Ian McKellen in King Lear
(© Manuel Harlan)
Ian McKellen in King Lear
(© Manuel Harlan)
It should be no surprise that Los Angeles is full of stars; the surprise may be how many of them are on stage this month. For example, the Geffen Playhouse's world premiere of writer-director Jane Anderson's drama The Quality of Life (October 2-November 18), boasts a formidable cast: Scott Bakula, Dennis Boutsikaris, Laurie Metcalf, and JoBeth Williams. It's about a clash between a conservative Midwest couple and their left-leaning cousins following a family tragedy.

Legendary actor Sir Ian McKellen comes to town in the Royal Shakespeare Company's productions of King Lear and The Seagull in repertory (UCLA's Royce Hall, October 19-28), while Broadway stars Alice Ripley, Chad Kimball, Gregory Jbara, Brooke Tansley, and Robert Torti healdine the Blank Theater Company's production of Michael John LaChiusa's musical Little Fish (Hollywood's 2nd Stage Theatre, October 9-November 18), which explores ennui in the post-9/11 era.

Penny Marshall makes a rare return to the theater in Sheldon and Mrs. Levine (Falcon Theater, October 17-November 18), the story of an ultra-possessive mother and her 31-year-old neurotic runaway son, while Gregory Itzin stars in South Coast Repertory's world premiere of Shipwrecked! An Entertainment: The Amazing Adventures of Louis Du Rougemont (As Told by Himself), a theatrical adventure penned by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Donald Margulies (through October 14).

Other shows on the must-see list include the amazingly ambitious two-evening mounting of Noel Coward's dazzling omnibus of one-acts, Tonight at 8:30 (Antaeus Company at Dear West Theatre, October 18-December 23), which is being staged in its entirety in L.A. for the first time since 1940, and the West Coast premiere of Erik Santo's The Fortune Teller (UCLA's Freud Playhouse, October 18-28), which is described as a morality table in the form of a macabre Edward Gorey-meets-Tim Burton marionette spectacle.

Additional dramatic fare includes Furious Theatre Company's Canned Peaches in Syrup, by Alex Jones (Pasadena's Carrie Hamilton Theatre, October 3-November 10), described as a timely and hilarious post-apocalyptic comedy; John Patrick Shanley's multi-award-winning drama Doubt (South Coast Repertory in Costa Mesa, October 19-November 18); and the West Coast premiere of Carlos Murillo's dark play or stories for boys (Theatre@Boston Coutrt, October 13-November 18), a harrowing story about the downside to the Internet age.

Looking for lighter fare? Consider the West Coast premiere of Phillip Ridley's British comedy The Fastest Clock in the Universe (Celebration Theatre, October 10-November 18); the musical revue Too Old For the Chorus (La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts, through October14), Town Without Pity, a revue of the songs of Gene Pitney (Lyric Theatre in Hollywood, October 15-November 5); and the musical romp Betty Garrett, Closet Songwriter (Theatre West, October 27-November 18), spotlighting the little-known side work of one of Hollywood's most beloved stars.

There's also highly promising family fare this month: Lloyd L. Schwartz' new musical adaptation of Cinderella (Hollywood's Theatre West, through March 29); Laguna Playhouse's Youth Theatre production of Disney's High School Musical (October 26-November 4), Santa Monica Playhouse's perennial seasonal hit Absolutely Halloween (October 6-28) and Parson's Nose Family Theatre's he Pied Piper of Hamlin--A Musical! (outdoors in South Pasadena, October 26-28).