Into new worlds

Theatrical journeys for the year ahead
By MEGAN GRUMBLING  |  December 30, 2009

AT PORTLAND STAGE The Mystery of Irma Vep, January 26-February 21. Photo: DOUGLAS SMITH

The New Year opens with a duo of two-man, many-character comedies: PORTLAND STAGE COMPANY mounts the giddy, witty, penny-dreadful spoof The Mystery of Irma Vep (January 26-February 21). Before you catch that, you might whet your palate at the newly formed OLD PORT PLAYHOUSE and Greater Tuna, in which two actors create the entire population of Tuna, Texas.

Another spring farce is being billed by its producing company as "frothy," so delectable an adjective to describe Oscar Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest. The GOOD THEATER will produce its classic deceits of identity March 4-28 (after opening the new year with The Spitfire Grill, January 21-February 14).

Subtler deceptions than Wilde's are at play in Sarah Ruhl's much-lauded 2008 Dead Man's Cell Phone. MAD HORSE presents this vertiginous comedy about mortality and technology, in which a young woman answers the phone of a recently expired man at the next table, and collides with a slew of his relatives (January 14-31).

A literal collision launches the generational run-in between a yuppie and an elderly Jewish dry-cleaner in Visiting Mr. Green. They do manage to buff up their fenders in THE PUBLIC THEATRE's first show of 2010 (January 29-February 7).

Two more seemingly incompatible worlds are bridged, eventually, in the classic musical Guys and Dolls, in which romance blooms between a Save-a-Soul mission girl and a louche gambler, staged at LYRIC MUSIC THEATER (April 23-May 1).

The upcoming offering of USM, too, is a classic musical that puts unlikely parties on the course toward love: In The Pajama Game, representatives of labor and management find sparks in the heat of a factory battle (March).

Factories are often a model of ingenious efficiency, and one efficiency-expert dad thinks it's a model his own family could benefit from in Cheaper By the Dozen. This '20s comedy kicks off the PORTLAND PLAYERS' new year (January 15-31).

A better motivating factor for young people than efficiency might be imagination, and this spring the THEATER AT MONMOUTH will stimulate just this force in the state's kids: To the Moon explores how sci-fi and pop culture energized our nation's famous trip, in a script by Monmouth's own Jeri Pitcher (tour May 4-21; at Cumston Hall May 24-28).

Several other locally-written shows will appear in 2010, including two more for children: The CHILDREN'S MUSEUM AND THEATRE OF MAINE alternates its early spring run with Cinderella (February 25-28 and March 11-14) and The Emperor's New Clothes (March 4-7 and 18-23), and both scripts are written by the fabulously witty Michele Livermore Wigton.

Another local script comes from Al Miller of THE THEATRE PROJECT, which will stage the historical-fiction musical La Fille at Tess' Market. A silver-haired woman, who once collected bottles around Brunswick, is sent back in time to various area landmarks of the 1890s (January 22-February 13).

When it comes to history and New England, what could be more quintessential than Our Town? Its reputation as schlocky is ill-deserved; Wilder's vision is as dark and ironic as it is sentimental. SEACOAST REPERTORY mounts it this spring in Portsmouth (March 12-April 4).

A couple other classics of note will soon hit the boards at THE PLAYERS' RING, also in Portsmouth, and both relevant to today: The Depression-era Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men (January 8-24), and then Mamet's real-estate greed-fest Glengarry Glen Ross (March 12-28, by Traubert Productions). Also continuing to be relevant to today is the NEW HAMPSHIRE THEATRE PROJECT's January anti-war satire, Lysistrata (January 8-24). And the strife of Ireland's political upheaval, as addressed by Sean O'Casey, comes to the stage of the AMERICAN IRISH REPERTORY ENSEMBLE with Juno and the Paycock (May 6-23).

Finally, the Bard: NAKED SHAKESPEARE presents Fools for Love, an amorously-themed scene night, at SPACE (January 18-19), and will mount productions of The Tempest (March 18-19 at USM) and an al fresco version of As You Like It (May 13-23 at Riverbank Park, in Westbrook).

Megan Grumbling can be reached at

  Topics: Theater , Entertainment, Seacoast Repertory, Seacoast Repertory,  More more >
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