Big Names on Local Stages This Year Include Sondheim, Wilson, Shepard and, of Course, Debbie

A 2010 Play List
Big names on local stages this year include Sondheim, Albee, Wilson, Tolkien, Shepard, Myatt and, of course, Debbie

For just about every business, 2009 was a bitch of a year, and local theaters were no exception. That said, all but one survived somewhat intact—and even the most important remnants of the one that closed, Rude Guerrilla, reopens this month under the new banner of the Monkey Wrench Collective. Plans are also in the works to stage a Fullerton theater festival in October that will include professional, college and storefront theaters.

But the biggest reason to feel good about local theater this year boils down to five words: Debbie Does Dallas: The Musical. In November, the Maverick Theater becomes the first OC theater to mount the 2001 musical parody of the 1978 skin flick. Talk about a spin on “guys and dolls.”

And while that show may aim to stimulate regions south of the cerebellum, there’s certainly no end to engaging shows of other kinds during the next 12 months.

SOUTH COAST REPERTORY
Orange County’s premier professional arts organization has etched its name into the history books in large part by giving top-shelf playwrights a voice, and it’s no different the first half of 2010. This month, SCR tackles August Wilson, perhaps America’s most prominent playwright of the past 25 years, with Fences (Jan. 21-Feb.21). In March, Howard Korder, whose 1989 play Search and Destroy remains one of the theater’s landmark world premieres, returns with his third local work: the geo-politically jagged In a Garden. This is followed in April by another new play, Robert Aguirre-Sacasa’s horror flick-inspired Doctor Cerebrus. Why care about that guy? Well, his writing credits include everything from HBO’s Big Love to Marvel Comics.

In June, Warner Shook, one of America’s most lauded directors (he staged something called The Kentucky Cycle last century) tackles Beth Henley’s 1981 Pulitzer Prize-winning Crimes of the Heart. www.scr.org

 

LAGUNA PLAYHOUSE
Outside of a one-man George Gershwin show opening this month, there’s only one mainstage show at this Laguna institution before the summer, but it should be a kick: The Second City: Can You be More Pacific? It’s an Orange County-specific send-up of the region courtesy of the Chicago-based sketch-comedy troupe that has helped launch talents as varied as John Belushi and Tina Fey. It opens March 16. www.lagunaplayhouse.com

 

CHANCE THEATER
This Anaheim Hills troupe solidified its status as OC’s premier storefront in ’09, and its diverse programming continues this year, with three musicals, including Stephen Sondheim’s Merrily We Roll Along in early February; the local premiere of Julie Marie Myatt’s life-in-wartime drama Welcome Home, Jenny Sutter April 16-May 16; and the OC debut of the impossibly idiosyncratic Edward Albee’s The Goat, or Who is Sylvia? in September. www.chancetheater.com

 

HUNGER ARTISTS THEATRE CO.
Speaking of diverse, this Fullerton troupe has everything from Greek classics to the musical Bat Boy lined up, but the most promising plays come from two of the 12-year-old company’s favorite writers: Sam Shepard’s Buried Child (March 19-April 11) and New Jersey playwright Jason Lindner’s re-imagining of the Don Quixote epic The Ballad of Don Q or The High Adventures of “Sixgun” Q in June. www.hungerartists.com

THE MAVERICK THEATER
If it’s at the Maverick this season, chances are there’s some kind of Hollywood connection, including stage adaptations of The Manchurian Candidate (April 23-June 6) and The Hobbit (Aug. 6-Sept. 19). www.mavericktheater.com

 

STAGESTHEATRE
Orange County’s most venerable storefront has a couple of yawners in the mix this year, such as community-theater chestnuts Steel Magnolias and Lend Me a Tenor, but several of its late-night or special-engagement shows are highly interesting. They include two one-act plays by Los Angeles-based writer David Macaray (April 3-25), an all-male Steel Dragnolias (May 14-June 2), late-night adaptations of classic Twilight Zone episodes in June, and a three-night reunion of the band for So Alone (Aug.6-Aug.8) that made William Mittler’s rendition of the drug-and-drama-saturated tale of Johnny Thunders and the New York Dolls such an audience fave. www.stagesoc.org

 

OTHERS
Herbert Siguenza, one of the three pillars who make Culture Clash such a theatrical phenomenon, hosts a three-night show created by him and the UC Irvine Drama Department on March 12-14 (drama.arts.uci.edu). The Orange County Performing Arts Center has its usual slate of audience-friendly musicals, with two, Hairspray (April 6-11) and Young Frankenstein (Sept. 7-19), a touch more tempting than Andrew Lloyd Webber or The Lion King (www.ocpac.org).The Los Angeles-based Troubadour Theatre returns to Long Beach April 10 with a purée of the Greek classic Oedipus done to music by the king of rock & roll and titled Oedipus the King Mama! (www.carpenterarts.org). And what preview could possibly be complete without mentioning Ed Asner’s March 20 one-night performance in La Mirada as FDR (www.lamiradatheater.com).

 
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