Sharon Gless
Sharon Gless
Sharon Gless -- of Queer as Folk and Cagney & Lacey fame -- headlines the world premiere of A Round-Heeled Woman at Z Space (January 5-February 7). An adaptation of Jane Juska's best-selling memoir, the play reveals the adventures of a 66-year-old woman who placed a personal ad in the New York Review of Books. Meanwhile, The Marsh welcomes back Dan Hoyle with the world premiere of The Real Americans (January 21-March 6), based on Hoyle's 100-day journey through small-town America. The play examines the political divide currently challenging the nation.

The American Conservatory Theater presents Jean Racine's Phèdre (January 15-February 7) in a new translation by Timberlake Wertenbaker. A joint production with the Stratford Shakespeare Festival, the play features Stratford actress Seana McKenna in the title role. Over at the New Conservatory Theatre Center, John Patrick Shanley's Pulitzer Prize-winning Doubt, A Parable (January 22-February 28) follows a nun who suspects a priest of improper relations with a male student at a Catholic school in the Bronx in 1964.

The South Bay rings in the new year with Avenue Q, the Tony Award-winning musical about young adults searching for love, success, and purpose in New York City. With a cast of people and puppets, this irreverent musical is geared for audiences ages 13 and older. Avenue Q features music and lyrics by Robert Lopez and Jeff Marx with a book by Jeff Whitty, and plays Broadway San Jose from January 12-17 at the San Jose Center for the Performing Arts.

Also in the South Bay, Theatreworks presents the world premiere musical Daddy Long Legs (January 20-February 14 at the Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts). Featuring music and lyrics by Paul Gordon, the musical brings to the stage Jean Webster's novel about a talented orphan who attends a prestigious college through the support of her anonymous benefactor "Daddy Long Legs." John Caird has written the book and also directs.

San Jose's City Lights Theater Company teams up with Notre Dame High School to present the social drama Dead Man Walking (January 21-February 21), based on Sister Helen Prejean's book about her efforts to save the life and the soul of a rapist and murderer on death row. The play by Tim Robbins is made available to schools and colleges through the Dead Man Walking School Theatre Project, which seeks to foster dialogue about the death penalty.

Marin Theatre Company presents the world premiere of Sharr White's Sunlight (January 21-February 14), in which a liberal university president battles his law school's conservative dean, who happens to be his son-in-law and former protégé. In Santa Rosa, 6th Street Playhouse stages two musicals, beginning with the musical biography Hank Williams: Lost Highway (January 8-February 7) by Randal Myler and Mark Harelik. Next up is The Price of Everything: A Musical Vaudeville (January 22-February 7), featuring music by Richard B. Evans with book and lyrics by Charles Leipart, and based on Thorstein Veblen's Theory of the Leisure Class.

In Oakland, TheatreFIRST presents Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead (January 23-February 14 at the Marion E. Greene Theatre), Tom Stoppard's 1966 absurdist play inspired by minor characters from Shakespeare's Hamlet. Over in Walnut Creek, Center REPertory Company stages Caryl Churchill's A Number (January 21-February 7 at the Lesher Center for the Arts), a play about the repercussions of a father's decision to clone his son thirty-five years earlier. Athol Fugard's new play Coming Home reaches Berkeley Rep (January 15-February 28). Fugard's 1995 play Valley Song watched as a young South African woman ran away from home to the city; this sequel is set ten years later as she returns home in rags, guarding a secret.

The Youth Company at Berkeley Playhouse opens 2010 with Disney's Mulan Jr. (January 15-17 at the Julia Morgan Center for the Arts), the legend of a female warrior who hid her gender in order to defend the Chinese Emperor from the invading Huns. The stage musical features familiar songs from the movie and new selections.