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Well-loved classics and bold new works are ripening in time for the fall theater season. The Theatre Company at the University of Detroit Mercy covers both categories with its first two productions, opening its season with Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman in celebration of the play’s 50th anniversary. Geoffrey Sherman, best known for shaking up the stalwarts at Meadowbrook Theatre, will direct local luminaries Arthur J. Beer and David Regal. The play runs Oct. 8-24 and will be followed by Skylarks, a collection of monologues by and about women, directed by Yolanda Fleischer.
In the style of The Vagina Monologues, the work will feature pieces by local playwrights Kim Carney, Kitty Dubin and Janet Pound. Skylarks marks a return to the Detroit stage for Lavinia Moyer, former artistic director at the Attic Theatre. It opens Nov. 19 and runs through Dec. 5.
As cutting-edge and absurd as ever, Zeitgeist kicks off with resident revolutionary Ron Allen’s new work, WHAM!, a continuation of Allen’s ongoing exploration of the spirit and the self set to the rhythms of this quandary we call Detroit, directed by Sandra Hines. WHAM! runs Sept. 17-Oct. 2.
Packing a real one-two punch, WHAM! will be followed by the aptly titled Beckett then Pinter, a presentation of Samuel Beckett’s Krapp’s Last Tape, directed by John Jakary, and Harold Pinter’s The Dumb Waiter, directed by Troy Richard. Given the wonders the pair worked with Eugene Ionesco’s Victims of Duty this summer, this lineup should qualify as a must-see. It runs Oct. 29-Nov. 20.
The Detroit Repertory Theatre opens its season with bawdy comedy. Moms Mabley: The Naked Truth takes audiences through the world of the legendary comedian, from Sept. 23 to Oct. 17. Revival at Possum Kingdom Community Church by local playwright Linda LaRocque follows, Nov. 4 to Dec. 31.
Wayne State University’s Hilberry Theatre, the school’s graduate theater company, mixes the Bard with contemporary comedy. The company leads off with Neil Simon’s Laughter on the 23rd Floor (Oct. 2-Dec. 11), The Merchant of Venice (Oct. 15-Dec. 9) and Richard Nelson’s Some Americans Abroad (Nov. 12-Feb. 5), a satiric account of a group of obsessive-compulsive Yankee academics on a playgoing tour of England.
The undergraduate company at the Bonstelle Theatre opens their season with Eugene O’Neill’s Ah, Wilderness!, which runs Oct. 15-24.
The most adventurous productions on Wayne State’s campus take place in the Studio Theatre in the Hilberry basement. This year’s season opens with two thought-provoking works: Colors, an exploration of humanity and the creative spirit developed through improvisation and adapted by Ed Smith, director of Wayne’s Black Theatre Program, and Douglas Turner Ward’s Day of Absence, a look at a Southern town thrown into panic when every "Negro" vanishes. Both plays run Oct. 28-Nov. 6.
Meadowbrook Theatre in Rochester puts a spin on a contemporary classic by casting two women in the lead roles of Neil Simon’s The Odd Couple, running Sept. 15-Oct. 10. Felix and Oscar become Florence and Olive and pass their time with Trivial Pursuit instead of poker.
The company then travels back in time to the days when everyone sang about prosperity, ice cream socials, war and social change, even Emma Goldman. Tintypes recounts the years between 1890 and 1917 through more than 50 songs from the turn of the century. Joining Emma in the song and dance are Teddy Roosevelt, singer Anna Held, a Chaplinesque immigrant and an African-American domestic worker. Yes, really.
Out Ann Arbor way, the Performance Network brings two hot contemporary works to the stage, leading with Douglas Carter Beane’s As Bees in Honey Drown, directed by Robyn Heller (Sept. 17-Oct. 10). This satire centering on a screenwriter was a recent hit in New York. The Network follows up with Richard Greenberg’s Three Days of Rain (Oct. 22-Nov. 14), in which two siblings reflect on their successful parents’ past as they walked the thin line between fame and failure.
With such quality and variety to choose from, Detroit theatergoers are sure to pick winners every time.
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