“The Book of Will,” by oft-produced playwright Lauren Gunderson, opens Theatrical Outfit’s 2018/19 season; Broadway great Sutton Foster helps christen the Sandy Springs Performing Arts Center; and Serenbe Playhouse’s epic “Titanic” docks for good. Featured: “The Book of Will” cast (seated, from left) Doyle Reynolds, Suehyla El-Attar, Eliana Marianes, Ryan Vo, William S. Murphey and (standing, from left) Kyle Brumley, Elisa Carlson, Tom Key, George Contini and Paul Hester. Photo by Casey Gardner.
The Book of Will. IN PREVIEWS. OPENS SATURDAY. At Theatrical Outfit. This love letter to Shakespeare opens the company’s 2018/19 season with the trademark smarts and humor of oft-produced playwright Lauren Gunderson. The place: London and Stratford-upon-Avon. The time: Three years after Will’s death. The bard’s legacy depends on a circle of devoted writers, actors and friends determined to preserve his work and print a definitive collection of his plays. But there are challenges, of course. Gunderson, a Decatur-born, San Francisco-based writer, won the 2018 Steinberg/American Theatre Critics Association New Play Award for this script. The Outfit’s 10-person cast includes Elisa Carlson, Suehyla El-Attar, artistic director/actor Tom Key, William S. Murphey and Doyle Reynolds. David Crowe (Silent Sky) directs. Previews Thursday-Friday ($18-$36). Opening night ($23.50-$51). Regularly $22.50-$49. Through Sept. 9. 7:30 p.m. Wednesday-Friday; 2:30 + 7:30 p.m. Saturday (no matinee Aug. 18); and 2:30 p.m. Sunday. The Balzer Theater at Herren’s, 84 Luckie St. NW. Details, tickets HERE or at 678.528.1500. Discount tickets at PoshDealz.com.
Sutton Foster. SATURDAY ONLY. The two-time Tony Award winner (Thoroughly Modern Millie, Anything Goes) helps inaugurate the Sandy Springs Performing Arts Center with a concert based on her latest CD, Take Me to the World. You might also know Foster, who has done 11 Broadway shows (including The Drowsy Chaperone, Little Women and Violet), from the TV Land series “Younger.” Take Me to the World dropped June 1 and includes songs by theater composers Jason Robert Brown, Kander & Ebb, Cole Porter and Stephen Sondheim; pop songwriters Paul Simon and James Taylor; and the Broadway shows Guys and Dolls, Purlie, Thoroughly Modern Millie, Singin’ in the Rain and Violet. Expect a new set list, not the one Foster did in April at Atlanta Symphony Hall. $35-$90. 8 p.m. Byers Theatre. 1 Galambos Way (bordered by Sandy Springs Circle and Allen, Johnson Ferry and Roswell roads), Sandy Springs. Underground parking on-site. Details HERE. Tickets HERE or at 770.206.2022.
Titanic. CLOSES SUNDAY. Standing-room tickets still available. The outdoors-only Serenbe Playhouse tops its Carousel (performed with a real carnival) and Miss Saigon (featuring a flying Huey helicopter) with artistic director Brian Clowdus’ ambitious staging of this Tony Award-winning musical. The time: 1912. The place: aboard the RMS Titanic. Clowdus employs a cast of 40 (including regulars Niki Badua, Blake Burgess, Jessica De Maria, Chase Davidson and Robert Wayne) and a four-story Titanic replica that sinks nightly in the Inn Lake at Serenbe. “It’s not about the boat sinking,” Clowdus says. “It’s about people on a quest for joy, hope and change.” Most Serenbe shows require a walk along a sometimes muddy path. Appropriate footwear suggested. This show does include seating. For mobility assistance (parking, accessibility cart, etc.), contact the box office. $40. 8 p.m. Wednesday-Sunday. Serenbe is at 9110 Selborne Lane in Chattahoochee Hills. Details, tickets HERE or at 770.463.1110.
This week only
A Bunch of Different Ways I’d Like to Die. THURSDAY-FRIDAY ONLY. Part of the 2018 Essential New Play Festival. Described as a dark, comic meditation on life and mortality by Tim McDonough, one of Atlanta’s more distinguished actors. Written and performed by McDonough, a longtime member of Georgia Shakespeare (King Lear, Shylock in The Merchant of Venice, Willy Loman in Death of a Salesman). He won a Suzi Bass Award for his work as Big Daddy in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and has acted at the Alliance Theatre, Marietta’s Theatre in the Square, Horizon Theatre and the late Theater Gael. He also acts at Emory University (Theater Emory), where he teaches theater studies. $25. 8 nightly. West End Performing Arts Center, 945 Ralph David Abernathy Blvd. Details, tickets HERE. Discount tickets at PoshDealz.com.
