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Boston Metro Spotlight: February 2007

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A scene from the London production of Oliver Twist
(© John Haynes)
Hits from London and New York vie for attention this month with some very worthy homegrown products.

Soon after the curtain falls on American Repertory Theatre's sleekly modernized Britannicus -- a departing gift from soon-to-be-ex-artistic director Robert Woodruff -- the American premiere of Neil Bartlett's music-hall staging of Oliver Twist springs to life (February 17-March 24). ART stalwarts such as Raimo Airaldi and Karen MacDonald will be abetted by a posse of Broadway vets, including Ned Eisenberg as Fagin.

Cherry Jones, a mainstay at ART in the early '80s, makes a triumphant return to town in her Tony Award-winning turn as Sister Aloysius in the national tour of Doubt at the Colonial (February 6-18). John Patrick Shanley's Pulitzer Prize-winning play is about a nun who sets out to discover if a priest has abused a male student.

Devotees are avidly awaiting the debut of the Gold Dust Orphans' The Plexiglass Menagerie (February 22-March 17), in which company founder Ryan Landry will not only tweak the Williams classic -- transposing it to New Orleans "against a conflicting backdrop of Southern perseverance and the corruption of urban renewal" -- but also play the redoubtable Amanda Wingfield.

The Boston Center for the Arts follows up Our Place Theatre Project's seventh annual African-American Theatre Festival (ending February 11) with Boston Theatre Works' A Midsummer Night's Dream (through March 3), featuring an intriguing bit of nontraditional casting: local fave Paula Plum will double up as Hippolyta and Oberon, Tim Smith (memorable as Gorilla Man) as Theseus/Titania.

The BCA's Cyclorama should make an exciting display case for a double-bill by Peter Schumann's still-radical-after-all-these-years Bread and Puppet Theater (February 12-18). The Everything Is Fine Circus is geared to families; The Battle of the Terrorists and the Horrorists is the undiluted real deal, presented mostly in black-and-white and culminating in a scarily skewed recitation from the ancient Mayan text, the Popol Vuh.

Also at the BCA: Speakeasy Stage mounts John Cariani's romantic comedy Almost, Maine (February 16-March 10) with Maureen Keiller, who shone as Sylvia in Speakeasy's The Women; and Centastage, which concentrates solely on new work, premieres local playwright Janet Kenney's More Than What (February 23-March 10), a cycle of seven short plays that center on a wedding.

Boston Playwright's Theatre will present Hollywood scion Leslie Epstein's stage adaptation of his controversial 1979 novel, King of the Jews (February 21-March 10), about the dilemma of community leaders who were charged with collaboratively deciding matters of life and death within the Polish ghetto of Lodz.

Opera Boston tackles the Weillian underworld of Mahagonny at the Cutler Majestic (February 23-27) -- fresh on the heels of the inaugural Great Boston Burlesque Exposition (February 16-18), comprising a trade show, lectures, and three performances, ranging from a revue hosted by Miss Astrid of New York's Va-Va-Voom Room; a competition emceed by Queer Eye for the Straight Guy's Jai Rodriguez; and a Newcomers' Showcase/Sideshow Ball.

If your taste runs more to the squeaky-clean, Wheelock Family Theatre is putting on Disney's Beauty and the Beast (February 2-March 4), with lush-voiced Angela Williams as the spunky heroine and Christopher Chew as her vainglorious hometown suitor Gaston.

Paula Vogel's How I Learned to Drive has been around the block a few times, but it'll be interesting to see Alex Zielke's take on the show at the teeny-tiny Devanaughn Theatre (through February 18). Suzan-Lori Parks' 365 Plays/365 Days are also all over the map (intentionally) at present, but MIT has snagged her for a short residency, which includes a brief run of her Obie Award-winning Imperceptible Mutabilities in the Third Kingdom (February 8-16).

Actor/playwright Austin Pendleton, long a friend to Watertown's New Repertory Theatre, will be participating in the reading series New Voices @ New Rep: look for him in Wendy Kesselman's Chekhovian chamber musical, The Black Monk (February 19). Two days later, New Rep opens the Boston premiere of author Pendleton's Off-Broadway hit Orson's Shadow (February 21-March 18), which dramatizes the long-ago encounter between Orson Welles and Sir Laurence Olivier.

Lowell's Merrimack Rep offers Dinah Was, a musical bio of singer Dinah Washington (February 15-March 11), and in the Berkshires, the Barrington Stage Company serves up a production of Becky Mode's restaurant-reservations comedic monologue, Fully Committed (February 7-18), starring Drama Desk Award nominee Vince Gatton.

In Providence, Trinity Rep is presenting Edward Albee's A Delicate Balance (February 16 -March 25) -- the "ferocious, funny" 1967 family drama that finally earned him an overdue Pulitzer.

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