Writer-director Roger Bean, creator of the popular L.A. and New York jukebox musical The Marvelous Wonderettes, is premiering a new tuner that's a spinoff from his previous mega-hit. What Wonderettes did for doo-wop girl singing groups of the 1960s, Life Could Be a Dream (Hudson Mainstage Theatre, through September 27), promises to do for the guy group heart-throbs of the same era. The Crooning Crabcakes (played by Doug Carpenter, John Michael Duval, Jim Holdridge, and Daniel Tatar) is the group that was banned from performing at the prom in a Midwestern high school in Wonderettes, enabling the gals to strut their stuff. Now the guy group is auditioning for a local radio contest, in hopes of parlaying this appearance into a chance at the big time. Also in the cast is Jessica Keenan Wynn as one of the boys' old flames.
The adventurous Open Fist Theatre Company in Hollywood recently opened its ambitious First Look Festival of Plays, a celebration of contemporary American theatre and music, which continues through September 13. Full productions, staged readings, and concerts are in the mix. Shows making their L.A. debuts or world premieres are written by Neil LaBute (who also directs his two one-acts, The New Testament and Helter Skelter), Frances Ya-Chu Cowhig, Steven Haworth, Keith Hartman, Rick Pagano, and Julie Hebert. Troubadour Theatre Company unveils its latest parody, mixing classic drama with rock-n-roll music (Sophocles meets Elvis), in Oedipus the King, Mama! (Falcon Theatre, August 12-September 27), directed by Matt Walker.
A vintage Victorian melodrama, Gaslight returns (Theatre West, August 28-September 27). Also in a classic vein are Oscar Wilde's comedy of manners, The Importance of Being Earnest (Sierra Madre Playhouse, August 14-September 26) and Terra Taylor Knudson's solo bio-play Intimately Wilde, featuring Tim Thorn as the immortal scribe. It plays at the Lyric Theatre (August 13-September 13). Stephen Adly Guirgis' acclaimed slice-of-life drama, In Arabia, We'd All Be Kings (Alive Theatre at the Expo Furniture Warehouse, August 21-September 12), zeroes in on the denizens of a sleazy bar in Hell's Kitchen.
A new play about the Great Depression of the 1930s might strike a resonant chord in cash-strapped 2009. Kit Steinkellner's Adeline's Play (Los Angeles Theatre Ensemble at the Powerhouse Theatre, August 13-September 5) follows the adventures of inhabitants of a rural Illinois town putting on their first play. Theatre Unleashed offers "Contemporary Constructions" (Sherry Theatre, August 7-30), a bill of two plays in alternating repertory: David Ives' absurdist comedy All in the Timing and Sarah Kane's poetic plunge into the depths of depression, 4:48 Psychosis.
Those seeking the offbeat might enjoy Bare Naked Angels: Angels Undone, in which a solo performance troupe writes and performs autobiographical pieces on the spot (Lounge Theatre, August 5-27). And for something more traditional, Lodestone Theatre Ensemble offers Richard Maltby Jr. and David Shire's musical revue, Closer Than Ever (GTC Burbank, August 6-30).
Family audiences might enjoy Shirley Hatton's adaptation of Aesop's Fables (Kentwood Players at Westchester Playhouse, August 1-15), featuring a large cast of young performers offering classic philosophical lessons about life.