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On stage 

There's no biz like showbiz for Atlanta's fall theater offerings

Atlanta theater seldom acts in concert, but unifying themes and common threads sometimes bubble up in the playhouses' season schedules, such as money, politics and sex -- especially sex. This fall, Atlanta theater seems particularly preoccupied with show business, both through scripts literally about the action behind the scenes of, say, Gone With the Wind, as well as plays that prove highly self-conscious about their own theatricality, like the double feature of British playwright Caryl Churchill.

The Alliance Theatre launches its Main Stage season with the screwball comedy Moonlight & Magnolias (Sept. 14-Oct. 9). In a footnote to Atlanta's favorite film, Gone With the Wind, legendary producer David O. Selznick tries to coax a script from eccentric screenwriter Ben Hecht -- who's never read Margaret Mitchell's novel. ... The talk flies fast at Horizon Theatre when two would-be Broadway producers (played by Dolph Amick and Shear Madness' George Contini) try to line up potential backers by pitching The Big Bang, an elephantine musical about no less than the history of mankind (Sept. 9-Oct. 23).

Dad's Garage Theatre does the time warp to present the stage version of The Rocky Horror Show (Sept. 16-Oct. 23), the gender-bending, "science fiction double feature" cult classic, with Geoffrey Brown as sweet transvestite Dr. Frank 'n' Furter. ... Before his Tony- and Pulitzer-winning Rent, Jonathan Larson composed a loosely autobiographical musical, tick ... tick ... BOOM!, which explodes on the Alliance Hertz Stage Sept. 7-Oct. 2. ... The classic film about stage divas, Twentieth Century (co-written by Gone With the Wind's screenwriter, Ben Hecht), gets a theatrical staging at Georgia Ensemble Theatre in Roswell Sept. 8-25.

There's no special effect more eye-catching or less expensive than an unclad actor, and Actor's Express' Bug (Sept. 15-Oct. 29) will be highly "effective" in its chilling portrayal of two lovers seeking shelter in an Oklahoma motel room from threats real and imaginary. Playwright Tracy Letts also penned Actor's Express' disturbingly hilarious must-see Killer Joe from last year. ... Synchronicity Performance Group presents the world premiere of Women and War, a company-created work based on the stories of how war changed the lives of 50 Atlanta women. ... Theatre in the Square offers another perspective of women at war in A Piece of My Heart (through Sept. 25), which looks at the Vietnam War through the eyes of five nurses and a country-Western singer who entertains the troops.

7 Stages artistic director Del Hamilton and producing director Faye Allen star in Alice and Kafka Are Dead/Long Live the Rosenbergs, a world premiere co-created with Belgrade's Dah Theater that encompasses capital punishment, the Rosenberg trial and Alice in Wonderland. ... 7 Stages will set off more verbal fireworks with its double feature of edgy, thought-provoking shows by Caryl Churchill: the cloning drama A Number (Oct. 13-Nov. 9), and the bedtime fantasy-turned-waking nightmare Far Away (Oct. 27-Nov. 20).

In its Top Shelf space, Dad's Garage presents the world premiere of Sleepy, a darkly surreal short play cycle concerning insomnia, jellyfish and gunplay by Steve Yockey (Oct. 14-Nov. 5). ... The Process Theatre presents Relations Unknown (Oct. 21-Nov. 19), a comedy of nontraditional families by Atlanta playwright Topher Payne. In repertory, the company restages its drag Hollywood satire Vampire Lesbians of Sodom (Oct. 21-31), both at Whole World Theatre's Third Space. ... The Center for Puppetry Arts combines spoken word, performance art, macabre music and spooky puppets for its new Halloween show, Something Wicked (Oct. 12-29).

Two dazzling one-man shows get welcome reprises. Steve Coulter plays an eccentric Dutch librarian unraveling a quirky, cosmic mystery in Underneath the Lintel at Aurora Theatre (Sept. 15-18). And Bill Murphey alternates between 40 characters in Theatre in the Square's send-up of trendy restaurant culture, Fully Committed (Oct. 5-Nov. 13). ... Jewish Theatre of the South's Affluenza! takes a 21st-century consumer-culture approach to Moliere-style comedy (Sept. 8-Oct. 2). ... Out of Hand Theater and Theater Emory join forces to co-produce an off-beat staging of Euripides' tragedy Alcestis (Oct. 6-16). ... Carol Mitchell-Leon, Daniel Pettrow, Shelby Hofer and Matt Stanton star in PushPush Theater's updated staging of Anton Chekhov's bittersweet The Seagull (Sept. 1-Oct. 1). ... PushPush Theater jumps from Russia to Germany for Friedrich Schiller's The Robbers (Oct. 21-Nov. 19), about two brothers -- one a tyrant, the other a terrorist. ... Theatre Gael's The Plough and the Stars (Sept. 9-Oct. 16) by Irish playwright Sean O'Casey takes a tragicomic look at the 1916 uprising in Dublin.

Theatrical Outfit brings back the oft-staged Cotton Patch Gospel (Sept. 28-Oct. 23), a roof-raising reinterpretation of the Christ story, transplanted to rural Georgia, starring co-author Tom Key. ... Brandon Dirden and Crystal Dickinson play a certain pair of star-crossed lovers in Georgia Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet (Oct. 12-Nov. 6). ... The Shakespeare Tavern's fall lineup includes the political drama Julius Caesar (Sept. 2-Oct. 2), the early comedy Two Gentlemen of Verona (Oct. 6-30), and the problematic "romance" Cymbeline (Nov. 3-Dec. 4). ... Onstage Atlanta gets nostalgic for the Korean War in MASH (Sept. 1-Oct. 1), a stage comedy based not on the film or TV series, but the original novel. ... An infamous pair of mass murderers take a Tarantino-esque movie director hostage and blame him for their criminal tendencies in the dark comedy Popcorn at offoffpeachtree theatre (Sept. 29-Oct. 23).

The one-man touring show Defending the Caveman -- a tame but upbeat evening of stand-up comedy-sized observations about the differences between men and women -- returns to the 14th Street Playhouse from Oct. 14-Nov. 19.

Finally, Actor's Express and Synchronicity Performance Group get a head-start on the holidays by co-producing The Long Christmas Ride Home (Nov. 10-Dec. 17). Pulitzer-winning playwright Paula Vogel (How I Learned to Drive) spikes the eggnog in her portrayal of a holiday gathering that revels in not just the presents under the tree, but also the skeletons in the closet.

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