Santa Barbara takes on a slew of the greatest living American playwrights this spring, with major productions of works by Sam Shepard, Edward Albee, Tony Kushner, Lee Blessing, and Richard Greenberg. There’s also something by an Englishman named Shakespeare, and two important American premieres of contemporary plays from Finland.
Loose Affiliation of Artists had a hit last fall with Neil LaBute’s The Shape of Things, and they look set to score again with this contemporary revenge play. Expect extreme conflict from this edgy new company. Thu., Mar. 29-Sat., Mar. 31, and Thu., Apr. 5-Sat., Apr. 7, 8pm. Center Stage Theater, 751 Paseo Nuevo. Call 963-0408 or visit centerstagetheater.org.
Nipples to the Wind
Two fully clothed actresses portray 14 female characters in this roaring comedy from Texan playwright Paula Coco, with live music by singer/songwriter Kacey Jones. Thu., Apr. 5-Sat., Apr. 7, 8pm. Lobero Theatre, 33 E. Canon Perdido St. Call 963-0761 or visit lobero.com.
The Violet Hour
Richard Greenberg’s comedy about a Jazz Age publisher with a special printing press that can anticipate the future blends surreal science fiction with authentic New York characters, circa 1919. It’s a great play that has a reputation for being difficult to pull off, which is just one of the reasons it’s perfect for S.B.’s Ensemble Theatre Company. Fri., Apr. 6-Sun., Apr. 29. Ensemble Theatre Company, 914 Santa Barbara St. Call 962-8606 or visit ensembletheatre.com.
The Man Who Came To Dinner
This classic Moss Hart and George S. Kaufman comedy gets its second production in the area in as many years when the PCPA gang gives us another chance to spend the holidays with that adorable curmudgeon Sheridan Whiteside. Thu., Apr. 12-Sun., May 13. Marian Theatre, Allan Hancock College, 800 S. College Dr., Santa Maria. Call 922-8313 or visit pcpa.org.
The God of Hell
Genesis West presents this recent effort by Sam Shepard, a “comedy” about plutonium poisoning in America’s heartland that the playwright describes as “a takeoff on Republican fascism.” Shepard was motivated to write The God of Hell by the impending 2004 election season. As directed by our own Maurice Lord, the play’s message may be even more urgent in 2007. Fri., Apr. 13-Sat., Apr. 28. Center Stage Theater, 751 Paseo Nuevo. Call 9630408 or visit centerstagetheater.org.
In sympathy with her husband, an American hostage held and tortured by Shi’ite Muslims in Beirut, a woman strips her den to resemble his cell and explores ways to share his suffering. This amazingly prescient play premiered in 1988, a year after Lee Blessing’s similarly political A Walk in the Woods stormed Broadway. Presented by Santa Barbara Theatre; Asaad Kelada directs. Thu., Apr. 26-Sat., Apr. 28, 8pm; Sun., Apr. 29, 2pm. Lobero Theatre, 33 E. Canon Perdido St. Call 9630761 or visit lobero.com.
Edward Albee is enjoying a renewed interest in his work due to the notoriety of his recent The Goat, or, Who Is Sylvia? This drama from 1975 involves a different and less shocking, yet still unusual, encounter between species. It also echoes the two-couples format of Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? Oh, and it won the Pulitzer Prize-the second of Albee’s three. Presented by SBCC Theatre Group. Fri., Apr. 27-Sat., May 12. SBCC’s Jurkowitz Theatre. Call 965-5935 or visit sbcctg.sbcc.edu.
Shakespeare as interpreted by the inimitable Lit Moon. This production was one of the highlights of the Lit Moon World Shakespeare Festival, so catch it now if you didn’t then. Fri., Apr. 27, 7pm. Porter Theatre, Westmont College, 955 La Paz Rd. Visit litmoon.com.
The Mel Brooks musical comes to the Arlington Theatre for three nights, so there’s no excuse not to spend some quality springtime with Hitler and Germany. Mon., Apr. 30-Wed., May 2, 7:30pm. Arlington Theatre. Call 9634408.
UCSB New Plays Festival
By UCSB playwrights. Fri., May 18 and Sat., May 19, 8pm; Sun., May 20, 2 and 8pm; Tue., May 22- Fri., May 25, 8pm; Sat., May 26, 2 and 8pm. UCSB’s Performing Arts Theatre. Call 893-3535 or visit www.artsandlectures.sa.ucsb.edu.
Angels in America, Part 1
The most impressive, visionary American play of the 1990s gets a main-stage production from UCSB’s drama department. Fri., May 25, 8pm; Wed., May 30-Sat., June 2, 8pm; Sun., June 3, 2pm. UCSB’s Hatlen Theatre. Call 893-3535 or visit www.artsandlectures.sa.ucsb.edu.
Lit Moon World Theater Festival
Queen C by Laura Ruohonen and For the Sheer Love of Me by Anna Krogerus are contemporary Finnish plays that will be presented in a collaboration between Lit Moon and the Finnish Theatre Information Centre. Mikko Viherjuuri directs For the Sheer Love of Me, making him the first Finnish director to stage a play with a professional theater company in the United States. Fri., June 8-Sat., June 16, times TBA. Center Stage Theater, 751 Paseo Nuevo. Visit litmoon.com.