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The second half of the season brings surprises

Comedy and danger
By MEGAN GRUMBLING  |  December 28, 2011

Those who missed out on LOREM IPSUM's Threepenny Opera this fall should get in line early for its spring production of Henrik Ibsen's Ghosts, at SPACE Gallery (March 22-April 1). The audacious young company will reportedly bring multi-medial dimensions to this classic story of most sordid hauntings.

A different sordid era is the setting of PORTLAND STAGE COMPANY's 2012 noir-age opener, Trouble is My Business (January 24-February 19). In adaptations of two Raymond Chandler short stories, private eye Philip Marlowe dodges thugs, crooked cops, and dangerous dames. A little closer to spring, PSC stages two one-acts from master of lyrical sadness Tennessee Williams in Hidden Tennessee, featuring lonely teens and Southern ladies.

Things would seem to be slightly more requited in Becky Shaw (January 26-February 12), a comedy of dating, devotion, and fetishes to play at MAD HORSE. The company will later mount Paul Zindel's wrenching tale of family dysfunction The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds (March 15-April 1), and a comedy about a downward-spiraling amateur acting class, Circle Mirror Transformation (May 3-20). This last show is apparently the play of the moment; it also runs at the THEATER PROJECT (January 20-February 19, in repertory with the company's Winter Cabaret) and the GASLIGHT THEATER, in Hallowell (March 2-10).

The protagonist of Faith Healer (April 5-22) is also a student of acting, at least enough so to elicit belief in his powers. Brian Friel's Rashomon-style mediation on truth and faith goes up as a production of the AMERICAN IRISH REPERTORY ENSEMBLE.

Belief figures centrally in the conflict of the GOOD THEATER's first show of 2012, Next Fall (January 25-February 19). In this Maine premiere, one half of a gay couple has faith in god, while the other is an atheist. Good Theater will follow with Neil Simon's musical comedy Little Me (March 7-April 1), which it first launched 10 years ago and which will again feature the virtuoso comic Stephen Underwood as seven men in the life of one woman.

Anything that's comic in Harold Pinter's The Birthday Party (February 24-March 11) is also strange and dangerous. The playwright's first full-length work, about varieties of menace in a boarding house at what may or may not be a young man's birthday party, goes up as part of ACORN PRODUCTIONS' Studio Series.

Two larger-than-life women dominate the UNIVERSITY OF SOUTHERN MAINE's 2012 season: Eurydice (February 2-5), whose husband seeks to retrieve her from the land of the dead; and Hedda Gabler (April 20-29), Ibsen's quintessential force of domestic destruction.

Spouses are also at odds in the PUBLIC THEATER's The Language Archive (January 27-February 5), in which a linguist can't figure out the right things to say to his wife. Later in the spring, the Public Theater mounts a bio-show about New York Abstract Expressionist Mark Rothko, in the Tony Award-winning Red (March 16-25).

A slightly earlier classic era of New York is the swinging setting of Ain't Misbehavin' (March 23-April 15), a musical homage to Fats Waller. It plays at SEACOAST REPERTORY THEATRE, followed by Alan Ayckbourn's cruelly comic Things We Do For Love (May 4-20), a farce about fiancees and affairs.

A couple has more harrowing problems in DRAMATIC REPERTORY COMPANY, A Nervous Smile (March 22-April 1), namely one unthinkable decision to make. The company will follow with Life During Wartime, a comedy of love and deceit in a security system salesman.

Deceit is of course the central currency of Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (February 24-March 10) at LYRIC MUSIC THEATRE, as well as in the conspiracy trial of A Few Good Men (March 9-25) at PORTLAND PLAYERS. Later in the company's season, deceit leads to murder, then to a boy's catatonia, then to his international pinball stardom, in what might still be the weirdest musical of all time, The Who's Tommy (May 11-27).

But really, is deaf-dumb-blind British pinball playing any weirder than what happens in the heart of our own great nation? Find out at the CITY THEATER, in The Great American Trailer Park Musical (February 17-26).

Megan Grumbling can be reached at

Related: Stopping by a stark Genet show, In a Dream, Prince Rama of Ayodhya + Theodore Treehouse, More more >
  Topics: Theater , Hidden Tennessee, The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds, Little Me,  More more >
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