Fall Arts Preview: Theatre

Escape the crazy into the magical realism of stage and show

So far you've outlasted the crazy events of the past year and have landed at the precipice of a new theater season. You should probably be well-informed before you step into a seemingly gravity-dictated freefall, because it's one in which laws of nature are questioned, bent, scoffed at, and re-interpreted by the feisty folks who bring us this magical stuff.

Here we go. 

Arizona Theatre Company, the grand dame of local theater, has managed to pull itself out of the lousy state of its finances to stand on firm ground with a new artistic director and managing director. (Although the outgoing David Ira Goldstein curated this coming season, new artistic director David Ivers looks like a worthy ATC benefactor.) Their line-up for the fall looks intriguing: 

First up is Neil Simon's Chapter Two, an account of second chances at love. It's more than a wee-bit biographical and will be directed by Marsha Mason, Simon's second wife and the embodiment of Simon's own second chance. That's a nice twist. Mason directed last year's way-fun Act of God. Chapter Two plays from Sept. 9-30. 

Next up is The River Bride by Marisela Treviño Orta. This is the winner of the 2013 National Latino Playwriting Award, which is sponsored by ATC. Borrowing from Brazilian folklore, the show weaves the themes of family, love, regret and transformation. It runs from Oct. 21 through Nov. 11. That will be followed by the classic musical Man of La Mancha, a new look at the classic inspired by the rhythms and passions of flamenco. It runs Dec. 12-31. 

The invincible Invisible Theatre offers a couple of Arizona premieres for the fall. Kenny Finkle's Indoor/Outdoor runs Sept. 5-17. It's a comedy about cats. Well, sort of. Sounds like fun, and Variety agreed. Next up is The Value of Names, which runs Nov. 7-19. Having been blacklisted in the 1950s, a comic now has to confront the man who testified against him. Here are tackled some none-too-lightweight themes we are still forced to deal with again and again. 

A play awarded the 2015 Yale Drama Series has its world premiere at The Rogue Theatre, opening their new season. Celia, A Slave is not only a play that captured the hearts and minds of the judges of the prestigious Yale group, but it was penned by a Tucsonan, Barbara Seyda, who wore out the Himmel Library staff with her extensive research to create this intriguing story of a slave accused of killing her owner. It runs Sept. 7-24. Then comes Bach at Leipzig Nov. 2-19, a comedy in the vein of Tom Stoppard's sensibility, says the official tag. Itamar Moses penned this also meticulously researched show. 

Live Theatre Workshop doesn't take the summer off and currently onstage is Seminar, a tale of aspiring novelists under the tutelage of a well-known writer. The wordsmiths and resulting wordplay produces a biting comedy. It runs through Sept. 23. Playwright Ken Ludwig is always dependable when it comes to humor, so his Baskerville—A Sherlock Holmes Mystery should be a good one. It runs Oct. 5-Nov. 11. The Voice of the Prairie, a nostalgic look at a simpler time, features three actors playing 20 roles. That doesn't sound so simple. It runs Nov. 16-Dec. 23. 

Something Something Theatre is ready to go with Scarborough by Fiona Evans Sept. 1-17. Followed that will be Mrs. Mannerly by Jeffrey Hatcher, Nov. 2-19. Their website states that these critically acclaimed plays are Tucson premieres, all written by women. I'm pretty sure Mr. Hatcher might object to part of that declaration. 

Winding Road Theater is scheduled to present An Iliad, a re-telling of the Homer's classical story, Oct. 19-Nov. 4.

Artistic director Marc David Pinate and his playwright wife, Milta Ortiz, have brought new energy to Borderlands Theater over the last couple of years. From Sept. 17 through Oct. 15 Borderlands will present The Wall by Robert Schenkkan, a winner of a Pulitzer Prize and a Tony Award. Can you guess what wall that might be referring to? Hmm. Maybe. Then comes the annual A Tucson Pastorela, Dec. 14-17, always a treat. 

We certainly don't want to omit Arizona Repertory Theatre, the impressive student production group at the UA. Their fall lineup includes Tigers Be Still, a sweet comedy about families and not so impossible happiness. It runs Sept. 17 through Oct. 8. That's followed by the The Addams Family musical, Oct. 17-Nov. 5. Next comes Tennessee Williams' classic, A Streetcar Named Desire, Nov. 5-Dec. 3. 

Broadway in Tucson always manages to score us a few exciting touring musicals. The Little Mermaid is right around the corner, running Sept. 13-17. That's followed by Beautiful, The Carole King Musical for a short run Oct. 4-8, after which the 20th Anniversary of the rockin' musical Rent will hit the stage, Nov. 3-5. Rodgers and Hammerstein's Cinderella will light up the early days of Dec., running Dec. 5-10. 

New theaters seem to sprout like buffelgrass around here, but more are welcome, of course, and it's always exciting to see what they contribute. Newbie Scoundrel and Scamp has not only refurbished the Zuzi! space at the Historic Y, they'll present three different series of shows, each specifically geared for various ages. Now that's a contribution. 

Then, on the well-rooted side of things, there's the wacky, wonderful Gaslight Theatre. Now through Nov. 5 they present their take on Phantom of the Opera, which will be followed by Christmas in the Big Apple, Nov. 9-Jan. 1, 2018. 

In the last couple of years Roadrunner Theatre seems to have found an audience, and Sept. 8-Oct. 1 they will revisit The Curious Savage by John Patrick Shanley. Reminding us that the holiday season is imminent, Oct. 13-Nov. 5 will find an adaptation of Peter Grimm's Christmas Gift strutting the boards. Then the holiday season will fully descend (or rise?) with Tiny Tim's Christmas Carol, Nov. 24-Dec. 24. 

There are a number of other community theaters we don't get a chance to cover but which have found loyal audiences. The Community Playhouse and the Comedy Playhouse have been around a while, and St. Francis Theatre will present the worthy-of-a-look Luna Gale, Oct. 13-29. Each has a website.

The theater buffet in Tucson is rich, varied and it often surprises. Feast on!

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