March doesn't exactly come roaring in like a lion, as the pace of Los Angeles openings slows down this month, but quality promises to make up for quantity. Heading the list is the world premiere musical Mask (Pasadena Playhouse, March 12-April 20), based on the 1985 Peter Bogdanovich film, which starred Cher and Eric Stoltz, inspired by the true story of a boy with a massive skull deformity and his biker mother. It's sort of a contemporary spin on The Elephant Man. Anna Hamilton Phelan adapts her screenplay into a libretto, and the score is by Barry Mann (music) and Cynthia Weil (lyrics). Venerable tunesmith Richard Maltby Jr. directs. Leading the cast are Michelle Duffy, Gregg Evigan, Michael Lanning, and Allan E. Read.

Another show of high interest is the world premiere of Secrets of the Trade, a new play by Jonathan Tolins (Twilight of the Golds), directed by Matt Shakman (Black Dahlia Theatre, March 12-April 20). It's the story of a smart, ambitious kid from Long Island who dreams of a Broadway career and hopes his idol (played by Tony winning actor John Glover) can give it to him.

The Southland's ever-popular Latino troupe returns in Culture Clash in AmeriCCa (Costa Mesa's South Coast Repertory, March 16-April 6), with more of the group's incisive and uproarious satire on our melting-pot society. Tennessee Williams enthusiasts should have a field day with the L.A. Gay and Lesbian Center's The Lost Plays of Tennessee Williams (Davidson-Valentini Theatre, March 21-June 8), including Mister Paradise, The Palooka, and Tell Sad Stories of the Death of Queens, obscure works indeed. A stirring social drama is promised in No Child... (Culver City's Kirk Douglas Theatre, March 6-April 13), writer-performer Nilaja Sun's solo piece, directed by Hal Brooks, exploring Sun's experiences as a teacher in New York's troubled public school system.

There's a lot more drama on tap. Glendale's A Noise Within offers the Shakespearean history Henry IV, Part I (March 1-May 18), directed by ANW's founders Geoff Elliott and Julia-Rodriguez Elliott. John DiFuscco's gritty Vietnam War drama Tracers (Burbank's Little Victory Theatre, February 29-April 6) is revived by the Gangbusters Theatre Company. Another classic, Harold Pinter's Old Times, is on tap at Hollywood's Lost Studio (February 22-April 13). And for those with a yen for quintessential Russian melodrama, there's Martin Campbell and Curt Columbus' adaptation of Dostoyevsky's Crime and Punishment at Actors' Co-op at Hollywood's Crossley Theatre (February 29-April 13). Fans of Tony-winning playwright Richard Greenberg (Take Me Out) will be interested in Theatre Tribe's mounting of The Violet Hour (March 14-April 19), about a fledgling World War I-era publisher who must choose between launching his venture with his lover's memoir or the novel written by his best friend, as metaphysical occurrences further complicate his dilemma.

Those in the mood for humor might want to opt for Edward Ravenscroft's reportedly outrageous new adaptation of the bawdy 17th century Restoration farce The London Cuckolds (Ark Theatre, March 1-April 12), about three oblivious husbands struggling to keep their wives faithful. And for more yucks, there's Jerry Mayer's dramedy Black & Bluestein (Santa Monica Playhouse, March 9-May 4), in which a wealthy black scientist dares to buy a home in an upscale, all-white neighborhood.

Family fare includes the Falcon Theatre's new Cinderella-inspired musical Cindy and the Disco Ball (March 1-May 18) and another adaptation of this classic tale, a musical called (what else?) Cinderella, at Hollywood's Theatre West (continuing through June 28).