Joe Gransden Big Band featuring Landau Eugene Murphy Jr. THURSDAY ONLY. Gransden and friends help inaugurate the Sandy Springs Performing Arts Center by swinging in the intimate Studio Theatre. The 16-piece big band, formed in 2009, performs around the country and has a standing gig at Atlanta’s Cafe 290 (the first and third Mondays of every month). This cabaret event, offering dinner, drinks and music, features Landau Eugene Murphy Jr., a Sinatra-style vocalist and the Season 6 winner of the NBC reality show “America’s Got Talent.” Reserved table seating gives patrons the option to dine during the show. $30-$50. 8:30 p.m. 1 Galambos Way (bordered by Sandy Springs Circle and Allen, Johnson Ferry and Roswell roads), Sandy Springs. Underground parking on-site. Details HERE. Tickets HERE or at 770.206.202
Closing this week
On the Third Day. CLOSES SUNDAY. A world premiere by Atlanta playwright Amina S. McIntyre. Meet the Lansings. Three years earlier their eldest son and oldest brother was killed. Now family members must decide the fate of the two men who shot him. The drama, an examination of grief, ritual and family, is set in Atlanta and inspired by events in McIntyre’s life. Presented by Los Angeles/Atlanta-based VanguardRep. Matthew Kellen Burgos directs. His cast: Tanya Freeman, Daviorr Snipes, Amari J. Ingram, Candice Marie Singleton and Bryshan J. White. $20. 7:30 p.m. Thursday-Friday; 2:30 + 7:30 p.m. Saturday; and 2:30 p.m. Sunday. Windmill Arts Center, 2823 Church St., East Point. Details, tickets HERE.
Blackbird. EXTENDED THROUGH AUG. 26. Meet Ray and Una. Fifteen years ago, he was convicted of sexually assaulting her, then a young girl. He served his prison sentence, changed his name, moved and started a new life. When Una stumbles upon a recent photo, she decides to confront him. Scottish playwright David Harrower’s 2005 drama is staged by Right On Productions and Frat Pack Productions. Jayson Warner Smith (TV’s “The Walking Dead” and “Rectify”) is Ray; Heather Rule is Una. Marc Gowan directs. Blackbird won London’s Olivier Award for best new play in 2007 and had a critically acclaimed Broadway run in 2016 with Jeff Daniels and Michelle Williams, earning three Tony Award nominations. $20 plus fees. Robert Mello Studio Blackbox, 4048 Flowers Road, Suite 210, Doraville. Tickets at Brown Paper Tickets HERE.
Built to Float. THROUGH AUG. 25. World premiere. Atlanta-based playwright Rachel Graf Evans’ surrealistic family drama is part of the 2018 Essential New Play Festival. It asks: “Is Tess fine?” Tess tells her sister she is, but strange things keep happening in her home, and the two women try to keep from drowning in memories of their troubled past. Essential founder Peter Hardy directs. Note: Performed in repertory with Woke, a world premiere by Avery Sharpe. The Essential fest, in its 20th season, is dedicated to the work of Georgia playwrights and includes Bare Essentials staged readings (check website). As can happen with new work and smallish budgets, quality can vary. $25. Usually 8 p.m. Friday-Saturday and 2 + 7 p.m. Sunday but check dates/times before you go. West End Performing Arts Center, 945 Ralph David Abernathy Blvd. Details, tickets HERE. Discount tickets at PoshDealz.com.
Newsies. THROUGH SEPT. 2. The 2012 Disney musical tells the real-life story of New York City’s Newsboy Strike of 1899, when publishing titans Joseph Pulitzer and William Randolph Hearst tried to take advantage of the newsboys to increase profits. Their response: Strike! Aurora Theatre uses a cast of 31 to tell the story that features a Tony Award-winning score by Jack Feldman and Alan Menken (Aladdin, Beauty and the Beast, The Little Mermaid). Justin Anderson directs, with musical direction by Ann-Carol Pence and choreography by Ricardo Aponte. $30-$65. 8 p.m. Tuesday-Friday; 2:30 + 8 p.m. Saturday; 2:30 p.m. Sunday. (Note: The show, a co-production with Atlanta Lyric Theatre, plays the Lyric’s Marietta space Oct. 19-Nov. 4.) Aurora offers free, covered, attached parking in a city deck at 153 E. Crogan St. Details, tickets HERE or at 678.226.6222. Discount tickets at PoshDealz.com.
Peter Pan. THROUGH AUG. 26. The outdoors-only. Serenbe Playhouse calls this a “world premiere musical pirate adventure.” If you’re so inclined, sail to the second star on the right and straight on till morning to revisit J.M. Barrie’s 1904 tale about Peter, Tinker Bell, the Lost Boys and Neverland. Complications arise when the Lost Boys get homesick and Captain Hook looks for revenge. The story is by Roger Q. Mason, the score by London-trained, New York regular Ella Grace. Michael Alvarez, who works largely in Britain, directs. Serenbe, which does outdoor, site-specific shows, sets Peter Pan at its Mado Hideaway. All shows take place in the woods and require a walk along a sometimes muddy path. Appropriate footwear suggested. For mobility assistance (parking, accessibility cart, etc.), contact the box office. $13-$30. 11 a.m. Thursday-Saturday; 2 p.m. Sunday. Serenbe is at 9110 Selborne Lane in Chattahoochee Hills. Details, tickets HERE or at 770.463.1110. Discount tickets at PoshDealz.com.
