Fall Arts 2006: Theater

What to Watch For

Waiting for Godot. Samuel Beckett's meditation on the search for meaning in a mystifying universe may be the greatest play of the 20th century. Two tramps, Vladimir and Estragon, wait by a bare tree on a country road for a man named Godot. While they wait, a certain Pozzo arrives with his servant Lucky, kept on a leash. Is Godot God? Does Pozzo represent political power and Lucky the oppressed and mistreated of the world? And does the play take place on Earth or in purgatory? Be the first on your orb to fully understand Beckett's essential, urgently relevant parable. Sept. 1-17, Hat Trick Theatre, Tampa, 813-833-6368.

Rent. It's back: the most celebrated rock opera of the last 20 years. Author Jonathan Larson transfers Puccini's La Boheme to the East Village in the 1990s, substitutes AIDS for TB, drugs for alcohol, and modern-day youth for the wastrels of 19th-century Paris. Everybody's poor: Mark the would-be filmmaker, Roger the musician, Maureen the performance artist, Joanne the social activist, and Angel the drag queen. And of course there's Mimi, the charismatic, HIV-positive junkie with whom Roger falls in love. The play won the Tony award for Best Musical and the Pulitzer for drama. Sept. 6-10, Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center, Tampa, 813-229-STAR.

Three Days of Rain. Walker Janeway is the son of the great Ned Janeway, the architect who created the world-famous Janeway House and other stunning works of genius. But who was Ned Janeway, really? Walker, searching through his father's journal, finds a note: "Three days of rain." This sounds like shorthand — but for what? Author Richard Greenberg (Take Me Out, Eastern Standard) gives us the answers. Sept. 6-Oct. 1, American Stage, St. Petersburg, 727-823-PLAY.

Bug. Tracy Letts' provocative play probes the boundaries between sanity and madness, reality and illusion. In a seedy Oklahoma motel room infested with bugs, a middle-aged woman named Agnes fends off her ex-husband Jerry — just out of prison — with the help of a handsome drifter named Peter. But Peter thinks he's been the subject of military experiments that have planted bugs in his body. He's either a complete maniac — or fearfully perceptive. There's science fiction, graphic violence, nudity, drug use, bad language, and so many twists you'll need to strap yourself to your seat. The New York critics went bughouse over this one. Sept. 7-24, Gorilla Theatre, Tampa, 813-879-2914.

Frozen. Is there some secret to all the plays with one-word titles that have made a splash in recent years: Wit, Rent, Art, Proof, Doubt, Bug and, in the present case, Frozen? Anyway, Bryony Lavery's drama is ultra-serious: It's about Nancy, an Englishwoman whose 10-year-old daughter Rhona has been murdered. The other two speaking characters are Ralph, who seems to have committed the crime, and Agnetha, a psychologist who is investigating the psyches of serial killers. The play begins with monologues, then segues into some tense confrontations; it even offers a little humor. Sept. 7-24, Stageworks, Tampa, 813-251-8984.

The Light in the Piazza. Craig Lucas (Prelude to a Kiss, Blue Window) wrote the book and Adam Guettel (Floyd Collins) wrote the melodies and lyrics of this musical testament to hope and the power of love. It's about a trip to Florence taken in 1953 by Margaret Johnson and her adult daughter Clara. When Clara's hat blows off, it's retrieved by a 20-year-old Italian named Fabrizio; and he's instantly in love. He chases Clara shamelessly and she falls for him as well. But mother Margaret knows something about Clara that's not so pleasant and she has to decide whether to support the affair or try to break it off. Love songs, ensembles (including an octet) and lyrics both sunny and overcast aim to entertain on a human scale — no Disney spectacular here. The result is poignant and unusually direct. Oct. 3-8, Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center, Tampa, 813-229-STAR.

The Pillowman. Martin McDonagh, the brilliant author of The Cripple of Inishmaan and The Beauty Queen of Leenane, wrote this chilling play about Keturian, a writer in a totalitarian state who specializes in tales about abused children. But not all of Keturian's readers, it seems, are in it for the literature: Someone is committing offenses against kids that strangely resemble the things that happen in Keturian's stories. Caveat emptor: the play is filled with violence told and, at times, enacted. Oct. 12-29, Jobsite Theater, Tampa, 813-229-STAR.

Twilight of the Golds. It's an ordinary Jewish family: Walter and Phyllis are loving parents to Suzanne, a buyer for Bloomingdale's, and David, a set designer for the Metropolitan Opera. When Suzanne announces that she's pregnant, the whole family is thrilled, but when she submits to a recently invented (and purely imaginary) genetic screening process, she's told that in all likelihood, her new son will be homosexual. Suddenly, turmoil. Author Jonathan Tolins has lots of subjects to consider in this provocative work, among them homophobia and biotechnology. Oct. 13-Nov. 5, Gypsy Productions, St. Petersburg, 727-456-0500.

Look Back in Anger. Main character Jimmy Porter's angry tirades against society in the 1950s had an almost revolutionary effect on English drama. Author John Osborne was the first of the Angry Young Man school of writers, and though his "kitchen sink drama" seems relatively mild in our fractious times, it was famous in its day for its attacks on the complacency and apathy of postwar Europe. Still, director C. David Frankel has quite a challenge on his hands: 50 years after the play premiered, its hero, Porter, can seem churlish and misogynistic. But few plays have affected an entire generation the way that this one did. Oct. 19-Nov. 5, Hat Trick Theatre, Tampa, 813-833-6368.

All The Great Books (abridged). You're a high school student, condemned to taking a remedial literature course. But can a trio of wacky teachers communicate the salient details of 89 works, from The Odyssey to War and Peace, in just 90 minutes? Reed Martin and Austin Tichenor of the Reduced Shakespeare Company follow up their hilarious parodies of the Bard and American History with a whirlwind comic tour of the precious Western Canon. So if you never understood what was great about Gatsby, why Beowulf talked funny, or for whom the bell tolled, this is just the show for you. November 1-26, American Stage, St. Petersburg, 727-823-PLAY.

How I Learned To Drive. Paula Vogel's brilliant, Pulitzer Prize-winning play is about Li'l Bit, a young woman who is sexually molested by her Uncle Peck over the course of years. But Vogel takes none of the predictable attitudes towards her story; instead she shows us that Li'l Bit is part victim, part perpetrator, that her family is disturbingly obsessed with sex, that Uncle Peck is a predator who is easily destroyed. Of course, Uncle Peck's abuses finally damage Li'l Bit; but nothing else about this stunning play is simple. Dec. 1-17, Hat Trick Theatre, Tampa, 813-833-6368.

The Serpent. Spectators who remember Jean-Claude Van Itallie's Tibetan Book of the Dead, movingly staged several years ago by Jobsite Theater, will be pleased to learn that author and theater are back together with another unconventional drama. This one uses language, pantomime and choreography to consider the connection between our earliest stories — of Adam and Eve, and Cain and Abel — and our modern experience. Bring your spirituality. Dec. 8-17, Jobsite Theater, Tampa, 813-229-STAR.

Fall Arts 2006: Choose Me

What to Watch For

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