Arizona Theatre Company opens this season with Chapter Two.EXPAND
Arizona Theatre Company opens this season with Chapter Two.
Esser Design

Here's Your Guide to Theater in Metro Phoenix This Fall

Is it too much to ask that someone — anyone — mount a production of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? starring Johanna Carlisle as Martha and Louis Farber as George? Apparently it is, because I’ve scoured the upcoming seasons of every single local theater company, and that production isn’t included in any of them.

Still, there are things to look forward to this fall.

Black Theatre Troupe has a stunner of a season planned, one that launches with Tony Kushner’s Caroline, or Change in September, followed by August Wilson’s Seven Guitars in October, making BTT one of the few companies in the country to have produced the entire 10-play cycle of Wilson’s exploration of black life in America.

Desert Stages Theatre is briefly trading up its usual tried-and-true for a production of William Inge’s The Dark at the Top of the Stairs, directed by Dan Ashlock Jr. So is Mesa Encore Theatre, which is planning an October production of Melissa James Gibson’s stylish and naughty [sic]. And Theatre Artists Studio is taking chances with Joanna Murray-Smith’s Switzerland, an intriguing piece about mystery author Patricia Highsmith. iTheatre Collaborative will offer The Effect, playwright Lucy Prebble’s brainy cautionary tale about falling in love with pharmaceuticals. The newest tenants of the Herberger will follow that up in October with Robert Schenkkan’s Building the Wall, a Trump-inspired indictment of racism by the Pulitzer- and Tony-winning author.

Less complicated entertainment can be had from Arizona Theatre Company, whose new list of plays was selected by former artistic director David Ira Goldstein. They’re doing Neil Simon, but in a big way, debuting the company’s 51st season with Simon’s Chapter Two, directed by his ex-wife, Marsha Mason, upon whom that comedy’s heroine is based.

But then there’s Fountain Hills Theatre, which after a massive reorganization and promises of a “new direction,” is bringing us nothing more exciting than populist musicals like Chicago in September and another production of The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged) a month later. Phoenix Theatre, another place one expects to find Hello, Dolly! every season, is kicking things off with Mamma Mia! and following that with Newsies, because the only thing that sells more tickets than ABBA is a Disney remake. Likewise, Theater Works must have decided no one would show up at their Peoria playhouse if they didn’t do musicals everyone has seen already, so they’re offering a long list of retreads, including Gypsy in September.

Not to be outdone, Hale Center Theatre thinks people will be happy to see Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat again. That’s in September, followed closely by Meet Me in St. Louis, because no one has ever seen that one before. And when it comes to beloved shows as ubiquitous as a July haboob, Arizona Broadway Theatre will not be outdone. This fall they’re trotting out Man of La Mancha (in October) and South Pacific (in November). In the meantime, they’re trying something new: Hands on a Hardbody, a musical by Pulitzer Prize winner Doug Wright and based on the documentary film of the same name, about mechanics and the machines they love. That’s up and running right now.

Quirky musicals are, as the young people like to say, “trending” this year. New kids on the thespian block A/C Theatre Company will bring a September production of Hedwig and the Angry Inch in tuneful cahoots with Phoenix Theatre. Let’s hope Nearly Naked Theatre will bring us a peculiar musical or two as well — but who knows? Once again, the company hasn’t officially announced its 2017-18 season.

Stray Cat Theatre is getting set to drop its fourth Steve Yockey play, this one a world premiere of “an anti-holiday show” called Mercury. Stray Cat’s season will wrap up with Silence! The Musical, a tune-filled translation of The Silence of the Lambs, directed by Louis Farber. I presume that’s why Farber won’t be appearing in anything by Edward Albee this season. Too busy. Darn it.

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