Campbell Scott stars in The Atheist
(© Jeff Vespa)
Campbell Scott stars in The Atheist
(© Jeff Vespa)
Just as it's back-to-college time in Boston and Cambridge, it's back-to-theater time as well. The Huntington Theatre kicks off its season (the last under Nicholas Martin's leadership) with Campbell Scott soloing in Ronan Noone's comedy The Atheist, about an ambitious journalist whose career-capping exposé ends up backfiring (September 19-30), and John Buchan's antic comedy The 39 Steps, a 2007 Olivier Award-winning adaptation of Hitchcock's 1935 masterpiece, in which four actors (including Daytime Emmy winner Jennifer Ferrin) take on over 150 roles.

Harvard's American Repertory Theatre is supplementing its operatic double-bill of Don Juan Giovanni and Figaro -- produced in concert with Minneapolis's Theatre de la Jeune Lune (through October 6) -- with the neo-variety show Sxip's Hour of Charm, at the Zero Arrow club (September 14-30). The lineup changes weekly, with home-grown indie-diva Amanda Palmer of the Dresden Dolls starring the first weekend.

Former ART artistic director Robert Brustein has been appointed Distinguished Scholar in Residence at Suffolk University, which will host his latest play, The English Channel (September 6-15), depicting a beleaguered Shakespeare amid the plague of 1593. After its Boston run, the play moves to the Vineyard Playhouse on Martha's Vineyard (September 19-29).

Musical offerings abound this month, including two works by Stephen Sondheim: Boston's premiere chanteuse, Norton Award-winner Leigh Barrett, stars as Mama Rose in Gypsy at Stoneham Theatre (September 13-30), while Boston Theatre Works tackles A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum (September 20-October 20) at the BCA. On the non-Sondheim front, Lyric Stage is doing Man of La Mancha (September 7-October 14), with Christopher Chew in the title role. Speakeasy Stage offers the pro-gay-rights romp Zanna Don't! (September 14-October 13). New Rep is doing Jonathan Larson's pre-Rent chamber musical tick, tick...BOOM! in its alt-friendly Downstage space (September 22-October 21). The North Shore Music Theatre in Beverly revives the crowd-pleasing Forever Plaid (September 18-October 7), and Worcester's Foothills Theatre mounts the Kander and Ebb revue The World Goes 'Round (September 22-October 14).

Even the touring shows have a musical bent: The Opera House hosts a return engagement of Wicked (September 12-November 11), and the Cutler Majestic welcomes Irving Berlin's I Love a Piano (September 21-30). Plus, the plucky little opera company Intermezzo mounts a world premiere of Thomas Oboe Lee's The Inman Diaries (September 14-16), drawn from the 155 tomes recorded by 20th-century Boston recluse Arthur Crew Inman.

Other intriguing endeavors include New Rep's 60th-anniversary revival of A Streetcar Named Desire starring Rachel Harker as Blanche and the appropriately menacing Todd Alan Johnson as Stanley (September 11-October 7). The well-regarded Nora Theatre Company presents Steven Berkoff's two-hander The Secret Love Life of Ophelia (September 3-30), and the brand-new Fort Point Channel Theatre takes on Sarah Kane's suicide study 4:48 Psychosis (September 6-15).

Rhode Island gears up again with The Elephant Man at the Gamm Theatre in Pawtucket (September 6-October 7), and, at Providence's Trinity Rep, a 20th-anniversary revival of former artistic director Adrian Hall's adaptation of All the King's Men (September 14 -October 21).

Cape Cod's Wellfleet Harbor Actors Theatre serves up David Mamet's American Buffalo (September 19-October 14), reimagined with an all-black cast. Meanwhile, at the company's summers-only Harbor Stage will be A. R. Gurney's Indian Blood (September 12-October 14).

Provincetown is gearing up for the second annual Tennessee Williams Festival (September 27-30). Highlights include a reading by Amiri Baraka (formerly LeRoi Jones), a coffee klatsch with John Guare, and a panoply of performances, including the world premiere of Julie Atlas Muz's The Pronoun "I" and a planned reprise of Ryan Landry's Gold Dust Orphans' hysterical homage, The Plexiglass Menagerie.