BOMBS AWAY: The American Repertory Theatre brings Michael Frayn’s Copenhagen to Cambridge.
Now that the holiday hubbub is behind us, we have no dreams of white Christmases or visions of Sugar Plum Fairies to warm a theatergoer’s heart. Enter primary fever to heat things up. With the election year upon us, it seems the candidates’ issue-laden chatter — not to mention their none-too-subtle aspiring to power — will be reflected on area stages.
Merrimack Repertory Theatre takes a satirical look at the primaries with the regional premiere of THE MISSIONARY POSITION (February 7–March 2), Keith Reddin’s lampoon of the sparring between a chief fundraiser and a religious adviser on the campaign trail. Politics shifts to the background but is no less influential elsewhere. Next week, the American Repertory Theatre opens COPENHAGEN (January 5–February 3), Michael Frayn’s Tony-winning play offering multiple speculations about a visit German physicist Werner Heisenberg paid to his Danish mentor, Niels Bohr, in 1941. A world war and other considerations have pitted the old friends against each other in a race to create the atom bomb.
Beltway chatter — that of the Reagan era — is a baseline in Tony Kushner’s Pulitzer-winning epic ANGELS IN AMERICA (January 18–February 16). Boston Theatre Works presents the two parts of Kushner’s “gay fantasia on national themes,” Millennium Approaches and Perestroika, in repertory at the Calderwood Pavilion under the direction of Jason Southerland and Nancy Curran Willis.
BREAD AND PUPPET THEATRE once again takes on the Big Themes — Guantánamo and other post-9/11 shenanigans — with its papier-mâché politics in its updating of Dante, The Divine Reality Comedy, and the more kid-friendly Divine Reality Comedy Circus, both coming to the Boston Center for the Arts (February 7-10).
Next issue on the political agenda: gay marriage. SpeakEasy Stage Company muses on the issue when it gives SOME MEN its New England premiere (February 29–March 29). Tony winner Terrence McNally’s play is an exploration of gay history, prompted by the occasion of a gay wedding. Zeitgeist Stage Company also casts an eye on gay culture with Matthew Todd’s dark comedy BLOWING WHISTLES (January 18–February 9), which considers relationships in a liberated society where a hook-up is just a mouse click away.
Politics gets the academic treatment in the Huntington Theatre Company’s area premiere of THIRD (January 4–February 3), by the late Wendy Wasserstein. The Pulitzer-winning writer’s last play hinges on a showdown between a liberal New England college professor and a conservative jock student, one that provokes her to reassess her own ideas about politics, Shakespeare, and life.
Speaking of which: has anyone captured the political animal more acutely than the Bard? Several historical power mongers will reveal the inner workings of the political machine, beginning with HENRY V (January 10–February 13), which Actors’ Shakespeare Project presents in a streamlined production Downstairs at the Garage in Harvard Square. Trinity Repertory Company serves up a more crooked king in RICHARD III (January 25–March 2). Also displaying an indomitable will to conquer is the leading pol of JULIUS CAESAR (February 9–March 22), which the ART is staging for the first time in its history. But all is not all political manipulation and betrayal where Shakespeare is concerned. The ASP follows Henry V with the Bard’s magical valedictory, THE TEMPEST (March 13–April 13), with Alvin Epstein as Prospero, and presented at the Cambridge Multicultural Arts Center.
Metaphorical tempests will keep things blustery on the domestic front all winter. The Huntington will stage Irish playwright Conor McPherson’s SHINING CITY (March 7–April 6), a Broadway hit in which a Dublin therapist treats a grieving widower while his own relationship unravels. Love is also on the rocks at Merrimack Rep in A DELICATE BALANCE (March 13–April 6), Edward Albee’s Pulitzer-winning mix of arid marriage, upper-class cocktail chat, and existential terror. New Repertory Theatre takes a different tack with Molière’s THE MISANTHROPE (January 16–February 10), whose protagonist, Alceste, however much he scorns the hypocrisy around him, sees the object of his affection through rose-colored glasses.
Another corrosive installation of Albee is at Lyric Stage of Boston, where local diva Paula Plum stars in the Pulitzer-winning THREE TALL WOMEN (March 28–April 26), the playwright’s tripartite meditation on his difficult adoptive mother. And New Rep takes on Sarah Ruhl’s magical-realist THE CLEAN HOUSE, in its Boston premiere (February 27–March 23). The heroine is a Brazilian domestic who would rather contemplate the perfect joke than clean house and whose doctor employers’ own pristine edifice is coming apart in interesting ways.
In THE LITTLE DOG LAUGHED, the Broadway hit making its debut here courtesy of SpeakEasy Stage Company (January 18–February 16), the main characters are a closeted actor on the verge of becoming a teen idol and his female über-agent. The satire, by As Bees in Honey Drown scribe Douglas Carter Beane, is an unflinching look at hypocrisy and power mongering in Tinseltown.
Few are those who don’t flounder through the teenage years. In THE GIBSON GIRL (March 14–April 5), by local scribe and Company One writer-in-residence Kristen Greenidge, a mother has to deal with her twin daughters’ acting up and also a missing husband. It’s at the BCA.