Darren Pettie and Jennifer Dundas
in Taming of the Shrew
(© T Charles Erickson)
Darren Pettie and Jennifer Dundas
in Taming of the Shrew
(© T Charles Erickson)
As is par for the season, most of the action has fled the stuffy confines of the big city. The main exception is Family Beef at the Boston Playwrights Theatre (August 3-13), a literary "cookout" concocted by local writers; the cast includes Norton Award-winning actor Vincent Ernest Siders.

Shakespeare aficionados will have a field day on Boston Common during Celebrate Shakespeare (August 6), a three-stage assortment of workshops, guest appearances (including Ty Giordano as Caliban and Will Lyman as Prospero), and backstage tours -- of Commonwealth's Shakespeare's Taming of the Shrew (through August 13), imaginatively relocated to Boston's Italian enclave, the North End. In the real North End, you can catch a preview of Boston Lyric Opera's upcoming season at a waterfront concert in Christopher Columbus Park (August 1 and 8).

In the suburb of Waltham, the Reagle Players continue their 37-year tradition of melding Broadway stars -- in this case, Sarah Pfisterer and Fred Inkley -- with local casts in Disney's Beauty and the Beast (August 10-19). The Gloucester Theatre on Cape Ann offers departing artistic director Israel Horovitz's latest, The Secret of Madame Bonnard's Bath (August 10-27), followed by a new musical, Calvin Berger (August 31-September 17) -- which is essentially, Cyrano de Bergerac reset in high school.

The North Shore Music Theatre in nearby Beverly takes a second stab at Rodgers and Hammerstein's Cinderella (August 22-September 10); the first foray had been open only one night last summer when the theatre suffered a terrible fire. Deborah Lew, last seen in Broadway's Threepenny Opera, assumes the title role.

Cape Cod attractions include Charles Ludlam's Camille at the Provincetown Theatre (August 5-19), ceding to Lover, Liar, Lady...the Women of Kander and Ebb (August 22-September 3). The Wellfleet Harbor Actors Theatre presents the New England premiere of John Kolvenbach's fraternal drama On an Average Day (August 17-September 9). The Cape Playhouse offers Pete 'n' Keely with George Dvorsky and Sally Mayes reprising their Off-Broadway roles (August 14-26) and Sylvia, with Linda Dano, the Emmy Award-winning star of such daytime dramas as Another World and One Life to Live (August 28-September 9).

The Vineyard Playhouse on Martha's Vineyard mounts The Blowin' of Baile Gall (August 16-September 2), and Nantucket Arts Council hosts Shakespeare by the Sea, which includes a talk by Shakespeare scholar Marjorie Garber, Shakespeare on the Cape's production of As You Like It, and The Wit and Wisdom of Will's Women by Seaside Shakespeare (August 8-13).

The Berkshires are booming. Williamstown Theatre Festival offers mainstage productions of Romeo and Juliet (August 2-13), with young film star Emmy Rossum and Off-Broadway hottie Austin Lysy at the center of director Will Frears' vision of "a modern-day punk-rock Latin-American fantasy," followed by Double Double (August 16-27), a thriller co-written and directed by WTF artistic director Roger Rees (along with Jersey Boys scribe Rick Elice). The closing show at WTF's Nikos Stage is Robert Jess Roth and Douglas Cohen's much-anticipated musical version of the Don Roos film The Opposite of Sex (August 9-21), featuring Kerry Butler, David Burtka, Kaitlin Hopkins, and four-time Tony Award nominee Gregg Edelman.

The Barrington Stage Company tackles Jean Anouilh's rarely produced romantic romp Ring Round the Moon (August 10-27), with Tony Award winner Carole Shelley as the Bracknellesque grande dame Mme. Desmermortes. Shakespeare & Company introduces a double bill to its mostly Bard-centric repertory: Jodi Rothe's Martha Mitchell Calling, with Annette Miller, and Normi Noel's No Background Music, a solo show based on the memoirs of a Vietnam army nurse (August 1-September 2).

Berkshire Theatre Festival augments what's turning out to be a banner year for Tennessee Williams with The Night of the Iguana (August 1-12), with Garret Dillahunt (of Deadwood) as the thoroughly defrocked reverend and film and televsion star Linda Hamilton as the randy widow Maxine Faulk. BTF's 78th annual benefit (August 6) showcases alumni Anne Jackson and Eli Wallach performing In Persons, their pastiche of readings and reminiscences. Two more plays round out the BTF season: Wendy Wasserstein's The Heidi Chronicles (August 15-September 2), with Kate Jennings Grant and Scott Lowell (from Queer as Folk), and David Hare's Via Dolorosa (August 29-October 21), starring Jonathan Epstein.