How's this for a witty and erudite introduction to our 2016 theater preview: Here are the shows on local boards we're most looking forward to this year. They may not be the best productions, but on paper (or at least on websites), they all seem as interesting as a consensual gangbang. Disclaimer: Several theaters haven't officially secured the rights or announced their shows for 2016, so some really cool shit might be missing from this list.
The Long Beach Playhouse is turning its upstairs Studio Theatre into a highly interesting foundry of new work, inviting outside companies and other performing-arts entities to stage work there. Few of the pieces run more than a couple of nights, but there is a lot on tap in 2016, including this “high-speed, audience-interactive, improvisational, sketch parody of all the Disney animated films performed by two fanatics in 90 minutes.” Considering how much this infernal rag loves Disney in all its incarnations, this one's a no-brainer. Long Beach Playhouse, 5021 E. Anaheim St., Long Beach, (562) 494-1014; www.lbplayhouse.org. Jan. 15-23.
Off Center Festival
Billed as a “snapshot of contemporary theater,” this eclectic collection of works is a diverse fusion of theater, cinema, music, dance, puppets and all kinds of other stuff. Words, images, movement and sound turn all six of the featured works into convention-shattering pieces of highly novel expression. The two that sound most intriguing are Nufonia Must Fall, a puppet show that infuses three-dimensional life into Kid Koala's graphic novel and is filmed and edited in real time, basically creating a live silent film, and Sarah Jones' Sell/Buy/Date, a one-person play that dramatizes actual experiences of people affected by the commercial sex industry. Segerstrom Center for the Performing Arts, 600 Town Center Dr., Costa Mesa, (714) 556-2787; www.scfta.org. Jan. 15-30.
There is always interesting fare offered at UC Irvine, which boasts one of the most ballyhooed drama departments in the country. Like this one: Begun in 1836 by Georg Buchner, who died the next year, before it was finished, this play languished in obscurity for years until someone decided to “finish” it in 1913. Since then, Woyzeck has become a yummy specialty cocktail among really smart drama nerds, who appreciate it for its way-ahead-of-its-time innovation. Claire Trevor Theatre, 4004 Mesa Rd., Irvine; drama.arts.uci.edu/on-stage. March 5-13.
The Toxic Avenger
Yes, that Toxic Avenger. The 1984 B-movie superhero-horror film that begins in a toxic dump in New Jersey and spawned two sequels was turned into a musical in 2008 and hasn't stopped being performed since. This is its first time in the OC. Maverick Theater, 110 E. Walnut Ave., Fullerton, (714) 526-7070; www.mavericktheater.com. Opens April 1.
Plays about Mark Rothko and the sweeping grandeur of Peter Shaffer's Amadeus are on the back end of South Coast Repertory's 2015-16 season, but what makes it truly worthwhile are four world premieres, all written by women. Sandra Tsing Loh's The Madwoman In the Volvo is set against the backdrop of no one's favorite weirdo gathering (except for those weirdos who go and never stop talking about how awesome it is), Burning Man; Eliza Clark's Future Thinking has a Comic-Con tie-in; and Bekah Brunstetter's Going to a Place Where You Already Are deals with spirituality and morality. But the nod goes to Julia Cho's Office Hour, not necessarily for the subject matter (isolated kid who writes scary stuff in class, terrifying his fellow students), but for the playwright, whose 2010 piece, The Language Archive, was a smart, powerful and moving exploration of language and love. South Coast Repertory, 655 Town Center Dr., Costa Mesa; www.scr.org. April 1-May 1.
The Big Meal
Dan LeFranc crammed nearly 80 years of a family's evolution into 90 minutes for this 2012 play, which is set in a series of Midwestern restaurants. The brisk pace and overlapping dialogue, with most characters played by multiple actors as they age, were all hailed by those in the business of hailing such things. And if you like to hear people talk about nachos, you'll be in the right place. Chance Theater, 5522 E. La Palma Ave., Anaheim, (714) 777-3033; chancetheater.com. April 21-May 22.
There's a highly diverse season this year at Orange County's longest established storefront theater. There is a classic French farce by Georges Feydeau; an American classic by Arthur Miller (All My Sons); more contemporary work by playwrights such as Nicky Silver (Raised in Captivity), Rajiv Joseph (Gruesome Playground Injuries) and Paula Vogel (Desdemona); as well as new works by Robert Tully and Hero P. Carlisle. But the one that tops this list is this late-1990s play by former OC homeboy Steve Spehar, an elusive and shadowy tale of a director trying to mount a production of Jean Genet's The Balcony but confronted by omens of his death. STAGEStheatre, 400 E. Commonwealth Ave., Fullerton, (714) 525-4484; www.stagesoc.org. Aug. 19-Sept. 11.