Fall Arts Preview 2014: Theater

What to watch for at American Stage, Stageworks, freeFall, USF, Jobsite and the Studio@620.

click to enlarge CHOSEN ONES: Justin Levine and David Friedman in The Chosen at American Stage. - CHAD JACOBS
CHOSEN ONES: Justin Levine and David Friedman in The Chosen at American Stage.

Don’t miss…

The Chosen After its superb rendering of Aaron Posner/Chaim Potok’s My Name is Asher Lev, American Stage brings us the Posner adaptation of Potok’s best-known work, about two Jewish boys and their challenging relationships. In the 1940s, in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn, Danny Saunders, son of a Hasidic sect’s leader, becomes friends with Reuven Malter, son of a Zionist writer. Danny’s apparent fate is to become a tzaddik after his father passes, but the young man has a mind of his own and interests that tempt him away from the Hasidic lifestyle. The play was presented in Tampa by Stageworks six years ago, and the novel on which it’s based has become assigned reading in many high schools. Even so, the Posner adaptation offers pleasures and depths that most “commercial” plays don’t dare attempt, and is well worth another look. Sept. 5-28 at American Stage, St. Petersburg, $39-$49 727-823-PLAY.

Superior Donuts
Playwright Tracy Letts followed his stunning August: Osage County with this much smaller study of the way in which strangers can solve each other’s problems. Arthur Przybyszewski (don’t even try) is the depressed, fatigued owner of a failing Chicago doughnut shop when Franco Wicks, a 21-year-old African-American optimist, comes in looking for a job. Arthur, an ex-hipster, has more regrets than hopes, but Franco, who’s also writing the  Great American Novel, offers his enthusiasm and verve to the frazzled older man. It’s not a natural match – Arthur is usually too sad to take advantage of the opportunities life wants to hand him, and Franco has encumbrances of his own that may stop him long before he achieves the American Dream. But moralist Letts didn’t bring us all the way to the theater just to let us down. Oct. 9-26 at Stageworks, Tampa, $30, 813-374-2416.

click to enlarge WITCHY WOMAN: Ann Morrison stars in Into the Woods at freeFall.   - Lisa Ferrante, photoGRAPHY; Eric DaviS, graphic design
Lisa Ferrante, photoGRAPHY; Eric DaviS, graphic design
WITCHY WOMAN: Ann Morrison stars in Into the Woods at freeFall.

Into the Woods
The woods of Into the Woods are the unknown territories into which we all travel every day, the places of hope and fear and promise and defeat. So if Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine have re-imagined Cinderella, Rapunzel, Jack and the Beanstalk, and Little Red Riding Hood, it’s with the most adult of intentions: to help us reflect on our personal journeys and face the not-so-fantastical difficulties we encounter there. FreeFall Theatre is presenting the musical with the hyper-talented Ann Morrison (Broadway’s Merrily We Roll Along) in the role of the Witch. Expect some of Sondheim’s most accessible lyrics, such as this from the Wolf: “There’s no possible way/To describe what you feel/When you’re talking to your meal.” Oct. 11-Nov. 9 at freeFall Theatre, St. Petersburg. $26-$44, 727-498-5205.

Also on the radar …

Nureyev’s Eyes When artist Jamie Wyeth set out to paint dance icon Rudolph Nureyev 40 years ago, he couldn’t have known that one day David Rush would write a play about the encounter. But you can view the paintings at St. Pete’s MFA, and the drama at American Stage. Oct. 17-26, American Stage, St. Petersburg, 727-823-PLAY.

Proof David Auburn’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play is about Catherine, a mathematician whose brilliant father went insane and who herself might be a genius, a budding lunatic, or a fraud. There’s romance and family conflict and feminism. A Gypsy Stage Repertory production. Sept. 25-27, The Studio@620, St. Petersburg, 727-895-6620.

Handle With Care This Jewish Christmas story is a romantic comedy about a package carrier who loses an Israeli grandmother’s corpse on Christmas Eve. The granddaughter speaks fluent Hebrew, and the grandmother, a sentimentalist, turns up for some flashbacks. The magic all takes place in a motel room. Dec. 4-21, Stageworks, Tampa, 813-374-2416.

Vampire Lesbians of Sodom Charles Busch’s wild imagination is also informed by surprising erudition. Here he brings us two ancient vampire lesbians whose rivalry starts in Biblical times and persists into Hollywood in the ’30s and Las Vegas in the ’80s. Oct. 29-Nov. 23, Jobsite Theater, Tampa, 813-229-STAR.

Twelfth Night Mistaken identities, gender reversal, and the humiliation of a vain upstart make this Shakespeare comedy endlessly evocative. Exactly what was the Bard saying about sexuality in this hall of mirrors? Jan. 7-Feb. 1, Jobsite Theater, Tampa. 813-229-STAR.

Imagining Madoff So Bernie Madoff, Ponzi schemer and convict, has a wide-ranging discussion with writer and philosopher Solomon Galkin (a fictional figure based on Elie Wiesel). The subjects they consider range from sex and baseball to the Talmud, ethnic identity, greed, wisdom, and betrayal. A Tampa Rep production. Jan. 8-25, TAR 120, University of South Florida, Tampa, tamparep.org.

Radio Golf August Wilson died only a few months after finishing this play, which takes place in the 1990s and focuses on Harmond Wilks, an African-American real estate developer who is trying to become mayor of Pittsburgh. Before he and his partner Roosevelt Hicks can have the Hill District declared “blighted,” they have much to learn. Jan. 23-Feb. 22, American Stage, St. Petersburg, 727-823-PLAY.

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