Fred Effing Willard!

And other cool theater for the fall/winter season

With the arrival of September, the symbolic beginning of the theatrical calendar, there are plenty of reasons to rejoice about upcoming work on local stages. The next few months will see everything from Pulitzer Prize-winning plays and flesh-eating zombies to world premieres and a Hank Williams musical.

But the best reason to sound a trumpet is the Sept. 29 appearance in Fullerton of a genuine comic genius: Fred Willard, who brings his MoHos, the sketch-comedy troupe he and his wife created in 1994, to Stages Theater to take part in that company's 15th-anniversary celebration. The name of the show is The MoHos and Their OCD (Orange County Disorder),and it's oriented around sketches lampooning various slices of county life.

This landmark event obviously renders all other theater—if not life itself—rather inconsequential. But because all shows must go on, even those that don't feature one of the stars of the greatest mockumentary ever (1998's Elvis Is Alive, I Swear I Just Saw Him Eating a Ding-Dong Outside the Piggly Wiggly), we've taken the liberty of choosing some of the more intriguing theater-related events over the next few months.

Mr. MoHo rising. Photo by Susan Maljan.
Mr. MoHo rising. Photo by Susan Maljan.

And in light of the Bard of Shaker Heights' upcoming performance, we're evaluating those productions based on the Fred Willard Index, which basically ranks their interest level based on how much they relate to Fred Willard (1-100, 100 being Fred Willard himself). Confused? Skeptical? Read on.

Shipwrecked! An Entertainment—The Amazing Adventures of Louis de Rougemont (As Told by Himself). The latest play by Donald Margulies, one of the favorite playwrights of a theater that has cultivated relationships with some of the country's best, this tale is spun by a raconteur who captivated Victorian England with fanciful tales from his private travel journal. It stars Gregory Itzen, who memorably portrayed the impossibly vacillating President Charles Logan on 24. Fred Willard Index: 92. Fred Willard has commandeered many a seagoing vessel about the globe in his time. And he's the only man alive who could kick Jack Bauer's ass. South Coast Repertory, Sept. 23-Oct. 14.

Kushner in Conversation. Tony Kushner, who wrote Angels in America, as well as the screenplay for Munich, will "conduct a conversation" with SCR's Associate Artistic Director John Glore. It's a fund-raiser for the Newport Beach Public Library Foundation. Tickets are $135, but you're helping further the cause of books, and you won't find two brighter people than Messrs. Kushner and Glore. Fred Willard Index: 5. Fred Willard has never been offered the diabolically manipulative role of Ray Cohn in any production of Angels.That is an outrage. Newport Beach Central Library, Nov. 4.

Doubt. This John Patrick Shanley play examines truth and ambition within the context of a Catholic priest's possible pederasty in the 1960s. A 2005 Pulitzer Prize winner, this is its first production in Orange County, starring Linda Gehringer, who is merely as good as actors come. Fred Willard Index: 91. Not sure about Fred's views on buggering children, but in Church Ball, he played a bishop determined to end the losing streak of his church's basketball team. Sure, it was a Mormon bishop, but haven't you heard that Mormons are the new Catholics? (Just ask a God-fearing Bible-thumper.) South Coast Repertory, Oct. 19-Nov. 18.

Hank Williams: Lost Highway. The Playhouse has several intriguing shows on tap this season, including two world premieres and an Andrew Barnicle-directed Red Scare spoof, Red Herring. But how can you not get excited about a revue of songs from one of the chief architects of American music? Fred Willard Index:85. Fred once told a band called Spinal Tap to play a Barry Manilow song in order to induce some slow-dancing at an event on his Air Force base. The man obviously knows music. Laguna Playhouse, Nov. 13-Dec. 16.

Maverick Theater Revivals. Fullerton's Maverick Theater is reprising three of its most popular screen-to-stage productions in the coming months: Night of the Living Dead(Sept. 28-Nov. 3), The Rocky Horror Picture Show(Oct. 12-Nov. 17)and Santa Claus Versus the Martians(Nov. 24-Dec. 30). Fred Willard index: 10. Not that we'd ever do the same, but we've at least thought about asking theater producers the following question: "Do you think that choosing so many plays known primarily as movies somehow short-changes, or even cheapens, a medium that has survived more than 2,000 years?" It usually elicits the catch-phrase of A Mighty Wind's Mike LaFontaine: "Wha' hoppen?"

The Caine Mutiny Court Martial. The theatrical version of the Herman Wouk novel that became the film The Caine Mutiny, in which Humphrey Bogart goes fucking mental over ice cream. Fred Willard Index: 73. In Anchorman, a film starring Fred Willard with some other guys including Steve Carell, Carell's character mentions he likes ice cream and a nice pair of slacks. Since Carell is the only actor who could hope to hoist Fred Willard's comedic jock-strap, that's good enough for us. Newport Theatre Arts Center, Jan. 25-Feb. 24.

 
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