Boston University's Huntington Theatre presents the American premiere of former JFK speechwriter and counsel Richard Goodwin's Two Men of Florence (March 6-April 5), which noted British director Edward Hall helmed in London in 2003 as "The Hinge of the World." Jay O. Sanders -- last seen in Boston as a strapping Macbeth on the Common -- plays Galileo, attempting to reconfigure the very universe under the scourge of Inquisition-minded Pope Urban VIII (the redoubtable Edward Hermann).
At the BCA's Roberts Studio Theatre, the resident Speakeasy Company, in concert with Forty Magnolias Productions, presents the world premiere of a biographical play, The Wrestling Patient (March 27-April 11), by Kirk Lynn in collaboration with Anne Gottlieb (who plays the lead) and Katie Pearl (the director).
In the BCA's Plaza Theatre, Company One offers the Boston premiere of Bruce Norris' The Pain and the Itch (March 13-April 4), with Nancy E. Carroll as an imperturbable matriarch doing her best to carry off a flawless family Thanksgiving -- despite disturbing stirrings in the bedrooms upstairs. The Calderwood's Hall A hosts two fledgling companies: The 11:11 Theatre Company with The Quiet Infinite (March 6-24), a new play by artistic director Brian Tuttle about six twenty-somethings attempting to establish themselves in New York City; and Imaginary Beasts with Look and Long - a Gertrude Stein Miscellany (March 19-April 4). And in the BCA Black Box space, Evan Brenner's one-man show embodies The Buddha - In His Words (March 25-April 4).
The Lyric Stage has snagged Stephen Karam's Speech & Debate (March 27-April 25), a Roundabout hit from last season, about a trio of high-school outcasts who form a club to thrash out their identity issues; a sex scandal shoves them into the limelight.
Tours sweeping through town include Defending the Caveman at the Wilbur (March 11-15); the Nature Theater of Oklahoma with Poetics: A Ballet Brut at the Institute for Contemporary Art (March 13-15); the Twyla Tharp/Billy Joel danceathon Movin' Out at the Colonial (March 20-22); Vox Lumiere - The Hunchback of Notre Dame, a silent classic cum rock concert, at the Cutler Majestic (March 25-29); and Chazz Palminteri's semi-autobiographical A Bronx Tale at the Colonial (March 31-April 11).
The Wellesley Summer Theatre Company, which has shown an affinity for Irish plays, offers the Synge classic The Playboy of the Western World, with Derek Stone-Nelson and Lewis Wheeler (March 5-29). Elsewhere in the suburbs, the Actors Shakespeare Project inaugurates a new performance space, Somerville's Center for the Arts at the Armory, with Coriolanus (March 12-April 5) , directed by stage-combat specialist Robert Walsh and featuring company founder Benjamin Evett and 2008 Norton Award winner Maurice Emmanual Parent.
Elizabeth Aspenleider -- a principal with Shakespeare & Company in the Berkshires -- reprises her star turn as Haley in Theresa Rebeck's one-woman romp Bad Dates at Merrimack Rep in Lowell (March 19-April 12). Stacy Fischer, who shone in several Wellfleet Harbor Actors Theatre shows last summer, plays May in Sam Shepard's scarifying domestic drama Fool for Love at New Rep in Watertown (March 14-April 5).
Semi-dormant off-season, WHAT is mounting an exciting Friday-night New Plays Reading Series at Willy's World, a nearby gym. These are pre-world premiere scripts that will be surfacing at the South Coast Repertory (John Kolvenbach's Goldfish, March 6), the Humana Festival (Naomi Wallace's Hard Weather Boating Party and Allison Moore's Slasher, March 13 and 20, respectively), and Steppenwolf (Kolvenbach's Mrs. Whitney, March 27).
Up in equally sleepy Provincetown, director Patrick Falco, president of last fall's Tennessee Williams Festival, keeps the flame alive with Paul Zindel's 1965 hit The Effects of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds (March 20-29).
In Pawtucket, Rhode Island, the Gamm Theatre offers the New England premiere of Grace by Mick Gordon and A.C. Grayling (March 12-April 12), which proved an Off-Broadway hit for Lynn Redgrave last winter. Here, Wendy Overly plays a science professor and outspoken atheist, thrown by her son's choice to take up the priesthood.