The Autumn of Our Content on Local Stages

Joan Marcus

Autumn of Our Content
Whether or not our local stages actually observe the theatrical “seasons,” this fall’s lineup does include Spam, Spam, Spam, Frankenstein, Spam, musicals and Spam

While it’s more symbolic than real, September marks the beginning of the theatrical year. The story goes that most theaters go dark when the mercury rises and unveil their new seasons as fall approaches.

That’s not really the case in Orange County. Most theaters here just can’t afford to take two to three months off, so they’re producing year-round. But, since we’re nothing if not reverently traditional, it seems as good a time as any to take a look at some of the more intriguing shows coming to local stages.

South Coast Repertory ( launches its 2009-2010 season in September, with Putting It Together (Sept. 11-Oct. 11), a musical revue of Stephen Sondheim songs. SCR has only produced a handful of musicals in its 46-year history, but if they’re going to sully their hands with the genre, it might as well be a salute to the smartest, most complex and brilliant composer the American theater has ever produced.

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Far more interesting in terms of subject matter is Saturn Returns (Oct. 23-Nov. 22), the West Coast premiere of the disgustingly talented Noah Haidle’s time-bending saga of a grumpy 88-year-old named Gustin. Haidle is frenetically wonderful, and if his past shows at SCR (Mr. Marmalade, Princess Marjorie)are any indication, his latest should be equally funny and darkly hued.

There’s also Julie Marie Myatt’s world premiere, The Happy Ones (Sept. 27-Oct. 18), about an Orange County man forced to rebuild his life in 1975 with the unwanted assistance of a Vietnamese refugee.

The Laguna Playhouse ( is focusing more on musical-themed entertainments these days due to economic constraints, but Moonlight and Magnolias (Oct. 6-Nov. 1)is a re-imagining of the writing of the film script of Gone With the Wind, in which producer David Selznick, director Victor Fleming and playwright Ben Hecht lock themselves in a room for five days in order to pound out a rewrite of the cumbersome script. Following this run, the production moves to the La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts ( Nov. 6-22.

It has played in Las Vegas and Los Angeles, but OC audiences get their first chance to see Monty Python’s Spamalot at the Orange County Performing Arts Center ( Oct. 6-18. A freewheeling hodgepodge of material and songs culled from the British troupe’s films, the nationally touring production stars John O’Hurley, who wowed ’em on Dancing With the Stars but achieved comic immortality by playing Elaine’s boss on Seinfeld.

The Hunger Artists ( draw their 2009 season of failed relationships to a close with terrormeister Clive Barker’s gorily humorous Frankenstein In Love (Oct. 2-Nov. 1) and a modernized take on James Goldman’s classic The Lion in Winter, set amid the sexual politics—and political politics—of the court of Henry II.

STAGEStheatre ( mounts plays about a malicious king of England, Shakespeare’s Richard III (Oct. 9-Nov. 14), and a cannibal from Borneo, Borneo Bob (Nov. 27-Dec. 20), but each pales before the radiant luster of Fred Willard, who leads his sketch-comedy troupe the Mohos back to Orange County Oct. 3-4.

Fresh off their much-ballyhooed production of Hair (sorry, missed it on account of Woodstock saturation this summer), the Chance Theater ( gets way more serious with Anton Chekhov’s The Seagull (Sept. 25-Oct. 25). Though hailed as an architect of modern drama, Chekhov’s dialogue-heavy plays are tough sells for the ADD set, so the Chance has a mountain to climb.

The Maverick Theater ( trots out its three staged-cinema audience-pleasers consecutively with Night of the Living Dead (Oct. 2-Nov. 1), the Rocky Horror Picture Show (Oct. 16-Nov. 21)and Santa Claus Conquers the Martians (Dec. 4-27). No word yet on whether the robots from Mystery Science Theater 3000 will be in the front row for that last one.

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