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Arena Players, Center Stage deserve to take bows

The new theater season marks milestone anniversaries for two Baltimore theaters. Center Stage turns 40, and Arena Players, billed as "the nation's oldest continuously operating African-American theater," turns 50.

The fare at both is eclectic, and, indeed, variety is a keynote at most of the area's theaters for 2002-2003.

At Center Stage, variety comes in the form of a blend of old and new, starting with the season opener -- artistic director Irene Lewis' new take on J.M. Barrie's classic, "Peter Pan," starring Jefferson Mays as the boy who refuses to grow up.

Other highlights include the theater's first-ever co-production with Washington's Arena Stage, a revival of the Fats Waller revue "Ain't Misbehavin'" and two premieres that originated as Center Stage commissions, Warren Leight's "No Foreigners "Beyond This Point" and Lynn Nottage's "Intimate Apparel."

At Arena Players, the season begins with a revival of William Saroyan's one-act play "Hello Out There," the first play produced at that theater five decades ago. Two other Arena favorites will also be revived: Alice Childress' "Trouble in Mind" and Paul Osborne's "Morning's at Seven." And, in a season that offers a host of solid roles for women, one of the most moving plays promises to be "Having Our Say," the chronicle of the real-life centenarian Delaney sisters.

The Mechanic Theatre will launch its season on a familiar note with "42nd Street," winner of the 2001 Tony Award for best musical revival. Mechanic audiences will also be treated to the Baltimore premieres of three recent New York musicals -- "The Full Monty," "Seussical the Musical" and "tick, tick ... BOOM!" (an autobiographical musical by Jonathan Larson, the late creator of "Rent," which comes to the Lyric Opera House a month later).

The one nonmusical in the Mechanic's subscription series will be Charles Busch's "The Tale of the Allergist's Wife." The hit comedy stars Valerie Harper as a woman undergoing a midlife crisis.

Meanwhile, besides the return engagement of "Rent," the Lyric will offer Baltimoreans their first look at two disparate musicals -- "Miss Saigon" (albeit somewhat scaled down) and "Some Like It Hot," the musical version of Billy Wilder's 1959 movie. Tony Curtis again stars, but this time, instead of playing one of the guys in drag, he plays the lovestruck tycoon.

On a more serious note, Everyman Theatre opens its season tonight with the Baltimore premiere of Ronald Harwood's "Taking Sides," an examination of the alleged Nazi sympathies of German conductor Wilhelm Furtwangler. The season, which also features several chestnuts -- Edward Albee's "A Delicate Balance" and Moss Hart's "Light Up the Sky" -- concludes with another local premiere, Craig Wright's bittersweet romance, "The Pavilion."

Solo-performance shows will be among the main attractions at the Theatre Project, starting with "Eleven Ex-Boyfriends Defend Their Actions," Karen Gray's commentary on sexual politics, and also including "Essential Personnel," Al Letson's hip-hop take on incarceration and the African-American male, and "I Tried to Be Normal," Frannie Sheridan's autobiographical piece about being raised Catholic by German refugee parents who hid their identity as Jewish Holocaust survivors.

In addition to the anniversary festivities at Arena Players, two very different local musical premieres are among the enticing programming at other community theaters. Fell's Point Corner Theatre kicks off its season next week with "Parade," Alfred Uhry and Jason Robert Brown's 1998 Broadway musical about the 1913 Atlanta lynching of Jewish businessman Leo Frank. And AXIS Theatre will wrap up its season with the hard-rocking, cross-dressing off-Broadway hit "Hedwig and the Angry Inch."

Baltimore

Center Stage, 700 N. Calvert St., 410-332-0033
Oct. 4-Nov. 24: Peter Pan (Head Theater)

Nov. 21-Dec. 22: "No Foreigners Beyond This Point" (Pearlstone Theater)

Jan. 10-Feb. 16: "Ain't Misbehavin' " (Pearlstone)

Feb. 21-March 30: "Intimate Apparel" (Head)

April 4-May 4: "Mary Stuart" (Pearlstone)

May 16-June 15: "The Rainmaker" (Pearlstone)

Everyman Theatre, 1727 N. Charles St., 410-752-2208
Sept. 12-Oct. 13: "Taking Sides"

Nov. 21-Dec. 22: "A Delicate Balance"

Jan. 16-Feb. 16: "Light Up the Sky"

March 13-April 13: "My Children! My Africa!"

