Hits vs. myths 

The fresh takes on the familiar for the 2007-2008 season

Are the ancient Greeks getting hot again? Perhaps inspired by the success of Georgia Shakespeare's Metamorphoses (a show being restaged this month), two of the most daring choices for the upcoming 2007-2008 season offer offbeat takes on Greek classics: Aeschylus' war-time tale The Persians (Aug. 12-Sept. 23) at Theatre in the Square, and a new version of the myth of Eurydice (March 14-April 13, 2008), co-produced by the Alliance Theatre and Georgia Shakespeare for the Alliance Hertz Stage.

For every daring choice like those, however, you'll see playhouses bring back some past hits, and given the uncertain climate for live theater, one can hardly blame them. The 2007-2008 season features several remounts and even a sequel: Theatre in the Square is not just reviving last fall's smash-hit Celestine Sibley adaptation Turned Funny (June 19-July 29, 2007), but will stage a holiday-themed follow-up, Christmas at Sweet Apple (Nov. 11-Dec. 30), also written by Phillip DePoy.

The Center for Puppetry Arts restages two superb shows from 2006, the delightful Halloween "anthology" The Ghastly Dreadfuls (Oct. 11-28) and the imaginative Anne Frank: Within & Without (Jan. 22-Feb. 17, 2008). Likewise, Actor's Express finishes its 20th anniversary season – the first programmed by new artistic director Bill Fennelly – with a "reinvention" of the glam musical Hedwig and the Angry Inch (June 22-July 19, 2008), which the company staged in 2003.

Not all local playhouses have rolled out their 2007-2008 season selections, but here are some of the most exciting – and the most puzzling – of those that have.

Actor's Express

Yay! A season that sounds filled with fresh, young voices features Octopus, the world-premiere play about love and jealousy by rising local writer Steve Yockey (Jan. 27-Feb. 23, 2008), whose craft should kick up a notch with this production. The mother-daughter bonding in the New York-bound musical Piece (Oct. 28-Nov. 24) also sounds extremely worth a listen.

Huh? The first show that Fennelly directs as Actor's Express' new artistic director will be The Fantasticks (Oct. 28-Nov. 24), "a sexy reinvention of an American classic" that will contain "adult content and nudity." Without a doubt, it'll make a bold statement.

Etc. Dark Play or Stories for Boys (Aug. 9-Oct. 6); When Something Wonderful Ends (May 4-31, 2008).

Alliance Theatre

Yay! Alliance artistic director Susan V. Booth directs Doubt (April 2-May 4, 2008), John Patrick Shanley's acclaimed, 2006 Pulitzer Prize-winning drama about a nun investigating charges of child molestation.

Huh? The oft-produced mystery play Sleuth (Oct. 10-Nov. 4) may be the definition of an overdone theatrical chestnut, and its small cast makes it an odd choice for the Alliance Mainstage. Perhaps associate artistic director Kent Gash can teach it some new tricks.

Etc. Main Stage: The Women of Brewster Place (Sept. 5-30); A Christmas Carol (Nov. 30-Dec. 24); Duke Ellington's Sophisticated Ladies (Jan. 9-Feb. 10, 2008). Hertz Stage: Jacques Brel Is Alive and Well and Living in Paris (Sept. 21-Oct. 28); In the Red and Brown Water (Feb. 1-28). Alliance Children's Theatre: Degas' Little Dancer (Nov. 10-18); Seussical (Feb. 23-March 23).

Broadway Across America

Yay! Two New York hits so highly touted that the touring versions are must-sees: the "Sesame Street" satire Avenue Q (March 25-30, 2008); and director John Doyle's reportedly thrilling staging of Stephen Sondheim's Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (May 17-June 1, 2008).

Huh? I'm receptive to the idea of making musicals of hit movies, but am highly skeptical about the musicalization of Adam Sandler's The Wedding Singer (Oct. 16-21), particularly the prospect of a rapping Granny.

Center for Puppetry Arts

Yay! Two new shows by Jon Ludwig, whose original children's productions can reliably enthrall any audience. Cinderella Della Circus (April 10--June 22, 2008) promises some eye-opening puppetry as it transplants the classic Cinderella fairy tale to under the Big Top. Even more catchy sounds Duke Ellington's Cat (Jan. 10-March 16), which presents the life of the jazz icon from the point of view of his pet "cool cat."

Huh? Can New York's premiere Latino puppetry theater, Teatro SEA, make a likable heroine out of a lady cockroach in the bilingual Latino rock musical La Cucarachita Martina? Hope so.

Etc. Family Series: The Big Bad, Little Red Pig Show (Aug. 24-Sept. 9); Winnie-the-Pooh (Sept. 27-Dec. 9); The Shoemaker & The Elves (Nov. 15-Jan. 6); There's a Dinosaur in the Closet (Feb. 19-March 2); The Lion, The Mouse & Other Aesop's Fables (March 4-30, 2008); The Encounter of Juan Bobo & Pedro Animal (April 1-6, 2008). New Directions: The Mother of All Enemies (April 11-13); Xperimental Puppetry Theatre (May 15-18).

7 Stages (full season still in progress)

Yay! Two new works by Atlanta playwrights: Pearl Cleage's A Song for Coretta (Jan. 15-Feb. 17), about five women in line to see Coretta Scott King lie in state; and the autobiographical Becoming a Man in 127 EASY Steps (date TBD) by transgender artist Scott Turner Schofield.

Huh? The Spanish-language play The Girls of the 3.5" Floppies (Feb. 28-March 2) takes place at a Tijuana nightclub and sounds pretty cool. It's just got a goofy title.

Etc. Scratch and Burn (Oct. 25-Nov. 4); In the Solitude of the Cotton Fields (April 24-May 18).

Theatre in the Square

Yay! David Lindsey-Abaire's 2007 Pulitzer Prize winner Rabbit Hole (Sept. 30-Nov. 11) concerns a family grappling with the loss of a child, but will probably include the writer's trademark dark humor.

Huh? Though "T-Square" draws from a stable of regular actors with gifts for old-fashioned slapstick, staging Room Service (Jan. 6-Feb. 24) may just invite invidious comparison to the Marx Brothers' 1938 take on the play.

Etc. Main Stage: The Belle of Amherst (March 12-April 20); The Poetry of Pizza (April 27-June 8). Alley Stage: Blue Door (Feb. 17-March 16); The Little Dog Laughed (March 30-April 27).

Theatrical Outfit

Yay! African-American history informs two promising plays, Gee's Bend (Nov. 7-Dec. 2), inspired by the Quilts of Gee's Bend art exhibit; and Pure Confidence (March 5-30), Carlyle Brown's inspirational drama about the Kentucky Derby and the legacy of slavery.

Huh? Godspell (April 16-May 11), the New Testament-based musical from the 1970s, launched such folkie tunes as "Day by Day." Who knows? Maybe it's overdue for a comeback.

Etc. To Kill a Mockingbird (Sept. 12-Oct. 7); It's a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play (Dec. 7-23); Southern Comforts (Feb. 6-17).


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