The industry of fiery foods (which sounds not unlike the Ministry of Silly Walks) gives out Scovie awards to its sweat-inducing-est fare; so, this being summer, we're unabashedly ripping off their idea for our annual summer theater exploration. Unlike the Scovies, we're not actually doing a rating system—just tipping you off to a few of the hottest shows between now and Sept. 20.

The Three Penny Opera, Hunger Artists, July 21-Aug. 20. It packed them into the Big Apple's Studio 54 earlier this year, so why not try it in Fullerton? This 1928 Bertolt Brecht/Kurt Weill jazz-influenced, convention-tweaking satire on corrupt bourgeois values is a seminal piece of musical theater, and not just because of the Bobby Darin version of "Mack the Knife,"or McDonald's goofy use of the same song to sell Big Macs in the '80s. Plus, co-director Shannon C.M. Flynn's expecting her first child in early August, and since directors like to be at their opening night performances, this could be baby's first play.

Shakespeare, July 6-30. Scintillating Shakespeare is about as common as a World Cup goal, but two Shakespeare offerings look especially promising this summer. Shakespeare Orange County launches its summer season July 6-20 with Hamlet,directed by Thomas F. Bradac, who knows as much about Shakespeare as anyone west of the Santa Ana River. And former Insurgo chieftain John Beane introduces the Capistrano Shakespeare Festival with Macbeth July 14-30. The only way it could be hotter is if that fake blood were real.

Into the Woods, Chance Theater, July 27-Sept. 10. Stephen Sondheim is a genius, and this twisted riff on what happens after the conclusion of some of the Grimm Brothers' classic fairy tales—Little Red Riding Hood's newfound yen for blood; revenge-seeking wives of giants who've fallen down a beanstalk, etc.—ranks among his most ingenious.

Surf City USA, Huntington Beach Playhouse, Aug. 4-20. This world premiere of HB-based playwright Shirley Orlando's musical recalls the nostalgic beachcombing days of the Beach Boys, Gidget and water that didn't make you want to cry or gag thinking about it.

Reefer Madness, STAGEStheatre, Sept. 22-Oct. 31. This big musical goof on the unintentionally funny 1936 anti-weed propaganda film was an enormous Los Angeles storefront theater hit in the late '90s. But the Broadway production opened right after 9/11, so it never got a real chance to prove its merits at that level. That was, until a Showtime movie exposed it to a wider audience base. Now, Stages is the first Southern California company to remount this wickedly hilarious show. The only way we'd laugh louder is if they handed out blunts at the door. Sadly, they will not.

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