UA's Arizona Repertory Theatre
Marroney Theatre, Park Avenue and Speedway Boulevard
Say "student production," and you're likely to think of the human equivalent of cute little dogs running around on their hind legs, admirable simply because they can do it. But say "Arizona Repertory Theatre," and you should imagine intrepid lion tamers poking their heads into the maw of the beast called Theater, and emerging with panache. The UA's professional-prep company builds its casts around a core of grad students who could handle themselves well in regional theaters, and dresses them (and the stage) beautifully. Sure, smaller roles can be assigned to less-assured students, and energy occasionally substitutes for penetrating psychology. But without handing over your first-born child at the box office, you can experience some of the most satisfying theater in town. The past year's offerings ranged from an endearing version of Oklahoma! (starring the charismatic Sean Zimmerman and Julia Tilley) to an ambitious, note-perfect, two-night adaptation of The Cider House Rules, with Chekhov and Shakespeare along the way.