If the Mayan long-form calendar is right (and, obviously, any civilization that hit its peak 1,000 years ago was right about everything . . .) the world ends Dec. 21. Good thing we've got sexualized puppets, Orson Welles, Richard M. Nixon, a homoerotic Abe Lincoln and the guillotine on local stages to get us through the next 350 days.
Yes, it's a musical, and yes, it features a bunch of puppets. But this not-so-affectionate homage to Sesame Street-like characters who've grown up in a far more complicated world—one with Internet porn, lots of sex and substance abuse—was the most produced musical of the first decade of the 21st century. It'll be interesting to see the show done on one of the county's smallest stages, Theatre Out, in Santa Ana, as well as one of its largest, the Plummer Auditorium in Fullerton. Theatre Out, www.theatreout.com. Jan. 13-Feb. 25. Also at 3-D Theatricals at the Plummer Auditorium, www.3dtshows.com. July 13-29.
Back before David Mamet was a successful screenwriter, a tiresome right-wing hack and an expert on fucking everything, he was a fantastic playwright. This 1975 play about three small-time con men trying to steal a coin collection is, along with Glengarry Glen Ross, Mamet's best. (Honorable mentions at STAGES: Playboy of the Western World, March 10-April 7, and The Great American Trailer Park Musical, June 8-July 29). STAGEStheatre, www.stagesoc.org. Jan. 13-Feb. 19.
What would happen if two towering presences of the stage and screen, Orson Welles and Laurence Olivier, teamed up for a production of Eugene Ionesco's absurdist masterpiece, Rhinoceros? That's what playwright Austin Pendleton must have wondered. Why else would he have written the play, which is based on the real-life occurrence of just such a production, inspired by esteemed theater critic Kenneth Tynan? Alive Theatre at the Long Beach Playhouse, www.lbplayhouse.org. Jan. 20-Feb. 5.
THE GOD OF CARNAGE
Though no one from the Weekly has walked through the doors of this Long Beach theater for more than 10 years—not since the then-artistic director told us we weren't welcome because we print nothing but the truth, so help us Mammon—we'll still mention this Yasmin Reza play. The four-character dark comedy is showered with rave reviews anywhere it plays, and the Roman Polanski film based on it (Carnage) is a hot topic on the Oscar-speculation circuit. That's important, if you care about lame shit. International City Theatre at the Long Beach Performing Arts Center, www.ictlongbeach.org. Jan. 24-Feb. 19.
IAN MACKINNON'S GAY HIST-ORGY
From the press release: “With his time-traveling hot pants and Genie guide, performance artist/activist MacKinnon cruises thousands of years of homo-history [encountering] gay icons: Plato, Rumi, Abe Lincoln, da Vinci, Michelangelo . . . and more.” Wait a minute: Plato was gay? (Honorable mention at Long Beach Playhouse: Post-Mortem America: A Political Burlesque, March 23-31.) Long Beach Playhouse, www.lbplayhouse.org. Feb. 10-11.
The final days of the Marquis de Sade's life, when he was confined to (and basically ran) a notorious French insane asylum, are explored in Doug Wright's spooky 1995 play, which was turned into a film in 2000. California Repertory Theatre, www.calrep.org. Feb. 17-March 10.
A dark comedy set at the end of civilization, as white people have long known it, featuring a journalism student and a gay scientist as the last two people on the face of the planet. Long Beach Playhouse, www.lbplayhouse.org. Feb. 24-March 10. Also at the Chance Theater, www.chancetheater.com. Sept. 21-Oct. 21.
Two mega-talented artists—San Francisco playwright Octavio Solis and New York-based musician Adam Gwon—team up for this musical. It's a world premiere and the marquee show helming South Coast Repertory's Pacific Playwrights Festival, so the theater must think awfully highly of it. (Honorable mentions at SCR: Suzan Lori-Parks' Topdog/Underdog, Jan. 8-29, and August Wilson's Jitney, May 11-June 10.) South Coast Repertory, www.scr.org. April 15-May 6.
Good luck finding a guy to play OC's most dishonorable native son, but kudos to this Fullerton troupe for mounting this 1996 play, which dramatizes the famous series of 1977 interviews between journalist/enfant terrible David Frost and Tricky Dick. (Honorable mentions at the Maverick: the return of two of its biggest non-holiday hits—The Hobbit, June 1-July 14, and its Elvis homage, The King, July 20-Sept. 15.) Maverick Theater, www.mavericktheater.com. April 20-May 27.
WEST SIDE STORY
No, the world isn't pleading for yet another production of this groundbreaking (for 1950) musical, but the Chance has demonstrated an undeniable ability to make musicals sing in recent years. (Honorable mention at the Chance: Reborning, a creepy-sounding dark comedy about a guy who sculpts baby dolls, April 20-May 20.) Chance Theater, www.chancetheater.com. June 29-Aug. 5.
LOSING OUR HEADS
According to the troupe's website, this is a “comedy that juxtaposes absurdist vignettes about the bizarre history of the guillotine with the post-beheading loves, lives and struggle of Nick, Marie and Charlotte, historical figures who now exist in a very contemporary version of the afterlife.” (Honorable mentions at the Hunger Artists: Terri Mowrey's one-woman West Side Terri, Feb. 10-March 4, and OC playwright Eric Eberwein's Great Western Wanderlust, April 20-May 13.) Hunger Artists Theatre Co., www.hungerartists.com. Oct. 19-Nov. 18.
This article ran in print as “Sexed-Up Puppets, Nixon and More! The 12 plays to watch in 2012.”