Must be a presidential-election season or something: This fall's plays are about a lot of, you know, American stuff.
Just to be perfectly explicit about it, Pittsburgh Public Theatre has even dubbed its season "Made in America." It opens with Garson Kanin's classic Washington, D.C.-set comedy Born Yesterday (Sept. 27-Oct. 28). Then the company gets contemporary with Pulitzer-winner David Lindsay-Abaire's latest, Good People (Nov. 8-Dec. 9), about class, gender and race in Boston.
Carnegie Mellon Drama, ambitious as always, offers Angels in America (Nov. 29-Dec. 8), Tony Kushner's epic masterpiece about love, AIDS and politics in the 1980s.
Meanwhile, City Theatre stages social commentary of a different tenor with the local premiere of Maple and Vine (Oct. 19-Nov. 4). Jordan Harrison's play depicts contemporary Manhattanites who retreat from modernity into a community peopled by 1950s historical re-enactors. City chronicles lives closer to home with South Side Stories (Nov. 16-Dec. 16), Tami Dixon's one-woman show about some real-life characters in one gritty, history-filled neighborhood.
Meanwhile, what's more American than a good scam, jauntily sung? Point Park's Conservatory Theatre Company offers Mel Brooks' musical The Producers (Oct. 19-28). For contrast, the company follows up with The Crucible (Dec. 7-16), Arthur Miller's classic about paranoia, blame and fundamentalism in colonial (and mid-20th-century) America.
Science-fiction has long offered its own critiques of American life. One new look at that point of view takes the stage with Caravan Theatre's Pittsburgh-premiere production of Victoria Stewart's 800 Words: The Transmigration of Philip K. Dick (Sept. 14-30). Who was more American — some might say less — than this troubled, visionary, cult-favorite author, whose works inspired films from Blade Runner to Total Recall? Prime Stage Theatre, meanwhile, offers an adaptation of Fahrenheit 451 (Nov. 2-11), Ray Bradbury's dystopic depiction of a future where books are illegal.
On the lighter side, expect at least a little political ribbing as Bricolage launches its annual series of themed Midnight Radio shows — done in the style of old-time radio — with Secret Agents and Spies (Sept. 20-29).
If straight-ahead drama is more your thing, note that Off the Wall Productions has moved from Washington, Pa., to Carnegie. The well-regarded troupe opens its season with The Other Place (Oct. 12-27), Sharr White's psychological drama about a biophysicist wrapped up in a personal mystery.
Still, if you want to get out of the country entirely, local companies have your ticket too. For instance, Downtown's newest troupe, Smithfield Street Theatre (formerly Verona's New Olde Bank Theatre), presents Sean Michael O'Donnell's literary adaptation Moll Flanders (Sept. 14-22). The University of Pittsburgh Repertory Theatre stages Compleat Female Stage Beauty (Nov. 8-18), Jeffrey Hatcher's version of what happened when women could finally play women on stage in 17th-century England. Pittsburgh Irish & Classical Theatre wraps up its season with the Pittsburgh premiere of The School for Lies (Nov. 29-Dec. 15), David Ives' rewrite of the classic Moliere comedy The Misanthrope.
And for those inching out even farther on that cultural limb, look for Quantum Theatre's Ainadamar (Oct. 19-Nov. 3), a 2003 chamber opera titled for the reputed site where fascist thugs murdered Spanish poet Federico Garcia Lorca. The work, by Argentinean composer Osvaldo Golijov and librettist David Henry Hwang, tells the story of Lorca and his lover and muse, the actress Maragarita Xirgu; the part of Lorca is played by a woman.
- War Horse at PNC Broadway Across America, Nov. 13-18.
Likewise, a celebrated touring show also takes us across the pond and back in time, as PNC Broadway Across America hosts War Horse (Nov. 13-18). This transatlantic hit, the drama of a young man and his horse surviving World War I, features life-sized horse puppets created by South Africa's Handspring Puppet Company.
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