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Boston Metro Spotlight: March 2011

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A scene from Death and the Powers: The Robots' Opera
Diane Paulus, artistic director of Harvard's American Repertory Theatre, and Tod Machover and his Opera of the Future Group at the MIT Media Lab have collaborated on Death and the Powers: The Robots' Opera, making its American premiere at Emerson's Cutler Majestic Theatre (March 18-25). James Maddalena plays a rich eccentric who manages to achieve immortality of sorts by downloading himself into his belongings. Among the promised special effects are "a chorus of robots and a musical chandelier."

And why not tap-dancing spark plugs, while we're at it? The Modern Theatre at Suffolk University opens with the world premiere of Car Talk: The Musical!!! (March 31 - April 3), a Broadway homage/spoof written and directed by faculty member Wesley Savick, in which "Maria" becomes "My Kia."

ArtsEmerson is a hive of activity this month, as productions include Elevator Repair Service's new Hemingway adaptation, The Select (The Sun Also Rises), at the Paramount Theatre (March 15-20), as well as a two-part "celebration" of director Peter Brook -- on the Paramount mainstage, his Fragments, based on texts by Samuel Beckett, and in the Black Box The Grand Inquisitor (March 23 - April 3). Meanwhile, the Cutler Majestic will be given over to a revival of Theatre for a New Audience's The Merchant of Venice, starring F. Murray Abraham (March 29 - April 10).

While the Colonial hosts the Broadway Across America tours of Burn the Floor (March 8-13) and of Hair (March 22 - April 10), the Shubert will be home to the Glimmerglass/New York City Opera/Boston Lyric Opera production of Handel's Agrippina (March 11-22), starring two noted soprani, Caroline Worra and Kathleen Kim, and no fewer than three countertenors, competing for the upper hand in a stylized vipers' nest of court intrigue.

At the Boston Center for the Arts' Plaza Theatre is Zeitgeist Stage's production of Alan Ayckbourn's My Wonderful Day, offering a ten-year-old's take on adult shenanigans (March 4-26), and Public Theatre Boston's East Coast premiere of Bill Cain's 9 Circles, about a young marine charged with war crimes in Iraq (March 17 - April 9). At the BCA's Wimberly Theatre, under the auspices of Boston Children's Theatre, former Broadway teen star Danielle Ferland directs a dozen-odd local kids in the junior version of A Year with Frog and Toad (March 5-13). And at the Roberts Studio Theater, Speakeasy Stage offers the Boston premiere of Neil LaBute's reasons to be pretty (March 4 - April 2), featuring Angie Jepson as a merely "regular"-looking young woman incensed by her boyfriend's offhanded assessment.

The Huntington revives Willy Russell's Educating Rita (March 11 - April 10), directed by Maria Aitken and starring Andrew Long and Jane Pfitsch. Lyric Stages draws on a recent Lincoln Center hit: Nathan Louise Jackson's Broke-ology, a poignant working-class family drama starring Johnny Lee Davenport (March 25 - April 23).

The Boston Playwrights' Theatre hosts two intriguing fringe offerings: John King's Bear Patrol, a "post-apocalyptic rock star saga" directed by Barlow Adamson at (March 3-19), and Catherine O'Neill's Soul Fight, about a Catholic parole officer caught up in an unexpected purgatory (March 25 - April 3).

Nearby towns offer a panoply of choices. In its Black Box Theater, Watertown's New Rep stages Jason Robert Brown's chamber musical about a moribund relationship, The Last Five Years, starring Aimee Doherty and Mark Linehan (March 27 - April 17). The Reagle Music Theatre of Greater Boston will be celebrating A Little Bit of Ireland with special guest Sarah Pfisterer (March 11-13). In Somerville, the Actors' Shakespeare Project concludes its Winter Festival with Living in Exile by Jon Lipsky (March 9-20), an intimate experience in "imperialist culture shock."

In Lowell, Merrimack Rep assays Seth Rozin's fact-based farce Two Jews Walk into a War... (March 17 - April 10), with local legends Will LeBow and Jeremiah Kissel playing the last two Jewish holdouts in Kabul, who happen to be feuding. Stoneham Theatre is reviving Lanford Wilson's 1966 chunk of offbeat Americana, The Rimers of Eldritch (March 24 - April 10), with a huge cast featuring some top Boston talent - e.g., Marianna Bassham, Daniel Berger-Jones, and Joel Colodner. Chelsea's Apollinaire Theatre Company embarks on a Foreign Fest featuring the plays Arabian Night, by Roland Schimmelpfennig; The Ugly One, by Marius von Mayenburg; Enjoy, by Toshiki Okada; and East of Berlin, by Hannah Moscovitch (March 25 - April 30).

In Rhode Island, Pawtucket's Gamm Theatre heralds the U.S. premiere of Howard Brenton's controversial drama Paul (March 17 - April 17). Setting out on the road to Damascus in A.D. 34, the staunchly anti-Christian Saul of Tarsus (soon to rename himself Paul) encounters Christ and dedicates himself to the cause. But what if the meeting was an illusion - or a hoax? Here's your chance to imagine two millennia of history unraveling.

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