We’re not sure how much ice-fishing action there is in Almost, but it’s the central activity in GUYS ON ICE (January 11-28 at Stoneham Theatre). This musical looks to have a bit of Prairie Home Companion flavor as it captures the conversations that flow between two men hovering over holes waiting for a catch. If by now all this folksy charm has you hankering for an ice-cream soda and a legendary script, head down to Trinity Rep for OUR TOWN (January 26–March 4), Thornton Wilder’s enduring portrait of the life and soul of a small corner of New Hampshire.
Or maybe you’re more of a big-city thrill seeker. If so, check out the area premiere of SEE WHAT I WANNA SEE (January 5–February 5) from Lyric Stage Company of Boston). The Wild Party composer/scribe Michael John LaChiusa’s musical, which is based on three tales by Japanese writer Ryunosuke Akutagawa, explores the relationship of adulterous lovers caught up in events surrounding a murder in Central Park. For its following production, the Lyric stays in New York but goes uptown, to the celebrity-packed salons of SOUVENIR: A FANTASIA ON THE LIFE OF FLORENCE FOSTER JENKINS (February 16–March 17). Local chanteuse Leigh Barrett stars in the biographical musical about the wealthy warbler with a notoriously wretched voice whose kitsch appeal earned her a following.
Cultural icons — and their egos — collide at New Repertory Theatre in ORSON’S SHADOW (February 21–March 18). The comedy by Austin Pendleton, a veteran of the New Rep stage, depicts what happened when Orson Welles was persuaded by critical titan Kenneth Tynan to visit London in 1960 to direct Laurence Olivier in Ionesco’s Rhinoceros. Olivier’s marriage to Vivien Leigh is on the outs and his risqué encounters with co-star Joan Plowright, as well as his artistic clashes with Welles, spawn serious backstage drama. The show was well received when it ran Off Broadway in 2005. Lisa Kron’s WELL was also the talk of the town when it ran on Broadway earlier this year. The Huntington will produce this show (March 9–April 8 at Boston University Theatre) about a young woman and her mother that measures the delicate balance of civic, maternal, and personal responsibilities. Kron repeats her Tony-nominated performance as the daughter grappling with her mother’s ability to heal a neighborhood in transition while unable to overcome her own illness.
We’re not sure how to segue from Kron’s quasi-autobiographical musings to a festival of heavy-hitting, historically inspired works, so we’ll just tell you that Our Place Theatre Project is producing its seventh annual AFRICAN-AMERICAN THEATRE FESTIVAL (January 26–February 11 at the Calderwood Pavilion). This year artistic director Jacqui Parker has devised a repertory that features From the Mississippi Delta, Endesha Ida Mae Holland’s dramatic autobiography, and Jeff Stetson’s The Meeting, a fictional account of an encounter between Malcolm X and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in which the two discuss their different approaches to race relations. The drama in Theatre on Fire’s RACE (January 19–February 3 at Charlestown Working Theater) also revolves around race relations. The play by Jamie Pachino is based on Studs Terkel’s sociological volume about the “American Obsession.”
Across the river, Roman obsessions simmer in ART artistic director Robert Woodruff’s interpretation of French playwright Jean Racine’s BRITANNICUS (January 20–February 11 at the Loeb Drama Center). Described as “part political thriller, part gripping family drama,” the play visits I Claudius territory as the young emperor Nero tries to shed his wife in order to marry his brother’s.
Personal pursuits of political types are also exposed in Moira Buffini’s Dark Ages–set SILENCE (January 17-February 11 at New Repertory Theatre). A feisty exiled French noblewoman is ordered to marry an aspiring warrior when she offends the English king. Under threat of Viking attack, the mismatched pair becomes unlikely allies. And in a match more pugilistic than lovy-dovy, Company One presents the world premiere of John Adekoje’s SIX ROUNDS/SIX LESSONS (March 9-31 at the BCA), wherein family conflicts are metaphorically duked out in a boxing ring.