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Boston Metro Spotlight: April 2008

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Pieter-Dirk Uys
Accustomed as it is to being a hotbed of political dissent, Cambridge once again extends a warm welcome to South African activist Pieter-Dirk Uys, who, following up on 2005's well-received Foreign Aids, this year brings Elections and Erections - A Chronicle of Fear and Fun to the American Repertory Theatre's Zero Arrow space (April 2-May 4). While impersonating Desmond Tutu, both Mandelas, and his own drag alter-ego Evita Bezuidenhout (picture Edna Everage, only hoity-toitier), the monologist promises to expose the "mock" in democracy and the "con" in reconciliation.

The Publick Theatre, which usually waits for summer to perform outdoors, has found shelter -- plus a jump on the season -- as a resident company of the Boston Center for the Arts. Its first production between four walls will be Tom Stoppard's historical romp Travesties (April 10-May 3), with Alejandro Simoes as Tristan Tzara, Derry Woodhouse as James Joyce, and Gabriel Kuttner as Vladimir Lenin. In an adjoining black box, Zeitgeist Stage presents the New England premiere of Robert William Sherwood's Spin (April 18-May 10), a "political thriller" about a presidential primary threatened by scandal (this time involving the candidate's wife); Steven Barkhimer plays the no-holds-barred campaign manager.

Ryan Landry and his irrepressible Gold Dust Orphans offer an R-rated take on The Wizard of Oz with Whizzin' -- featuring "a pill-popping Glinda and some very gay Munchkins" -- at the Machine Theater (April 24 - May 24). And the touring shows in town couldn't be sunnier: The Drowsy Chaperone makes its local debut at the Opera House (April 22-May 4), and Hairspray rolls into the Citi Performing Arts Center Wang Theatre (April 25-27).

Out in the suburbs, Stoneham Theatre cranks up the oldies-jukebox musical Sisters of Swing: The Story of the Andrews Sisters (April 3-27). In Worcester, the Foothills Theatre's rendering of A Streetcar Named Desire (April 14-May 4) is notable for the presence of Dee Nelson -- a local treasure who has been turning up in films and TV -- as Blanche. Lowell's Merrimack Theatre presents Itamar Moses' two-hander about male friendship, The Four of Us (April 17-May 11), even as the play enjoys its New York premiere at the Manhattan Theatre Club. Waltham's Reagle Theatre, which has successfully mixed amateurs and pros for nearly four decades, hosts the legendary Tommy Tune and the Manhattan Rhythm Kings in Steps in Time -- A Broadway Biography in Song and Dance (April 19-20). At Watertown's New Repertory Theatre, the regional premiere of Dessa Rose (April 22-May 18) pairs local diva Leigh Barrett with Broadway's Uzo Aduba as two disparate women -- a cast-off society wife and a pregnant slave -- entwined in a struggle to survive.

The fledgling Whistler in the Dark Theatre will use New Rep's black box to present Howard Barker's A Hard Heart, a fable about a queen trying to cope as her city undergoes a siege (April 11-26). Other fringe offerings this month include Chelsea's Apollinaire Theatre enacting Wendy MacLeod's House of Yes (April 4-May 4), which was a popular play in San Francisco in 1990 before it became a film vehicle for Parker Posey. The drag troupe Fresh Fruit has been tweaking Brahmin sensibilities for close to a decade, always with lavish, Vegas-level production values; Club Cafe is the site of their newest revue, Fresh Fruit Says... Deal with It (April 10-26). At the Factory Theatre, the small but feisty Rough & Tumble company mounts an original work, An Ocean of Air, about an abortive attempt in 1929 to circumnavigate the globe by zeppelin, under the patronage of well-placed, paying passengers (April 11-27). Charlestown's Molasses Tank Productions takes on Eric Overmyer's Native Speech (April 17-May 3), a black comedy about a rogue DJ and his misfit listeners.

In Providence, Rhode Island, the Black Repertory Theatre brings Azkiyah Alexander's The Etymology of Bird to life (April 10-May 18); it's billed as a "love story" about a Brooklyn community mixing B-boys, fly girls, and the music that moves them. Trinity Rep is putting on a musical with lyrics by artistic director Curt Columbus and music by Andre Pluess and Amy Warren: Paris by Night (April 25-June 1), is fueled by -- what else? -- improbable but headlong romance.

And for the kids, Wheelock Family Theatre reprises Lilly's Purple Plastic Purse (April 11-May 11), based on Kevin Henkes's children's stories.

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