Our top picks: A Topher Payne world premiere at Georgia Ensemble Theatre, a trumpeting ASO and a tight, two-person “Doctor Faustus” at the Shakespeare Tavern. Pictured: Karen Howell and Shamala the Camel in Payne’s “Greetings Friend Your Kind Assistance Is Required.” Photo by Dan Carmody/Studio 7.
Greetings Friend Your Kind Assistance Is Required. OPENS TONIGHT | THROUGH JAN. 22. A world premiere from prolific Atlanta playwright Topher Payne. Two good reasons to recommend this comedy at Georgia Ensemble Theatre. The plot: When a retired schoolteacher opens a spam email, she and her best friend begin the journey of a lifetime, one that includes danger, romance and a new sense of purpose. Shannon Eubanks‘ cast includes Karen Howell, Stacy Melich, Brenda Porter and Parris Sarter. $26-$35 and up. 7:30 p.m. Wednesday; 8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday; 2:30 p.m. Sunday. Roswell Cultural Arts Center, 950 Forrest St., Roswell. Details, tickets HERE or at 770.641.1260.
This weekend only
Atlanta Symphony Orchestra. TONIGHT + SATURDAY. Before Haydn wrote his Trumpet Concerto, trumpets were simpler instruments, with no keys and a limited range. A friend of his worked for years to develop the precursor to today’s valved trumpet, and Haydn wrote the concerto to show off the new instrument. Principal trumpeter Stuart Stephenson plays the piece in his ASO solo debut. Also on the program: Rimsky-Korsakov’s Capriccio espagnol and Bartok’s Concerto for Orchestra. Toronto-born conductor Peter Oundjian is on the podium. $20-$79. 8 nightly. Details, tickets HERE or at 404.733.5000.
Create ATL. SATURDAY ONLY. This free festival features family fun from the Alliance Theatre, Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and High Museum of Art. The afternoon includes backstage tours at the Alliance, an introduction to the percussion family with the ASO, admission to the High’s Eric Carle exhibition, ukulele workshops and contemporary dance performances by Staibdance. Note: Some free-event tickets will go fast; advance registration is recommended. 1-4 p.m. Woodruff Arts Center, 1280 Peachtree St. NE. Register HERE. Details HERE or at 404.733.5000.
Opening this weekend
Doctor Faustus. OPENS TONIGHT | THROUGH JAN. 29. The Shakespeare Tavern Playhouse tells Christopher Marlowe’s story of a man whose insatiable thirst for knowledge leads him to the black arts, where he discovers the sensual world of indulgence, devils and temptation beyond imagining. For this, he barters his immortal soul. Told by two actors (Chris Kayser and Laura Cole) in 90 minutes without intermission and enacted in the center of the theater space. $15-$46 ($15 preview tonight; $20 preview Friday; opens Saturday). 7:30 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday; 6:30 p.m. Sunday. Also at 11 p.m. Jan. 14, 21, 27-28 (just drinks, no food). 499 Peachtree St. NE. Details, tickets HERE or at 404.874.5299.
The True Story of the Three Little Pigs by A. Wolf. THROUGH JAN. 22. Rod, shadow and mask puppets are used as Mr. A. Wolf tries to explain what really happened to those houses made of straw, sticks and bricks, along with the three little pigs who lived there. From Mesner Puppet Theater in Kansas City, Mo. Based on the 1996 book by Jon Scieszka. $20.50. 10 + 11:30 a.m. today-Friday and Jan. 17; 10 + 11:30 a.m. Wednesday, and Jan. 12-13 and 18-20; 11 a.m., 1 p.m. + 3 p.m. Jan. 14; and 1 + 3 p.m. Jan. 14-15 and 21-22. Center for Puppetry Arts, 1404 Spring St. NW (at 18th Street). Details, tickets HERE or at 404.873.3391.
Atlanta Symphony Orchestra. JAN. 12 + 14. Principal guest conductor Donald Runnicles leads a program featuring the world premiere of American composer Marc Neikrug’s The Unicorn of Atlas Peak. Also on the program: Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1 (1879 version) with pianist Kirill Gerstein and Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 10. $20-$79. 8 nightly. Symphony Hall, Woodruff Arts Center, 1280 Peachtree St. NE. Details, tickets HERE or at 404.733.5000.
The Little Mermaid. JAN. 12-15. Five performances only. One of Disney’s many stage musicals, retooled in recent years, returns to the Fox Theatre with Ariel, Prince Eric, King Triton, Sebastian, Flotsam, Jetsam and the evil Ursula telling a story of romance and life under the sea. The Alan Menken-Howard Ashman score includes “Part of Your World,” “Poor Unfortunate Souls” and “Kiss the Girl.” This production was created by the Fifth Avenue Theatre in Seattle. $33.50-128.50. 7:30 p.m. Thursday; 8 p.m. Friday; 2 + 8 p.m. Saturday; and 1 p.m. Sunday. 660 Peachtree St. NE. Details HERE. Tickets at the Fox box office, HERE or via Ticketmaster at 855.285.8499.
