Playwright and actor John Kuntz
(Photo © Austin de Besche)
Playwright and actor John Kuntz
(Photo © Austin de Besche)
While tourists are motoring about New England, ogling the foliage, Bostonians are sticking close to home, thrilled that the city's cultural calendar is finally back at full throttle. If you do find you have a hankering for multicolored leaves, consider a field trip down to the Goodspeed Opera House in East Haddam, Connecticut, where from October 1 to December 12 the 1876 jewelbox of a theatre is presenting the underappreciated 1974 Jerry Herman musical Mack and Mabel (about silent film stars Sennett and Norman), with Scott Waara and Christiane Noll in the title roles, and no less a luminary than Donna McKechnie as rival screen idol Lottie Ames. Meanwhile, in Boston (running weekends to November 13), the irrepressible Ryan Landry and his troupe of Gold Dust Orphans add The Exorcist to their list of lively spoofs (they've covered cult flicks from Rosemary's Baby to The Bad Seed). In this version, presented at the gay nightclub Machine, Regan's mom resembles a certain former First Lady with presidential aspirations.

From October 5 to December 19, Providence's Trinity Repertory Company embarks on an ambitious undertaking that will make utmost use of its skilled - not to mention rare and endangered - cadre of loyal performers (some have been with the company for decades). The Henriad: Shakespeare's Kings spans Richard II, Henry IV, and Henry V, directed respectively by Kevin Moriarty, Amanda Dehnert, and Oskar Eustis. Performed in rotation, the cycle employs a single cast.

Local wunderkind John Kuntz is set for a whirlwind month. His play Jasper Lake, about a gated waterside community with unplumbed depths, runs October 7-17 at the Boston Playwrights' Theatre (fresh from its inaugural staging at New York's Fringe Festival). October 14 to November 7, he assumes the title role in a production of Richard III to be mounted at the historic Old South Meeting House, a Revolutionary hotbed, by the brand-new Actors Shakespeare Project initiated by former American Repertory Theatre fixture Ben Evett. Hopes are high for the fledgling enterprise, already a who's who of top local talent -- e.g., Paula Plum, Bobbie Steinbach, and Evett himself as the future Henry VII.

Also opening on the 7th is Charles Ludlum's Secret Lives of the Sexists at Brandeis's Spingold Theatre (newly chaired by Eric Hill, who directed the "ridiculous" farce at the Berkshire Theatre Festival in '98). Running to October 17, it's a graduate school production, but any chance to see Ludlam's lesser-known works is welcome. Meanwhile, on October 7-23 at the Boston Center for the Arts, Boston Theatre Works is putting on Marc Wolf's one-man, twenty-character study of gays in the military, Another American: Asking and Telling. Based on the 2000 Obie-winning production directed by Joe Mantello, it earned such encomia as "brilliant artist . . . tour de force . . . exceptional actor" from the New York Times.

The big news at the BCA is the opening of the large, new, $24.5-million Stanford Calderwood Pavilion, an offshoot of Boston University's Huntington Theatre and the first theatre building to be erected in Boston in 75 years; the Huntington plans to share the space with some of the BCA's resident companies. Fittingly enough, the world premiere of Melinda Lopez's Sonia Flew (October 8 - November 8) is the inaugural production at the 360-seat Wimberly Theatre: she developed the play -- about a Cuban-born woman airlifted away from her family as a "Pedro Pan" child during the tumultuous period of 1960-62 -- during a 2003-2004 residency funded by a Calderwood grant. The Pavilion's more intimate space, the 200-seat Edward Roberts Studio Theatre, will open on October 15 with Speakeasy Stage's reprise of Sondheim's 1974 classic, Company, complete with all the changes made for the more recent Broadway and London revivals; it runs to November 13 and signals the start of the well-regarded company's fourteenth season.

As something of a side note to the Huntington's production of August Wilson's latest, Gem of the Ocean, at the Huntington (pre-Broadway) through October 30, the fledgling Up You Mighty Race company is putting on Joe Turner's Come and Gone at the Massachusetts College of Art October 14-31. Expect shoestring production values but palpable passion from young director Akiba Abaka.

There are two more road-trip opps too promising to pass up: the American premiere of David Hare's The Bay at Nice, with Estelle Parsons, at Hartford Stage October 14 - November 14 (it concerns a contested Matisse at the Hermitage), and Andre Gregory's "open rehearsal" of Beckett's Endgame at the Provincetown Theater October 21-24.