The upcoming year in local theater is a diverse one, with several plays featuring strong political themes (just in time for a dramatic presidential election); a handful of refreshed classics; scripts written by women; and several award-winning shows now on tour (a welcome option for those who can't make it to Broadway). Here's a sampling of the season:
The national tour of "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time" – winner of the Tony Award for Best New Play in 2015 – will open in Rochester at the Auditorium Theatre, brought here by the Rochester Broadway Theatre League. The story of a 15-year-old math whiz who is accused of a crime and launches his own investigation, it's based on the 2003 best-selling book by British mystery writer Mark Haddon and was adapted for the stage by Simon Stephens. (The title may seem familiar to Sherlock Holmes fans; it's a phrase used by Sherlock himself in Arthur Conan Doyle's 1892 story "Silver Blaze.") The show runs September 27 through October 2. Visit rbtl.org for tickets.
Local playwright and Rochester Institute of Technology professor Lori Marra will debut "Den Mother" at MuCCC October 6 through 9. The plot centers on Betty Parsons, an art enthusiast who was dubbed the den mother of abstract expressionism and who held some of the first shows for Rothko and Pollock. Marra, who is currently an artist-in-residence at MuCCC, won the 2010 Geva Regional Playwrights Competition for her play "Mystic Castle," which is based on serial killer Arthur Shawcross. Maria Scipione, a drama teacher at the Harley School, directs the show. Visit muccc.org for tickets.
"Church & State," a new play by Emmy nominee Jason Odell Williams ("Handle With Care") will launch JCC CenterStage's 2016-17 season. The comedy, developed in conjunction with JCC CenterStage and the National New Plays Network, deals with religion, guns, and social media – and how those topics influence political elections. Ralph Meranto directs this Rochester world premiere, which runs October 22 through November 6. Visit jccrochester.org for tickets.
Many of the traditional holiday shows will return across the region, but Blackfriars Theatre is doing something new this year with "The Flight Before Christmas," an original comedy written by Jeff Andrews, Abby DeVuyst, and Kerry Young. When a group of eclectic passengers is stranded, they must join forces to survive the holiday. Local audiences will recognize the women from their sold-out Fringe performances of "Bushwhacked" and their work with Unleashed Improv; Andrews is a regional comedian as well. Stephanie Roosa directs the show, which runs December 16 through 31 (special performance on New Year's Eve). Visit blackfriars.org for tickets.
As part of the Fielding Stage Studio Series, Geva Theatre Center will present "The Lake Effect" by Pulitzer Prize nominee Rajiv Joseph February 2 through 19. Based in Joseph's hometown of Cleveland, the play centers on estranged siblings who reunite in their family's restaurant during a snowstorm. There they must figure out how to reconcile the future of the business – along with their past. Visit gevatheatre.org for tickets.
A revamped version of "The Sound of Music," the classic story of a young governess who wins the von Trapp family's love with music, aired live on TV in December 2013, with pop singer Carrie Underwood in the role of Maria. Now that version, complete with all the beloved Rodgers and Hammerstein songs, is on tour and is coming to the Auditorium Theatre February 28 through March 5. Tony Award-winner Jack O'Brien directs. Visit rbtl.org for tickets.
Playwright Annie Baker's "The Flick," about an independent movie theater, was awarded both the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for Drama and the 2013 Obie Award. The dialogue-heavy, intimate play about three underpaid movie theater ushers in Worcester, Massachusetts, runs March 4 through 19 at JCC CenterStage. Visit jccrochester.org for tickets.
Geva's spring production "Other Than Honorable" tackles the heavy subject of military sexual assault through the eyes of a female lawyer and former Army officer whose husband is deployed to an unknown location. The show was written by award-winning playwright and screenwriter Jamie Pachino (NBC's "Chicago PD") and will be directed by Kimberly Senior, who recently received an Alan Schneider Director Award (in honor of the director who introduced Samuel Beckett to US audiences). The show runs April 25 through May 21. Visit gevatheatre.org for tickets.
"Death of a Salesman" will close out the 2016-17 Blackfriars Theatre season. Arthur Miller's tale of tragic hero Willy Loman and the pursuit of the American Dream is a standout example of 20th-century American theater. It premiered on Broadway in 1949 and won both that year's Tony Award for Best Play and the Pulitzer Prize for Drama, and has continued to win awards in revivals. The show runs May 5 through 21. Visit blackfriars.org for tickets.