OC Weekly’s Midyear Guide to the Best Local Theater

Big Fish in rehearsals. Photo courtesy Chance Theater

It’s summertime, and even though the living ain’t always the easiest, OC summertime sure beats the hell out of Stockton summertime. And for those of you who want to immerse yourself in a little bit of artsy-fartsy culture, there’s plenty of stuff both inside and outside, theatrically speaking, to satisfy that most perverse of urges.

Here are eight of the most interesting productions and festivals on tap this summer, plus an honorary mention for a ninth, which is really just sad.

The Twilight Zone. This summer tradition returns with three theatricalized episodes of Rod Serling’s masterpiece TV series, including this curmudgeon’s all-time favorite, featuring a most unusual camera that takes pictures of the future and the low-life shysters who wind up fucking up this incredible opportunity. STAGEStheatre, 400 E. Commonwealth Ave., Fullerton, (714) 525-4484; stagesoc.org. June 15-July 8. $20-$22.

The Rocky Horror Show. This is the fourth time the Maverick has rolled out this classic love story of peace, love and understanding, but the first since 2009, so expect some new blood. Literally. Maverick Theater, 110 E. Walnut Ave., Fullerton, (714) 526-7070; www.mavericktheater.com. June 22-Aug. 11. $15-$30.

Big Fish. While its billing as a show for “everyone who loves musicals” might scare most sane people away, the source material is impressive. It’s adapted from Daniel Wallace’s 1998 novel and Tim Burton’s 2003 film about a dying man’s grown son trying to uncover the truth of his dad while sorting through the larger-than-life stories about him. Chance Theater, 6552 E. La Palma, Anaheim, (888) 455-4212; chancetheater.com. June 29-July 29. $41-$45.

Big River. What better way to while a summer evening or Sunday afternoon than by watching a musical version of Mark Twain’s canonical The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn? Okay, we can think of about 1,988 just off the top of our heads, but this is a rarely done musical that won all the major Tony Awards in 1985 and features music by Roger Miller, a dead guy who just happens to be a member of the Country Music Hall of Fame. Mysterium Theater at La Habra Depot Playhouse, 311 S. Euclid St., La Habra, (562) 697-3311; mysteriumtheater.com. July 6-29. $25-$40.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream and The Winter’s Tale. The best Shakespeare productions in OC, hands down, are courtesy of the electrifying and talented New Swan Shakespeare Festival troupe, who operate out of the county’s most interesting playing space: an intimate, outdoor, cylindrical venue modeled after an authentic Elizabethan theater. New Swan Theater, UC Irvine, 4002 Mesa Rd., Irvine, (949) 824-2787; newswanshakespeare.com. Both shows in repertory July 5-Sept. 1. $15-$55.

The Christians. One of OC’s finest directors, Michael Serna, tackles Lucas Hnath’s 2014 play, which seems to embody one part of OC. The pastor of an evangelical megachurch threatens to create a schism among his flock for—gasp—preaching he doesn’t believe hell exists. Costa Mesa Playhouse, 661 Hamilton St., Costa Mesa, (949) 650-5269; costamesaplayhouse.com. June 22-July 15. $20-$22.

The Tempest. The ambitious gypsy troupe Alchemy Theatre Co. surfaces in Huntington Beach with this telling of Shakespeare’s most produced play (seriously, I read that once, somewhere). It’s outdoors, so bring the usual things: blankets, towels, picnic basket, huge bong. Golden West College Amphitheatre, 15744 Golden West St., Huntington Beach; www.alchemytheatre.com. July 7-22. $30.

OC-centric New Play Festival. The eighth year of OC’s only full-fledged fest dedicated to new works includes one full-length play, Allegory of the Cave by Darren Andrew Nash, and three one-acts courtesy of Cambria Denim (who has the best name. Ever), Buddy Farmer (another good one) and James Colgan (whom we’re sure is a very interesting guy). Chapman University’s Moulton Hall Studio, 300 Palm Ave., Orange; www.oc-centric.com. Aug. 16-26. $12-$23; tickets available via BrownPaperTickets.com.

Shakespeare Orange County Summerfest. John Walcutt’s ridiculously popular summer series in Garden Grove, which has attracted more than 1,000 artists and performers and some 30,000 people over four years, is canceled this year. The reason, according to a statement on its website (shakespeareoc.org/2018season/), is construction and permitting delays relating to refurbishing the theater. Will artistic director Walcutt and friends return? As he says in the statement, “We will see what the future will bring. Everything is up in the air right now, as we try our best to deal with this.”

This was the best thing to happen in Orange County theater in a very long time, and if the city can’t figure out a way to help support this incredibly talented, seasoned and ambitious company, then hopefully some other entity will step in to give them the home—and support—they truly require. So contact John Montanchez, Garden Grove’s director of community services, at jo****@ci.us, and say, “WE WANT SUMMERFEST TO STAY!!”

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