Colin Lane and Diane D'Aquila in Dido, Queen of Carthage(Photo © Richard Feldman)
Colin Lane and Diane D'Aquila in Dido, Queen of Carthage
(Photo © Richard Feldman)
Mud season brings a packed lineup to New England, improbably infused with all sorts of exotic breezes. Must-see holdovers include Boston Theatre Works' Homebody/Kabul, starring a brilliant Nancy E. Carroll as the far from "irritating" housewife/monologist, and the Lyric Stage's salty soufflé of a Cold War/film noir spoof, Red Herring (both through March 19). For further neo-noir, musicalized, sample City of Angels at the Boston Conservatory of Music March 3-5; Paul Daigneault (artistic director of the distinguished SpeakEasy Stage Company) directs a cast of soon-to-be professionals. Meanwhile, he's keeping an eye on SpeakEasy Stage's Boston premiere of Anna in the Tropics (March 4-26), with Daniel Jaquez of New York's INTAR Theatre guest-directing an ensemble of fine local actors, including Diego Arciniegas, Melinda Lopez, and Bobbie Steinbach.

Topping the Huntington's roster, at its snazzy new downtown annex, is a fresh Breaking Ground Festival of play readings March 3-6. Among the half-dozen promising playwrights featured, some, like Ronan Noone (author of the Baile trilogy), are already proven entities: Smiler Becoming Yank, Noone's first script to be set locally rather than in Ireland, kicks off the series. Other selections include The Hopper Collection by Mat Smart (about a conflicted couple united in their fascination with the gritty realist painter); Two Days at Home, Three Days in Prison by Rebekah Maggor, set in Israel; Pen by actor/playwright David Marshall Grant (Snakebit); Marvel by Joshua Scher (in which a protester in a Spider-Man suit gums up the Brooklyn Bridge); and Etan Frankel's Create Fate, about a man determined to jump-start a relationship.

The Huntington's mainstage offering March 11 through April 10 is Naomi Iizuka's 36 Views, directed by Evan Yionoulas of the Yale School of Drama: 36 scenes provide a prismatic view of shifting realities as the provenance of a priceless Hokusai "pillow book" is called into question. Meanwhile, the downtown space welcomes three irreverent Latino actor/agitators March 18 through May 8. Fresh from California, Culture Clash In Americca is billed as a "high-octane fusion of satire, shtick, and sociology."

The ever-intriguing Wellfleet Harbor Actors Theater is combatting off-season doldrums on the Cape with the tail end of a charity-directed series culminating with Public Exposure, an insider's look at electoral intrigue by Clintonian secretary of labor Robert Reich, March 4-6, and Ian Cohen's Lenny & Lou, March 11-12, which promises "jaw-dropping, eye-popping sex and other moral depravities." (And you thought you had to hold out till summer!)

The latter sounds like the American Repertory Theatre's stock-in-trade: British avant-gardist Neil Bartlett's rendering of Marlowe's 1585 classic, Dido, Queen of Carthage (March 5-26), promises inappropriate passions aplenty; Diane D'Aquila, a former company member turned Stratford Festival regular, stars.

In New Haven, Long Wharf's second stage is offering the New England premiere of Lonnie Carter's The Romance of Magno Rubio March 16 through April 3. Original director Loy Arcenas helms this 2003 OBIE-winner, about an impoverished Filipino farm laborer of the '30s intent on wooing a mercenary pen pal.

March 16 through April 10, Boston's newest and most avidly welcomed company, the Actors Shakespeare Project, mounts Measure for Measure at the Jorge Hernandez Cultural Center, a decommissioned church in the South End (unusual venues fit the project's mandate, as well as its budget). The cast, like last fall's Richard III, represents a who's who of local talent (e.g., John Kuntz, Ken Cheeseman, Paula Plum), and the choice of play again reflects contemporary political concerns -- in this case "the clash between a narrow moral code and the true moral values of justice and mercy."

The March 16 opening of Ryan Landry's A 'T' Stop Named Denial, in the basement of the gay club Machine, is already sold out. Luckily it runs through April 23, so you'll have plenty of time to catch Charles Ludlum's hysteria-inducing heir apparent as he steers his gifted troupe aboard an imaginatively warped Streetcar.

Somehow Weylin Symes, artistic director of the suburban Stoneham Theatre (and the principal instigator of the 1917 landmark's revival), managed to snag exclusive rights for a theatrical adaptation of Hemingway's classic novel The Old Man and the Sea: the dramatization debuts March 17 through April 3. And March 18 through April 9, Yale Rep revives Strindberg's tempestuous Miss Julie, in a new English rendition by Richard Nelson (James Joyce's The Dead, and, most recently, Rodney's Wife).

March 25 through April 23, the Lyric Stage presents the New England premiere of Lisa Loomer's acclaimed drama Living Out, which pits a high-powered L.A. lawyer (Rachel Harker) against the Latina nanny who enables her to "have it all." In Lowell, the Merrimack Repertory Theatre introduces New England audiences to Tazewell Thompson's Constant Star, in which five actresses portray the civil rights pioneer and suffragette Ida B. Wells at different ages.

On the touring front, Boston gets a foretaste of Sweet Charity -- the Broadway-bound Christina Applegate vehicle, unfortunately sans injury-sidelined headliner -- at the Colonial Theatre March 18-27, and Cathy Rigby drops into the Wang March 29 to April 3 for one last go at Peter Pan. March 30 through May 22, The Phantom of the Opera -- Harold Prince's road-show version -- inhabits, suitably enough, the recently resurrected Opera House.