Indoors, at the Boston Center for the Arts, Company One mounts Stephen Sondheim's rogues' gallery Assassins (July 11-August 9), followed, on the weekends, by comic genii John Kuntz and Rick Park in Kuntz's After School Special (July 18-August 8), about a perky teen coping with more than her share of adolescent challenges, including a string of murders among her high school's beauty queens. Kerouac's Last Call by Patrick Fenton, which debuted in a Lowell tavern last winter, is making a leap to the Boston Playwright's Theatre (July 17-26).
In the near suburbs, Reagle Players has Sally Struthers playing Miss Hannigan in Annie (July 10-19) and the North Shore Music Theatre mounts Bye Bye Birdie in the round (July 15-August 3), with Bianca Marroquin as marriage-minded Rose. Lee Blessing's Going to St. Ives, at Gloucester Stage (July 17-August 3), pairs summering celeb Lindsay Crouse with local star Jacqui Parker.
Out on Cape Cod, Jeffery Roberson -- moonlighting from his summer-long gig in Varla Jean Merman Is Anatomically Incorrect -- joins Ricky Graham in the movie spoof Shut Up, Sweet Charlotte at the Provincetown Art House Theatre Mondays through August 25. Wellfleet Harbor Actors Theatre debuts Rolin Jones' Shortstack (July 2-27), six one-acts that touch on prom queens, road kill, and extreme badminton. Also on WHAT's roster is a kids' show, Fool of the World and the Flying Ship by Stephen Russell (July 7-August 28), as well as decidedly more grownup fare: Martin McDonagh's The Pillowman (July 17-August 9) and Elizabeth Meriwether's oddball comedy The Mistakes Madeline Made (July 30- August 24).
The Cape Playhouse presents A Day in Hollywood/A Night in the Ukraine (July 7-19), the first part of which consists of a singing/tapping revue; the second, Marx Brothers shenanigans. Next up: a star-powered regional premiere of Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (July 21-August 2), with Brent Barrett and Dee Hoty.
Even the islands are proffering professional fare: Seaside Shakespeare with Much Ado about Nothing on Nantucket (July 11-16), and the Vineyard Playhouse with Deborah Zoe Laufer's End Days (July 16-August 9), a beset-teen comedy cited by the American Theatre Critics Association as one of the best new plays of '08.
The Berkshire Theatre Festival introduces Pageant Play (July 1-26), a sendup of the cutthroat world of child beauty pageants by Matthew Ilkas and Mark Setlock, followed by Karen Zacarias's comedy The Book Club Play (July 8-19), about yet another fraught arena. The stakes grow even higher in BTF's revival of Robert Bolt's 1962 Tony-winning historical drama, A Man for All Seasons (July 22-August 9), in which Sir Thomas More (Eric Hill) takes on King Henry VIII (Gareth Saxe), and downright cosmic in Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot (July 29-August 23), with David Adkins, Stephen DeRosa, Randy Harrison, David Schramm, and Cooper Stanton.
The Williamstown Theatre Festival breaks out recent Juilliard grad Nathan Jackson's drama Broke-ology (July 9-29), about two grown brothers called upon to care for their aging father, and Theresa Rebeck's incisive new backstage comedy, The Understudy (July 23-August 3), with Kristen Johnston. Revivals include Three Sisters with Rosemarie DeWitt, Sarah Drew, and Jessica Hecht (July 16-27) and a new adaptation by David Ives of the classic Feydeau farce A Flea in Her Ear (July 30-August 10).
Artistic director Tina Packer reprises her solo as Shirley Valentine (July 13, August 16) as a fundraiser for Shakespeare & Company's real mandate, which gells with Othello (July 18-August 31). S&Co will also essay a new play, Christine Whitley's The Goatwoman of Corvis County (July 31-August 31), about interfamilial strife on a failed farm. Tanglewood taps the pulse of Broadway with Christine Ebersole participating in a concert version of A Little Night Music (July 8), and Barbara Cook (July 14) enjoying one in a nationwide series of 80th-birthday celebrations.
Barrington Stage Company continues its Musical Theatre Lab workshops with My Scary Girl (July 10-26), a comedy adapted from a Korean film. It's also hosting some intriguing cabaret acts: gay black sophisticate Michael R. Jackson in Why I Don't Sleep Around (July 18-19); Nikos Tsakalokos, hailed as "the Greek Neil Diamond," in Concert (July 24-26); and Broadway's inimitable Mary Testa and Tony-winning orchestrator Michael Starobin in Sleepless Variations (July 31-August 3). The mainstage is given over to Richard Greenberg's Jazz Age valentine The Violet Hour (July 17-August 7), and local kids rule in Seussical (July 16- August 10).