May 15-June 16: "The Pavilion"

Lyric Opera House, 140 W. Mount Royal Ave., 410-494-2712
Oct. 15-Oct. 20: "West Side Story"

Oct. 25-27: "Lord of the Dance"

Nov. 26-Dec. 1: "Bring in 'da Noise, Bring in 'da Funk"

Dec. 18: "Celtic Tenors"

Dec. 20: "Christmas Extraordinaire" (Baltimore Arena)

Dec. 26-Jan. 5: "Miss Saigon"

Jan. 28-Feb. 2: "Stomp"

March 27-29: "Defending the Caveman"

April 1-6: "Rent"

April 8-13: "Some Like It Hot"

May 2-4: "Grease"

May 6-11: "Fosse"

Morris A. Mechanic Theatre, 25 Hopkins Plaza, 410-752-100
Sept. 24-29: The Vagina Monologues

Oct. 1-6: "42nd Street"

Oct. 22-27: "The Tale of the Allergist's Wife"

Dec. 3-8: "Seussical the Musical"

March 4-9: "tick, tick ... BOOM!"

April 8-13: "Jesus Christ Superstar"

May 6-11: "The Full Monty"

Theatre Project, 45 W. Preston St., 410-752-8558
Sept. 21-22 Magi Ross and Moving Spirit Dance Collective

Sept. 26-29: High Zero Festival

Oct. 17-27: "Eleven Ex-Boyfriends Defend Their Actions"

Oct. 9, 29, Nov. 6: Poetry-reading series

Nov. 14-24: "Essential Personnel"

Dec. 12-22: "I Tried to Be Normal"

Jan. 24-Feb. 2: "Berlin and Munich"

Feb. 7-March 23: Solo female performance series

March 27-April 13: "Roxi Starr in 3-D"

April 24-May 4: Air Dance Bernasconi

Washington

Arena Stage, 1101 Sixth St. S.W., 202-488-3300
Through Oct. 13: "Anthems: Culture Clash in the District"

Sept. 27-Nov. 3: "The Misanthrope"

Nov. 1-Dec. 29: "Ma Rainey's Black Bottom"

Dec. 6-Feb. 2: "South Pacific"

Jan. 17-March 2:" Theophilus North"

Feb. 21-March 30: "Book of Days"

March 21-May 25: "Ain't Misbehavin' "

April 25-June 1: "An American Daughter"

Ford's Theatre, 511 10th St. N.W., 202-347-4833. (closed for renovations until November)
Nov. 22-Dec. 31: "A Christmas Carol"

Jan. 15-19: "Mark Russell"

March 13-June 1: "1776"

Kennedy Center, off Virginia and New Hampshire avenues Northwest, 800-444-1324
Continuing: "Shear Madness"

Nov. 7-9: "Medea"

Nov. 15-17: "Carmen Jones"

Dec. 17-Jan. 12: "Tell Me on a Sunday"

Feb. 4-March 2: "Stones in His Pocket"

April 22-May 18: The Royal Shakespeare Company

June 10-July 27: "The Reducers"

June 19-22: "Zarafa"

July 5-Sept. 7: "Oklahoma!"

National Theatre, 1321 Pennsylvania Ave. N.W., 202-628-6161
Oct. 8-Nov. 1:"Man of La Mancha"

Nov. 27-Jan. 4: "Les Miserables"

January: A Night With Dame Edna

March: "The Tale of the Allergist's Wife"

March: "42nd Street"

Spring: "Beauty and the Beast"

Shakespeare Theatre, 450 Seventh Ave. N.W., 202-547-1122
Aug. 27-Oct. 20: "The Winter's Tale"

Nov. 5-Jan. 5: "Much Ado About Nothing"

Jan. 21-March 9: "The Silent Woman"

March 25-May 18: "Richard III"

June 3-July 27: "Ghosts"

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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