[Summer Guide] Our Picks for the Best of Summer Theater

Surfing Señoritas from Space!
And Jesus, too! Our picks for the best of summer theater

As at most professional theaters in America, the kids who run South Coast Repertory—the county's top-tier house—get a long summer vacation. There may be a special engagement here, a kid's show there, or some summer cash cow, but the serious works gets shelved until September.

That's not true at the county's other non-college theaters. It's a year-round job to keep even the smallest theater running, which means there are plenty of interesting plays to look forward to in the coming weeks—and none of them are by Shakespeare. Okay, two of them are. But they actually might be good Shakespeare productions.

The guy on the left really should've used more sunblock
John Gilhooley
The guy on the left really should've used more sunblock
Alexandros at Laguna Playhouse
Ed Krieger/The Laguna Playhouse
Alexandros at Laguna Playhouse


Metamorphoses at Stages Theatre.Some chump named Ovid wrote this 15-book saga, finishing it around 8 A.D. It has held its own, with everyone from Chaucer to Shakespeare incorporating Ovid's retelling of Greco-Roman myths into their own fictions. In 2002, Mary Ann Zimmer turned some of Ovid's tales into a play. The most daunting part of the script is in the stage directions—a 3-foot pool of water covering the stage? That's no easy trick, but director Gary Krinke and set-design guru Jon Gaw accomplished it with a reported 6,000 gallons. Through June 28. Stages Theatre, 400 E. Commonwealth Ave., Fullerton, (714) 525-4484; www.stagesoc.org.

Return to the Forbidden Planet at the Maverick Theater.Many people adore the Maverick's cinema-to-stage adaptations, such as Santa Claus Conquers the Martians and Night of the Living Dead. And then there are the rest of us. Whichever way your pleasure tends, the troupe's latest is a riff on the 1950s sci-fi cult classic, which was loosely based on Shakespeare's The Tempest. June 13-July 26. Maverick Theater, 110 E. Walnut, Fullerton, (714) 526-7070; www.mavericktheater.com.

Born to Ride the Waves at the Huntington Beach Playhouse.A new play using the same setting and many songs from Surfstory, a musical homage to surfing set in Dana Point in 1964, which was staged periodically in Laguna Beach over the past 10 years. Creator Joseph Mulroy added two writing partners for this retooled version, but it's still a romantic-comedy musical and Don Rickles still doesn't show up. July 4-20. Huntington Beach Playhouse, 7111 Talbert Ave., Huntington Beach, (714) 375-0696; www.hbph.org.

Alexandros at Laguna Playhouse.Melinda Lopez's comedy about a Cuban-exile family celebrating the 75th birthday of its Santería-practicing matriarch in 1974 Miami might be a rib-splitting laugh-riot. Or not. But this much is certain: Lopez is the first writer of color to receive a world-premiere production at the Laguna Playhouse. While not exactly Jackie Robinson-like in terms of impact, it's still a significant moment in the 80-year history of this theater, which, in the past 15 years, has transformed from a sleepy community venue courting the Leisure World crowd into a major player in America's regional-theater scene.Through June 29. Laguna Playhouse, 606 Laguna Canyon Rd., Laguna Beach, (714) 497-2787; www.lagunaplayhouse.com.

Shakespeare! by Shakespeare Orange County at the Festival Amphitheatre.There's plenty of mediocre-to-lousy productions of Shakespeare under the stars, by the sea and in between walls this summer, but two that probably won't blow are courtesy of the county's lone professional theater devoted to the Bard's plays: Shakespeare Orange County. The first is Henry V, Shakespeare's patriotic homage to the bloody English king. The second is The Tempest, which is easily his greatest comedy—and maybe his finest play. They're both staged in the county's premiere outdoor venue, the Festival Amphitheatre in Garden Grove. Henry V, July 10-26; The Tempest, Aug. 7-23. Festival Amphitheatre, 12740 Main St., Garden Grove, (714) 744-7016; www.shakespeareoc.org.

Greetings From a Queer Señorita at the Breath of Fire Latina Theatre Ensemble.¡Muy caliente! Monica Palacios is one of Los Angeles' best-regarded Chicana writers and performers (she's written a show called Latin Lezbo Comic). This is the first time she's received an OC treatment, and with that title, all we can say is: ¡Muy caliente! July 11-Aug. 3. Breath of Fire Latina Theater Ensemble, 310 W. Fifth St., Santa Ana, (714) 540-1157; www.myspace.com/boft. 

The Seven Deadly Sins at Rude Guerrilla.What's summer without some gluttony and lust? A bunch of boring fucking bullshit, that's what! So, kudos to the county's most adventurous company for choosing to write seven one-act plays devoted to each of the capital vices. Toss in James Joyce, some coke-snorting texters and a production of The Odd Couple going awry, and it spells fun all over. July 24-Aug. 30. Rude Guerrilla at the Empire Theater, 202 N. Broadway, Santa Ana, (714) 547-4688; www.rudeguerrilla.org.

Jesus Hates Me at the Chance Theater.It wasn't any fun in the Holy Land in the middle of summer, and it's apparently no more fun in the tumbleweed- and trailer-park-festooned reaches of south-central Texas. This play is set at the Blood of the Lamb miniature-golf course, which is crowned by Jesus on a cross at the 17th hole. There are also suicide-prone dishwashers, pot-smoking cops, beer-swilling good ol' boys and a former high-school-football star. And nothing spells drama like a former high-school-football star in Texas. Aug. 10-Sept. 7. Chance Theater, 5552 E. La Palma Ave., Anaheim Hills, (714) 777-3033; www.chancetheater.com.

 
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