10 Must-See Plays During the 2013-14 Valley Theater Season

This is how we want you to feel after seeing a play. Except that photography is not permitted, even by toddlers.
This is how we want you to feel after seeing a play. Except that photography is not permitted, even by toddlers.
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During the summer, between seeing musicals, drinking, and napping, we eagerly anticipate local theater companies' announcements of their upcoming seasons. Shows to which performance rights have recently become available are politely competed for, actors look at their schedules and wonder what roles might suit them, and audiences keep their fingers crossed for things that sound fun, provocative, interesting, or like something to which they can drag a significant other or family member.

Most Valley theaters have determined their schedules at this point for the season whose beginning roughly coincides with the beginning of the school year. Many are already in rehearsal. We're pretty sure that even if it's physically possible for one person to see every single one of these plays, it would be exhausting and confusing and cost a lot of money.

So we've done some research and narrowed it down. If you have another suggestion, please share it in the comments.

See also: The 10 Best Plays I Saw in Metro Phoenix in 2012 Season Preview: Stray Cat Theatre Brings the Fresh and the Non-Human to the Stage

Okay, we'll just list these in the order in which they're scheduled to open:

10 Must-See Plays During the 2013-14 Valley Theater Season
Eric Thurnbeck for Stray Cat Theatre

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The Flick, Stray Cat Theatre, September 20-October 15, 2013 Annie Baker, a currently en fuego playwright who's also a favorite of Actors Theater (Circle Mirror Transformation, Body Awareness), most recently inflicted The Flick on off-Broadway audiences. It's a three-hour, three-character play with a lot of dialogue-free pauses, about people who work in an isolated, crappy 35mm movie house.

While the script has won prizes and critical acclaim, some Playwrights Horizons audience members (sometimes as much as 10% of the house, in the early weeks of the run), annoyed by the length and pacing, walked out at intermission, and the company's artistic director even wrote an e-mail to more than half the subscribers -- ironically, a rather long e-mail -- discussing the controversy. That's a big deal; if you program a theater, you listen to complaints and you notice sales, but you don't usually engage with people about your choices after the fact, partly because you just can't win.

I would be thrilled in any case to see a new Baker work and confident in Stray Cat's treatment of it. Knowing that it's famous for being hella long and having people walk out is just gravy.

A Steady Rain, Actors Theatre, October 25-November 10, 2013 Actors Theatre truncated the 2012-13 season, pulled out of its Herberger Theater Center home, and made us all really sad when it announced a "pause" in the troupe's activities in February, after more than a year of precarious financial circumstances, meticulous reassessment, and dedicated planning.

We were promised a return to production on some scale, however, and the first of four shows on deck for 2013-14 is A Steady Rain, originally scheduled for last season. It'll be presented in Playhouse on the Park in the lobby of the Viad Building at Central Avenue and Palm Lane.

Even if you don't have practical or sentimental reasons to support Actors Theatre (or a twisted curiosity about how well production values will hold up post-hiatus), this should be a compelling show: Two Chicago cops, lifelong friends with plenty of human flaws, face personal and professional crises after, among other things, accidentally returning an escaped victim to a murderer, in an echo of the Jeffrey Dahmer case.

Daniel Craig and Hugh Jackman starred in a top-selling Broadway version in 2009, and a screenplay's in the works -- with an unstoppable rumor of Steven Spielberg directing, apparently based on a remark Jackman tossed off during a surprise promotional appearance for Real Steel at 2011's Comic-Con in San Diego.

Phoenix has good actors, too, and the chemistry of the not-yet-officially-announced cast is what's going to carry this show.

Fifty Shades of Felt, Nearly Naked Theatre, "Fall" In association with Los Angeles' All Puppet Players, NNT is lampooning what it's currently referring to as a "recent" and "popular" book. We know which one it is. This will be raunchier than Avenue Q. It might not be funnier and filthier than Team America: World Police (almost nothing is), but it will be live, so it will be better.

"Why is the show listed as opening in 'Fall'?" you might be wondering. Have you seen the construction over by the Little Theatre at Phoenix Theatre, where a new black-box space is being completed? While that may not be the only reason that Nearly Naked's season has been announced only on Facebook so far, and without firm dates, it's enough of a reason for me.

When the schedule has been nailed down, you'll be able to check those dates here. The whole season, especially Bill Finn's classic and rare Falsettos, is making me drool, but somehow the BDSM puppet concept is also making me hyperventilate.

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