See Rock City. THROUGH AUG. 26. The newish Theatre Buford describes this sequel to playwright Arlene Hutton’s Last Train to Nibroc (2000) as a “tender portrayal of married life, set against the backdrop of World War II” and says it shows the human spirit’s ability to overcome any obstacle. The story picks up with young marrieds Raleigh and May after his return from battle. They face quarrelsome mothers and judgmental townspeople as they try to make a life together. The noteworthy cast includes Lala Cochran (credits too numerable to list), Amelia Fischer (Theatrical Outfit’s Christmas at Pemberley), Gay Hammond and Chris Harding. Atlanta actor/director and Theatre Buford co-founder Justin Walker directs. $30-$35. Buford Community Center, 2200 Buford Highway, Buford, 770.945.6762. Details, tickets HERE.
The Tortoise, the Hare & Other Aesop’s Fables. THROUGH SEPT. 23. Part of the Center for Puppetry Arts’ Theatre for the Very Young (age 2 and up). The musical performance tells five tales in a circus-style show adapted by Atlanta theater artist Michael Haverty and featuring glove, rod and shadow puppets. $19.50. Performances: 10 + 11:30 a.m. Tuesday-Friday; 11 a.m., 1 p.m. + 3 p.m. Saturday; and 1 + 3 p.m. Sunday. Free parking. 1404 Spring St. NW. Details, tickets HERE or at 404.873.3391.
Woke. THROUGH AUG. 26. World premiere. This prize-winning dramatic comedy by Atlanta actor/playwright Avery Sharpe is part of the Essential New Play Festival (running in repertory with Built to Float). The script follows two close friends from different backgrounds trying to navigate the high school-to-college transition when a calamitous event captures national attention. They’re forced to face their conflicting understandings of social awareness as they search for what it truly means to be “woke.” Ellen McQueen directs. The 20-year-old Essential fest is dedicated to the work of Georgia playwrights and includes Bare Essentials staged readings (check website). As can happen with new work and smallish budgets, quality can vary. $25. Usually 8 p.m. Friday-Saturday and 2 + 7 p.m. Saturday but check dates/times before you go. West End Performing Arts Center, 945 Ralph David Abernathy Blvd. Details, tickets HERE. Discount tickets at PoshDealz.com.
A Midsummer Night’s Dream. SEPT. 5-OCT. 21. World premiere. Alliance Theatre at the Atlanta Botanical Garden. In this adaptation by Chicago-based director David Catlin (Moby Dick, Lookingglass Alice), Shakespeare’s five-act romantic farce becomes a brisk 90 minutes. He uses six actors (familiar Alliance faces Devon Hales, Joe Knezevich and Courtney Patterson, plus visiting artists Ericka Ratcliff, Adeoye Mabogunje and Travis Turner) instead of the usual 25-plus and blends dance, music, circus arts and familiar bits from other Shakespeare plays to tell the tale that celebrates the madness and irrationality of love. It’s performed in the Skyline Garden area. $20-$55. 7:30 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday; 8 p.m. Friday; 2:30 + 8 p.m. Saturday; and 2:30 p.m. Saturday except there are no shows Sept. 10, 14-19, 24-26 or Oct. 1-4, 8-11, 15 + 17. The Garden is at 1345 Piedmont Ave. N.E. Details, tickets HERE or at 404.733.5000.
[A CLOSER LOOK AT DAVID CATLIN’S MAD, MAD, MAD MIDSUMMER]
The Seagull. SEPT. 5-30. A contemporary take on Russian dramatist Anton Chekhov’s action-packed 19th-century tragicomedy. It follows the romantic and artistic conflicts of four characters: the famous middlebrow writer Boris Trigorin; the ingenue Nina; the fading actress Irina Arkadina; and her son, playwright Konstantin Tréplev. The Serenbe Playhouse staging, done lakeside, features reimagined Balkan music, dark humor and director Elizabeth Dinkova’s Eastern European brand of mayhem. Most Serenbe shows require a walk along a sometimes muddy path. Appropriate footwear suggested. For mobility assistance (parking, accessibility cart, etc.), contact the box office. $30-$50. 8 p.m. Wednesday-Sunday; also 2 p.m. Saturday. Serenbe is at 9110 Selborne Lane in Chattahoochee Hills. Details, tickets HERE or at 770.463.1110. Discount tickets at PoshDealz.com.