The American Repertory Theatre is going classical -- but expect avant-garde treatment -- with C.H. Sisson's translation of Jean Racine's Britannicus, helmed by ART artistic director Robert Woodruff (January 20-February 11). The Roman Empire is already in a state of rapid decline when young Nero (Alfred Narciso) decides to appropriate the wife of his brother Britannicus (Kevin O'Donnell), and the intercessions of the siblings' mother, Agrippina (Joan McIntosh) only serve to roil the rivalry.
The Publick Theatre Company, which usually only operates in summer on the banks of the Charles, is making a rare indoor appearance at the Boston Center for the Arts, with Noel Coward's delightful Design for Living (January 4-27). The Publick's artistic director Diego Arciniegas appears as part of the adaptable trio. Also at the BCA, the Alarm Clock Theatre presents Bombs and Manifestos, a monologue by playwright Brian Polak in which a subway performer, delivering his swan song, expresses a certain affinity for the ravings of Unabomber Ted Kaczynski (January 5-20). Zeitgeist Stage Company offers the New England premiere of Colleen Curran's Sacred Hearts, about a media frenzy spurred by a possible apparition of the Virgin Mary in Canada (January 26-February 17).
Lyric Stage is embarking on an ambitious undertaking: the New England premiere of Michael John LaChiusa's musical See What I Wanna See (January 5-February 3), based on three stories by Ryonosuke Akutgawa, imaginatively updated.
At the tiny Devanaughn Theatre, AYTB Theatre Boston presents Still Life: A Documentary, Emily Mann's examination of the aftermath of the Vietnam war, as reflected in the lives of an ex-marine and the women who have loved him (January 5-20). The Boston Playwrights Theatre premieres two one-acts: Rosanna Yamagiwa Alfaro's Sailing Down the Amazon, about an elderly woman who'd rather embark on an exotic cruise than face an MRI, and Kate Snodgrass's Haiku, about two adult daughters vying for their mother's love (January 11-21). Next up at the BPT is the Underground Railway Theater production of States of Grace (January 25-February 10), a domestic comedy based on the short stories of Grace Paley and set in a magically animated kitchen. Always worth tracking down, the peripatetic Actors Shakespeare Project resurfaces at the Cambridge Multicultural Center with Shakespeare's The Winter's Tale (January 25-February 18).
Out in the suburbs, the semi-professional Wellesley College Theater completes an intriguing Polly Teale trilogy with Bronte (January 10-February 13), a glimpse into the household that fostered three Victorian spinsters and their ultra-romantic ruminations. Depicting another world entirely, Stoneham Theatre assays Guys on Ice, a musical about ice-fishing and the men who love it (January 11-28).
Lowell's Merrimack Repertory Theatre debuts Trying, a "fictionalized memoir" of Judge Francis Biddle by Joanna McClelland Glass, who assisted the aged legislator in 1967, long before she became a Tony-nominated playwright. Watertown's New Rep offers the New England premiere of British playwright Moira Buffini's comedy Silence (January 17-February 11), a reality-based Dark Ages tale about a Norman noblewoman affianced, against her will, to a teenaged lord shielding a secret.
Out on desolate Cape Cod, the Wellfleet Harbor Actors Theater plans to keep local audiences engaged with a series of staged readings, complete with dinners and talkbacks, to be held at Willy's Gym in Eastham (January 12-February 17). Among the dozen titles to be tried out -- a handful of which will be selected for full productions at WHAT's magnificent new facility come summer -- are Gina Gionfriddo's award-winning After Ashley and John Kolvenbach's Love Song, which is currently enjoying an all-star production in London.
Heading down to Rhode Island, Pawtucket's Gamm Theatre presents Enhanced Interrogation Techniques!, a provocative program of "four one-acts by three greats of the modern theater" -- Barnes, Beckett, and Pinter (January 18-February 18), and Trinity Rep in Providence tackles Thornton Wilder's modern classic Our Town (January 26-March 4).