, the comedy brings together a trio of disparate, initially distrustful misfits variously shanghai'd into the activity of the title ? a high-school staple since 1925. They eventually bond, but with a minimum amount of saccharin spilled and every step of their mutually antagonistic journey played out as a National Forensics League?sanctioned competition category, from "Lincoln-Douglas Debate" to "Duo Interpretation" ? this last featuring a time-travel encounter between a singing, jiving Mary Warren from The Crucible and a gay, teenage Abraham Lincoln. Don't ask. But trust us, it's hilarious. | Wellfleet Harbor Actors Theater, Harbor Stage, 1 Kendrick Ave [next to town pier], Wellfleet | 508.349.WHAT | Through September 27 | Curtain 7:30 pm Thurs-Sun | $29

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