The Colony Theatre offers the West Coast premiere of Charles Smith's Free Man of Color (August 12-September 12), directed by Dan Bonnell. The fact-based play, winner of the Joseph Jefferson Award for outstanding new work in Chicago, is described as a stirring piece about John Newton Templeton, one of the first freed slaves to graduate from an American university, 40 years prior to the Emancipation Proclamation. The Elephant Theatre Company and TopDog Productions present Suzan-Lori Parks' Pulitzer-winning Topdog/Underdog (Lillian Theatre, August 4-September 12), directed by Marty Papazian. It's a darkly comic fable of brotherly love and family identity, in which two siblings come to learn the true nature of their history.
Mark Roberts' Parasite Drag (Elephant Space, August 11-September 18), directed by David Fofi in its West Coast premiere, is about a small Illinois family and the stories that haunt them. Circle X Theatre Company and Theatre @ Boston Court join forces at the Boston Court facility to unveil the world premiere of Moby Pomerance's The Good Book of Pedantry and Wonder (through August 29), directed by John Langs. Set in 1880s England, it's called a deliciously witty exploration of the very special misery only the smartest family members can inflict upon one another, as a father and daughter create the Oxford English Dictionary. Tracey Scott Wilson's The Good Negro (Stella Adler Theatre, August 12-September 19) tells of early civil-rights struggles in 1963 Alabama, where three brave but deeply flawed Black leaders head boycotts and protest marches, in the face of manipulations by the FBI. Writer-performer Norman P. Dixon's solo play Becoming Norman (NoHo Arts Center, August 6-September 12) follows the real-life story of a gay man who grew up in a conservative Mormon home and always wanted to be a performer.
Shyla Martin's debuting play Still Standing (Theatre Asylum, August 6-September 12), set in New Orleans during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, explores a family's ever-changing makeup during the most trying of times. Joshua Fardon's new play, Shake (Theatre of NOTE, through September 5), offers a seriocomic exploration of deeply troubled people struggling to survive an unfamiliar and sorrowful world, set in post-9/11 Manhattan. Open Fist Theatre Company stages its second annual First Look Festival of Plays, featuring new works by Ty Taylor, Douglas Crawford, Ron West, Anne Garcia-Romero, Joseph Fisher, William Mesnick, Phillip William Brock, and Laura Richardson (through September 18).
Among the month's more lighthearted efforts is Karma--The Musical (Write Act Repertory Theatre, August 5-28), following the adventures of a woman who travels back in time to try to stop her younger self from making the stupid mistakes that ruined her life. Avery Crozier's Eat the Runt (Theatre of NOTE, August 10-September 9) is a satire taking a look at office politics, sexual harassment, religious persuasions, political correctness, and cultural norms. The twist is that the audience decides which actors will play which roles at each performance.
Late-summer family fare includes Something to Crow About! (Bob Baker Marionette Theater, through September 26), a return of the first show offered in Baker's cabaret-styled "In the Round," series, emphasizing interaction between the puppeteers and the audience. Also of interest is SCR Summer Players' version of the fairy-tale classic Cinderella (South Coast Repertory, August 7-15).