OC Theater Companies Have a Wonderful Year Planned for Us

An overview of local theater in 2015 should give people who place value in producing plays that aren't tried and tired some measure of satisfaction. About a dozen emerging American playwrights will see productions on local stages this year—and, for the first time in a looooooong time, not all those productions are at the one theater that is a leading force at doing just that: South Coast Repertory.

That's a good thing. And even those theaters that aren't staging new or unfamiliar work have something interesting in store. So here's a brief overview of some of the most interesting:

The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby. This makes the cut because it's a new adaptation of Charles Dickens' 1839 novel, courtesy of Joe Parrish, and who knew Dickens wrote anything other than A Christmas Carol? Stagedoor Repertory, 1045 N. Armando St., Anaheim, (714) 630-7378; www.stagedoorrep.org. Jan. 17-Feb. 7.

Tristan & Yseult. Two world premieres commissioned by South Coast Repertory and the January production of the Obie Award-winning The Whipping Man are three reasons to care about the second half of the theater's season, but the highlight may be this import courtesy of Kneehigh, a British-based company that has earned international acclaim for its highly visual aesthetic style. South Coast Repertory, 655 Town Center Dr., Costa Mesa, (714) 708-5555; www.scr.org. Jan. 23-Feb. 22.

Roger Guenveur Smith: Rodney King. A riveting performer and passionate writer, Smith's one-man show about King should be a highlight of the Off Center Festival. Segerstrom Center for the Performing Arts, 600 Town Center Dr., Costa Mesa, (714) 556-2787; www.scfta.org. Jan. 27-30.

Loch Ness, a Musical. Plays by Amy Herzog and Samuel D. Hunter, two of the most praised emerging playwrights in America, are definite highlights, but the Chance Theater's track record for staging musicals the past few years means this could be a gas. It's a world premiere courtesy of Marshall Pailet and A.D. Penedo about an elusive reptilian creature that everyone knows exists. Chance Theater, 5522 E. La Palma Ave., Anaheim, (714) 777-3033; www.chancetheater.org. Jan. 30-March 1.

Bonnie and Clyde. If the Powers That Be could spin the French Revolution into the cash cow Les Misérables, why can't they do the same with this duo? Their story has it all: passion, romance, wealth redistribution, heroic folk anti-heroes, bumbling law enforcement—all set against the madcap hilarity of the Great Depression! Then again, this show only lasted four weeks on Broadway, and the guy behind it, Frank Wildhorn, is responsible for such crap as Jekyll & Hyde and, hands-down the worst musical these jaded eyes have ever seen, The Civil War, so there is that. . . . Costa Mesa Playhouse, 661 Hamilton St., Costa Mesa, (949) 650-5269; www.costamesaplayhouse.org. Feb. 6-March 8.

Slings & Arrows: Shakespeare's Hamlet Re-imagined. The Monkey Wrench Collective resurfaces with this experimental, deconstructed take on the Bard. Audience members are split into groups that see various scenes from the play re-enacted in various rooms of the stately estate. Casa Romantica, 415 Avenida Granada, San Clemente, (949) 498-2139; www.casaromantica.org. April 10-18.

Wolves. Yet another relatively under-the-radar playwright, Steve Yockey, wrote this dark spin on a modern Little Red Riding Hood-like scenario. Theatre Out, 402 W. Fourth St., Santa Ana, (714) 220-7069; www.theatreout.com. Opens April 3.

Out of Orbit. The 2014 winner of the prestigious Stanley Drama Award, this is, according to the company's website, the first full-fledged production of Jennifer Maisel's heady-sounding play about a JPL scientist who's living on Mars time and her underachieving daughter, who falls for some strange dude via the Internet. California Repertory Theatre, 1126 Queens Hwy., Long Beach, (562) 985-4500; www.calrep.org. April 17-May 9.

Avenue Q. Sesame Street meets Generation X angst in this incredibly successful musical, which is 23rd on the list of longest-running Broadway shows and has been done just about everywhere since it opened in 2002. Maverick Theater, 110 E. Walnut, Fullerton, (714) 526-7070; www.mavericktheater.com. June 5-July 11.

Green Man. Eleven plays are on the calendar at Orange County's longest continuing storefront, including ones by contemporary playwrights Sarah Ruhl, Wendy MacLeod, Jason Wells, Amy and David Sedaris, and even a local writer with the bitchen name Hero Carlisle. All are welcome additions to a theater scene that, all too often, is pretty goddamn rote. One of the most interesting, Green Man, comes from the fecund mind of Jim Knable, a Sacramento-based musician and writer who is a certifiable trip (among many reasons, he claims to be the founder of the Pseudo-Symbolist movement). This play, about “love, loss and gargoyles,” includes music from Knable as well as a naked guy painted green. STAGEStheatre, 400 E. Commonwealth Ave., Fullerton, (714) 525-4484; www.stagesoc.org. June 26-Aug. 2.

Tarzan: The Stage Musical. This is on the list because it sounds like the kind of show that gives theater such a bad name. Yet 3D Theatricals does great work (though I'm currently boycotting it because its big-time LA press guy no longer gives comp tickets to the website Stage and Cinema because he feels the reviews are too harsh. Go grab a juice box and take a nap, you pussy). Plummer Auditorium, 201 E. Chapman Ave., Fullerton, (714) 626-3890; 3dtshows.com. July 11-July 26.

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