Neil Patrick Harris
(Photo © Joseph Marzullo)
Neil Patrick Harris
(Photo © Joseph Marzullo)
The emphasis is on dramatic plays and comedies in April, with the usual parade of musicals seemingly taking a spring break. Yet there is one blockbuster musical attraction on tap at downtown's Ahmanson Theatre : director Robert Wilson, composer Tom Waits, and writer William S. Burroughs' The Black Rider: The Casting of the Magic Bullets (opening April 25). Described as a vivid theatrical experience combining elements of vaudeville, cabaret, circus and opera, it tells of a clerk who must learn to shoot a gun to marry his sweetheart. He makes a pact with the devil to achieve his goals.

A couple of star-studded classics will generate surefire interest. For his staging of Arthur Miller's landmark post-World War II drama, All My Sons (Westwood's Geffen Playhouse; opening April 11), director Randall Arney has cast multiple Tony-winner Len Cariou, the ever-popular Neil Patrick Harris, and the esteemed Steppenwolf and Roseanne alumnus, Laurie Metcalf. At he Brentwood Playhouse, Oscar- and Tony-winning Al Pacino appears in Oscar Wilde's Salome (April 27-May 14).

And there's other tantalizing dramatic fare in the queue. Israeli playwright Joshua Sobol brings an English language version of his play iWitness to downtown's Mark Taper Forum (beginning April 9). Working with co-adapter and director Barry Edelstein, Sobol presents his explosive work based on the true story of Austrian farmer, Franz Jaegerstatter, who was executed in Berlin in 1943 for his refusal to serve in the Third Reich. Lillian Hellman's classic play about lesbian rumors -- or are they more than rumors? -- in a girl's boarding school, The Children's Hour is offered at Hollywood's gay-focused Celebration Theatre. Leonard Nimoy's Vincent (West Hollywood's Globe Playhouse, opening April 7), adapted from a play by Phillip Stevens, tells us of the emotional and artistic highs and lows of the troubled 19th-century painter Vincent Van Gogh.

Closer to contemporary sensibilities is Katy Hickman's political satire Bright Boy: The Passion of Robert McNamara (Venice's Electric Lodge, beginning April 8), in which nine actors portray more than 30 characters in this emblematic story from the perspective of the former hawkish Secretary of Defense. The Laguna Playhouse offers Bryony Lavery's Last Easter, about a dying woman and her friends who take a zany pilgrimage from London to France. The Kirk Douglas Theatre in Culver City offers a two-month repertory festival of solo guest artists entitled Solomania!. Eugene Ionesco's rarely revived absurdist drama The Submission will be presented by the Zoo District (at Hollywood's [Inside] the Ford, opening April 4), and the second L.A. mounting of Tracy Letts' gritty Killer Joe comes to The Space (opening April 20).

Two world premiere dramas of interest are Samuel Warren Joseph Window of Opportunity (Hollywood's Met Theatre, opening April 7), about corporate greed and a sexual scandal in the political arena, and Joyce Sach's Equinox (Odyssey Theatre, opening April 15), about The Bloomsbury Group, a collection of writers, artists, and intellectuals in the era of Virginia Woolf.

Those theatergoers seeking "tragedy tomorrow, comedy tonight" should draw their attention to Theatre 40's takes on Alan Ayckborn's ambitious three-play cycle The Norman Conquests: Table Manners opens April 22, Living Together opens April 28, and Round and Round the Garden opens May 5, all at the Reuben Cordova Theatre in Beverly Hills.

Theater that will appeal to family audiences includes Laguna Playhouse's Youth Theatre production of the musical Honk! (through April 9), based on the Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale The Ugly Duckling and Santa Monica Playhouse's All the World's a Stage (opening April 8), a new musical written and directed by Chris DeCarlo and Evelyn Rudie, replete with magic, fairies, mistaken identity, romance, humor, and audience participation.