The Mountaintop. JAN. 12-FEB. 12. At Aurora Theatre. Return to April 3, 1968, and the Lorraine Motel in Memphis in Katori Hall’s 2008 script. It reimagines the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s last night on Earth, a magical encounter told with humor, history and two characters. Featuring two of Atlanta’s finer actors: Neal A. Ghant as King and Cynthia D. Barker as a hotel maid named Camae. Eric J. Little directs. The drama, written when Hall was in her 20s, earned a 2010 Olivier award in London. The 2011 Broadway version, with Samuel L. Jackson and Angela Bassett, received mixed reviews and ran less than four months. $20-$55. 8 p.m. Tuesday-Friday; 2:30 + 8 p.m. Saturday; and 2:30 p.m. Sunday. 28 E. Pike St., Lawrenceville. Free, covered and attached parking in city deck at 153 E. Crogan St. Details, tickets HERE or at 678.226.6222.
The Crucible. JAN. 21-FEB. 19. At Actor’s Express. The witching hour is at hand in the tight-knit community of Salem, where personal vendettas collide with lust and superstition, fueling widespread hysteria. Do witches walk among us, or has revenge created a monster? Arthur Miller’s American classic, written in response to McCarthyism in the 1950s, is as timely as ever. Artistic director Freddie Ashley’s large multicultural cast features Jonathan Horne as John Proctor, Courtney Patterson as Elizabeth Proctor and Shelli Delgado as Abigail Williams. $20-$40. Director’s rough cut at 8 p.m. Jan. 18; previews at 8 p.m. Jan. 19-20; opening at 8 p.m. Jan. 21. Regularly 8 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday; 2 p.m. Sunday. King Plow Arts Center, 887 W. Marietta St. Details, tickets HERE or at 40.607.7469. Discount tickets at PoshDealz.com.
The Taming. JAN. 20 ONLY. Weird Sisters Theatre Project, Synchronicity Theatre and 7 Stages unite to present a staged reading of playwright Lauren Gunderson’s political comedy. The Decatur-born, San Francisco-based Gunderson offered to waive royalties if the readings coincide with Inauguration Day. The comedy, she says, is about “modern American political extremism, feminism and beauty queens, the gangly Democratic Republic of America, James Madison, the GOP, liberal angst, Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew, Miss America and three slightly insane women who might just be political geniuses.” More than 40 U.S. companies have accepted her offer. Free, but a $10 donation is suggested at the door (preferably cash). 7 p.m. 7 Stages, 1105 Euclid Ave. N.E. Details HERE.
Troubadour. JAN. 18-FEB. 27. A world premiere musical from Atlanta playwright Janece Shaffer (The Geller Girls, Broke) and Sugarland’s Kristian Bush at the Alliance Theatre. Described as “a feel-good romantic comedy,” it begins in 1951 Nashville and features a country music legend about to retire, his musician son, an aspiring singer-songwriter named Inez and Izzy the rodeo tailor. $20-$72. Previews Jan. 18-24. Opens Jan. 25. 7:30 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday; 8 p.m. Friday; 2:30 + 8 p.m. Saturday; and 2:30 p.m. Sunday. No 2:30 p.m. show Jan. 21. Woodruff Arts Center, 1280 Peachtree St. NE. Details, tickets HERE or at 404.733.5000. Discount tickets at PoshDealz.com.
The UNEXPECTED Play Reading Festival. JAN. 21-22. Theatrical Outfit holds its first-ever festival of play readings, offering four new (or newish) scripts in two days with what can accurately be called first-rate Atlanta talent. The scripts are by Atlanta playwright-actor Suehyla El-Attar; Atlanta-born, Baltimore-based Matthew Buckley Smith (known mainly as a poet); Karen Zacarías (Horizon Theatre’s The Book Club Play); and Anna Ziegler (the award-winning Photograph 51, Synchronicity Theatre’s The Minotaur). Directing are frequent Actor’s Express collaborator Melissa Foulger, Aurora Theatre’s Jaclyn Hofmann, Outfit artistic director Tom Key and playwright-actor Topher Payne. The acting pool includes Adam Fristoe, Randi Garza, Ann Marie Gideon, Clifton Guterman, Wendy Melkonian, Diany Rodriguez, Julissa Sabino and Maria Rodriguez-Sager. $10.80 per reading or $37.80 for a four-reading pass. 2:30 + 7:30 p.m. Saturday-Sunday. Theatrical Outfit at the Balzer Theater at Herren’s, 84 Luckie St NW. Details, tickets HERE or at 678.528.1500.