Playing Up the Season

Summer shows this critic would consider shelling out his own cash for . . . if he werent getting in for free already

South Coast Repertory is currently knee-deep in Hamlet, through July 1. One could whine about a theater doing that hoary old classic, but they have sterling director Daniel Sullivan on board, and the cast includes the always-watchable Hamish Linklater as the titular flip-flopper, Linda Gehringer (the best actress in Orange County, bar none) as Gertrude and the very best Los Angeles actor to show his face this side of the Orange Curtain—Dakin Matthews—as the verbally flatulent Polonius. South Coast Repertory, 655 Town Center Dr., Costa Mesa, (714) 708-5555; www.scr.org.

The over-40 crowd are invited to attend The Laguna Playhouse's production of Menopause: The Musical, opening July 10. Classic baby-boomer hits have their lyrics parodied (or bastardized, depending on your outlook) and turned into hummable songs about hot flashes, chocolate addiction, waning sex drives and night sweats. Like The Vagina Monologues, this is likely to appeal to one gender more than another, but like Vagina's Eve Ensler, the women behind the show are activists, and sales from the show's product and souvenir line aid a nonprofit charity, the Entertainment to Empowerment Foundation. And that's a good thing. The Laguna Playhouse, 606 Laguna Canyon Rd., Laguna Beach, (949) 497-ARTS; www.lagunaplayhouse.com.

The longest-running storefront theater in Orange County, Stages, is doing two projects worthy of a mention, involving two of Orange County's finest directors. Patrick Gwaltney directs and acts in David Mamet's acerbic Speed the Plow (opened June 1). Mamet has created something of a cottage industry bitching about Hollywood's depravity while suckling at its monstrous udder, but this is easily one of his better plays. The equally wonderful Amanda DeMaio is directing playwright Lanford Wilson's lesser-known, political Book of Days (Aug. 17). Kind of a murder mystery, kind of a riff on Shaw's Saint Joan, kind of a dark, Lynchian view of small towns, with a few digs at the Christian Right thrown in for good measure. Stages, 400 E. Commonwealth Ave., Fullerton, (714) 525-4484; www.stagesoc.org.

Though best known for their popular Madame Guignol bloodfests, the Hunger Artists Theatre Co. first built its reputation on Kelly Flynn's tweaking of classics. This time, Flynn has set his sights on Georg Buchner's story of madness and murder, Woyzeck, placing the story on television and retitling it Re: Woyzeck (June 7). Musicals are rarely done by small theaters for the art—the ugly truth is they're cash cows—but the company's production of The Full Monty (July 20), with a book by Terrence McNally, promises to focus on the characters' desperation and alienation. Artistic Director Jeremy Gable swears that singing naked onstage is a rebellious act; we'll see how that one goes over with the crowd that usually attends these things. The Hunger Artists Theater Co., 701 S. State College Blvd., Fullerton, (714) 680-6803; www.hungerartists.com.

If you didn't have an opportunity to see the recent production of Frozen at Hunger Artists, the Chance Theater in Anaheim is running their production through June 17. Of even more interest is their SoCal premiere of Joe Calarco's Shakespeare's R&J (Aug. 12), an all-male version of Romeo and Juliet set in a boy's school. The playwright's agent has been holding the rights to this gay love story hidden away in a safe for several inexplicable years—so kudos to these folks for being the ones to score this queer coup. The Chance Theater, 5552 E. LaPalma Ave., Anaheim, (714) 777-3033; www.chancetheater.com.

The Garage Theatre in Long Beach generally focuses their attention on the rarely performed B-side plays of such established writers as Shepard, Rabe and Mamet, but their production of the in-yer-face Killer Joe by Tracy Letts opens Aug. 10. If the Garage can overcome the script's noir-screenplay-posing-as-theater roots, Long Beach audiences are in for a hyper-violent, wickedly funny bucket of blood and nasty sex. The Garage Theatre, 251 E. Seventh St., Long Beach, (866) 811-4111; www.thegaragetheatre.org.

Rude Guerrilla Theater Co. celebrates 10 years as a company by opening three U.S. premieres over the summer: It's the End of the World As We Know It, two political black comedies written by famed British playwright Edward Bond, and Scottish playwright David Greig's expressionistic SoCal acid trip San Diego, the latter directed by the . . . uh . . . guy scribbling this copy. Rude Guerrilla Theater Co., 202 N. Broadway, Santa Ana, (714) 547-4688; www.rudeguerrilla.org.

 
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