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Our Top 8 list of the upcoming theater season

Likewise with Of Mice and Men, the third installment in SCR's much-ballyhooed American Classics series. Instead of focusing on an American classic that sorely needs revisiting-say, anything written by Lillian Hellman, Clifford Odets, Robert Sherwood or that O'Neill guy-SCR has chosen a play produced about 150 times a year. In both cases, it looks like projected ticket sales beat out challenging material.

1) Laguna Playhouse

For the first time in our encyclopedic memory, the Laguna Playhouse has the most tempting slate of shows of any local theater. It's not as broad as SCR's (Laguna mounts six shows to SCR's 12), but each show, with one notable exception, sounds very intriguing. It begins with The Last Session (Sept. 18-Oct. 11), a critically acclaimed, small-scale musical set in a recording studio. The show, about a singer/songwriter dying of AIDS, is based on co-creator Steve Schalchlin's real-life online diary. Two other shows of great interest are Old Wicked Songs (Jan. 7-31), Jon Maran's drama about reverberations of the Jewish Holocaust in 1986 Austria, and O'Neill's bittersweet romance A Moon for the Misbegotten (Feb. 25-March 21). The playhouse is also producing Gunmetal Blues (May 27-June 20), a musical murder-mystery in the style of Raymond Chandler's The Big Sleep, which could be wildly entertaining or intensely stupid, and A.R. Gurney's Sylvia (Nov. 5-29), a play about a man and the stray dog he adopts. That would be the notable exception. The Playhouse also has one open slot yet to be filled.

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