Tracey Conyer Lee as Billie Holliday in Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill.
Whenever presidential politics hit a new benchmark for gross, mean, and ignorant, perhaps some musical satire is in order. Mad Horse Theatre Company is here to help with its season opener, Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson (September 21 through October 15), which explores the class divisions, racism, and rabble-rousing populism of an earlier era and president — and with a rock soundtrack, too.
In our own era, digital means make possible all manner of obsession. Good Theater’s first show of the season, Sex With Strangers (September 27 through October 22), tells of a young man fascinated with an older novelist and what happens when he tracks her down. And the suburban kids are glued to a video games et in those suburbs — replete with zombie versions of local friends and family — in Neighborhood 3: Requisition of Doom (September 29 through October 8), at USM (in Gorham).
On August 31, the world observed International Overdose Awareness Day, and right on the heels of it comes Intervention (September 14 to 24, at the Portland Ballet Studio Theater), a new play about heroin addiction and its impact. Playwright Hal Cohen (On A Dare Productions) describes it as “a comedy; a dark comedy, until it isn’t funny anymore.”
Homelessness is another spiking problem in Portland, and for about a year now, Snowlion Repertory Company has been at work on a play that addresses the issue of panhandling, or “signing,” which the city has attempted to ban. After a workshop production last December, Snowlion mounts the full production of Anything Helps God Bless (September 29 through October 8), at the Portland Ballet Studio Theater.
A critique of the British upper class is at the heart of An Inspector Calls (November 1 to 26), the second show up at Good Theater. And in Detroit (October 12 to 29), onstage at The Theater Project in Brunswick, class, financial stress and failed upward mobility haunt the barbeques of two couples in a “first-ring suburb” of the city.
Legendary singer Billie Holiday weathered shocking deprivations and violence in her youth. She tells her story in between songs during one of her last performances, in Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill (September 19 through October 15), which opens the season at Portland Stage. They later go on to mount Complications From a Fall (October 24 through November 12), in which a prodigal son cares for his elderly mother and comes to see her as he never has before.
If family dysfunction is more your speed, it doesn’t get much more fraught than Long Day’s Journey Into Night (September 29 through October 15), which Threshold Stage Company presents in Kittery, at the Star Theater. In Not Always Happy (November 8 to 12), as part of the Portland Stage Studio Series, local blogger, memoirist, and performer Kari Wagner-Peck shares “funny, touching, and subversive true-life tales” of the challenges raising a child with Down Syndrome.
Another new and locally-written show mounts at The Players’ Ring, in Portsmouth: Michael Kimball’s Patience Boston (September 15 through October 1) is billed as “a colonial crime drama” about a Native American servant convicted of drowning her master’s grandson. The Ring continues its season with William Mastrosimone's Extremities (October 6-22), about a woman, her would-be rapist, and her two roomates; Dr. Van Nostrond’s Cabinet of Curiosities (October 26 through November 5), a “classic carnival-style sideshow”; and David Lindsay-Abaire’s Good People (November 10-26), about long-lost friends and tensions around class, money, and race.
The tensions are existential in Sartre’s classic one-act No Exit, which Pie Man Theatre Company pairs with its co-founder Josh Brassard’s Hell Is, which applies Sartre’s vision of hell to his own personal dramatis personae. The two shows, billed as “Two one-acts, one evening in Hell,” runs October 19 to 29 at Mayo Street Arts.
Existential terror happens to be the specialty of the dentist in Callie Kimball’s new show, Things That Are Round (September 18), which gets a workshop production as part of a Portland Stage Studio Series that also includes an evening of “raw, edgy and dangerous short stories” by Maine authors, billed as The Haunting Hour (October 25 through November 4).
Anyone terrified of love and/or marriage might stand the advice of Ida LeClair in the theatrical guide Makin’ Whoopie (September 29 and 30) at The Footlights at Falmouth. Footlights will continue the season with “one boy’s journey to fabulous” in Lip-Schtick (October 5 to 7); and two romantic comedies involving widows, local playwright Michael Tobin’s romantic comedy Falling Leaves (October 12 to 28) and Philip Reilly’s Seasons In The Sun (November 2 to 18).
Summer retreats, but some musicals stick around: Nunsense (September 22 through October 8) at Portland Players; Nice Work If You Can Get It (September 15 through October 1) at Lyric Music Theater; and Tophat Miniature Stage Productions’ one-man performance of Little Shop of Horrors at Mayo Street Arts (November 4). The Ogunquit Playhouse offersthe Elvis-music-vehicle Heartbreak Hotel (through September 30) and a musical adaptation of From Here To Eternity (October 4 to 29); while Seacoast Repertory Theatre takes us back to Charlotte Bronte’s England in (yes) a musical Jane Eyre (September 15-October 8).
The Bard, too, abides. USM presents Twelfth Night (November 10 to 19); and Acorn Productions’ Naked Shakespeare goes back to its roots with scene nights performed in local watering holes. Their fall offerings include scenes on the theme of “ShapeShifters” (October 5-6 at Mechanics Hall and October 9 at Portland House of Music), “Sirens” (November 2-3 at Mechanics Hall and November 7 at Port City Blue), and “Cross-Dressers” (November 30 and December 1 at Mechanics Hall and December 4 at Bull Feeney’s).
This fall also brings a theatrical experience you don’t see every day: On November 13, the Deering Masonic Lodge will host a new “Masonic-themed” one-act, "In The Interests Of The Brethren," written and directed by Mason Aaron Joy and acted by six actors from across the area’s nine lodges.
Finally, for some classic children’s stories: The Children’s Museum and Theater of Maine presents the tale of the peace-loving Reluctant Dragon (November 2 to 19); while New Hampshire Theatre Project gives us a new adaptation of The Time Machine (November 10-26).
Latest from Megan Grumbling
- A handful of memories — Elizabeth Peavey stays connected in one-woman show 'My Mother's Clothes Are Not My Mother'
- Social justice storytelling — Portland writer/mom Kari Wagner-Peck's 'Not Always Happy'
- Inspect this! — Good Theater's absorbing mystery classic 'An Inspector Calls'
- Learning to Brace Yourself — Butler and company soar in 'Complications From a Fall'
- Draw the circle — Pie Man Theater Company plays with concepts of Hell