New York and Toronto can keep their mega-huge The Lord of the Rings musical, their new Bob Dylan musical, and the reunion of Matthew Broderick and Nathan Lane in Neil Simon's The Odd Couple—and Los Angeles can sit on its rendition of Wicked; also the curiously timely Bauhaus reunion. Orange County has enough meritorious theater to keep you on county lock down—just like Haidl—until the snow melts next spring, or at least the equivalent of what you'd do if we had seasons. (Besides eat your shoe.) Hey, maybe it'll rain! Whatever, you're staying here. Take a look:
Trout Fishing in America. This isn't traditional theater; it's a group of Grammy-nominated musicians performing for the kiddies. We're somewhat down with that. But if the group named itself after Richard Brautigan's book of the same name, Trout Fishing in America, without paying sincere homage to the author, well, then, we retract our previous statement. Brautigan's surreally sweet novels were comically ironic snapshots of the sincerely stumbling efforts of the '60s counterculture to find genuine enlightenment; he killed himself in 1984 because he couldn't deal with life as he knew it. His work and memory deserve a fonder remembrance than someone cavalierly ripping off a clever title. That's all we're saying. Orange County Performing Arts Center, Oct. 14-16, (714) 556-ARTS; www.ocpac.org.
Halloween-y Stuff: You can set your watch by Hunger Artists' habitual Halloween offering, Madame Guignol's Macabre Theatre, which celebrates its 10th anniversary with a greatest-hits type evening of its best scenes and vignettes from the past decade. Oct. 7-31, (714) 680-6803; www.hungerartists.com. You can also depend upon someone, somewhere (Peter Murphy, Daniel Ash) doing some adaptation of Bram Stoker's Dracula. This year, it's the Vanguard Theatre Ensemble mounting Christopher Hampton and Don Black's musical version. That is not a typo: the musical version. We slay ourselves. Vanguard Theatre, Oct. 14-Nov. 3, (714) 526-8007; www.vte.org.
The Sacred Geometry of S&M Porn. Johnna Adams is one of the county's most talented, committed and passionate playwrights. Her latest comedy features dirty magazines, a soul-stealing woman and the Crystal Cathedral—a recipe for theatrical success if ever there was one. Rude Guerrilla, Oct. 21-Nov. 12, (714) 547-4688; www.rudeguerrilla.org.
Little Women. In a brave new world of death for oil and animal diseases, a new adaptation of Louisa May Alcott's novel of tranquil, secure life in 19th-century New England doesn't exactly sound like the kind of provocative, compelling art fare needed to rally the troops and storm the Bastille. Then again, perhaps it's exactly the kind of theater we need in these darkening times. Hunger Artists Theatre, Nov. 18-Dec. 18, (714) 680-6803; www.hungerartists.org.
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Hitchcock Blonde. Terry Johnson's 1993 play Hysteria was a hilariously surreal look at a meeting between Salvador Dali and Sigmund Freud. This time, Johnson focuses on another cultural icon—the blonde-obsessed auteur Alfred Hitchcock—and delivers the type of smart, witty stuff that a theater like SCR should have no problem making work. South Coast Repertory, Feb. 3-March 12, (714) 708-5555; www.scr.org.
Hot 'N' Throbbing. Paula Vogel has written a slew of great plays, but the only one that gets much attention is How I Learned to Drive. This 1994 surreal exploration of domestic violence (boo!) and sexual excess (yay!) is one of her most disturbing—and eloquent. Chance Theater, Feb. 4-March 12, (714) 777-3033; www.chancetheater.com.
Man From Nebraska. We've got no idea what the West Coast premiere of Tracy Letts' play is about, and we don't care. All that matters is that William Friedkin, of The Exorcist and The French Connection fame, is directing; anyone who helped bring to the silver screen two of the most immortal lines of the 20th century—"I'm gonna nail you for picking your feet in Poughkeepsie" and "Your mother sucks cocks in hell"—is pure gold. South Coast Repertory, March 12-April 2, (714) 708-5555; www.scr.org.
The Sleeper. No word yet on the intricacies of this plot; all we know is that it isn't a dramatization of Woody Allen's classic goof on the free love movement. But no matter; playwright Catherine Butterfield is usually exceptional. Her earlier Joined at the Head is a wonderfully profound meditation on life, death and dealing with letting go. With the same theater that produced that show behind this one, similar results may ensue. We hope. Laguna Playhouse, April 18-May 21, (949) 497-ARTS; www.lagunaplayhouse.com.