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Fall into Theater

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The recent or impending closures of high-profile theaters like Common Ground and Manbites Dog aren't slowing down the Triangle's theater artists this fall, who offer everything from an operatic adaptatation of Charles Frazier to a riff on Pink Floyd's The Dark Side of the Moon.

COLD MOUNTAIN
Sep. 28–Oct. 1, N.C. Opera/Carolina Performing Arts at UNC's Memorial Hall
Charles Frazier's best-selling debut novel is running out of genres to which it can be adapted. Audiobook? Check. Blockbuster with Jude Law and Nicole Kidman? Check. Opera? Here's a 2015 work by Pulitzer-winning composer Jennifer Higdon in its North Carolina premiere. Higdon, a Tennessee native, reportedly had to help New York librettist Gene Scheer finesse the Southern speech patterns during the opera's development. Apparently, it worked; the premiere took top honors at the 2016 International Opera Awards.

SCHOOL PROJECT
Oct. 4, Duke Performances at Motorco Music Hall
The New York City-based investigative theater troupe and Duke Performances artists-in-residence The Civilians were recruiting sources for their current work last fall while staging The Undertaking, their evening-length memento mori. After interviewing students, parents, teachers, lobbyists, and legislators intent on increasing the number of charter schools exponentially across North Carolina, director Steve Cosson and his team, pairing with Obie-winning writer Ethan Lipton, start to reveal their findings in this workshop reading at Motorco.

ALMOST HOME
Oct. 7 & 8, Ward Theatre Company
Wendy Ward and her students created Almost Home within weeks of Hurricane Ike crushing the island of Galveston in 2008, killing seventeen people. Since then, she's restaged this tribute in Australia, in the aftermath of a disastrous flood, and twice stateside, for the victims of Hurricane Katrina and for those worldwide. Recent weeks have demanded another revival—a benefit for the survivors of hurricanes Harvey and Irma. If you saw the shipwreck in her harrowing production of I Wish You a Boat, you know what waters you're heading toward.

DARKSIDE
Oct. 12–29, Burning Coal Theatre Company
Tom Stoppard remembers a friend buying him a copy of Pink Floyd's The Dark Side of the Moon in 1973, saying Stoppard had to write a play about it. He finally did when the BBC commissioned a radio play to mark the historic rock album's fortieth anniversary in 2013. In Darkside, two winsome philosophy students have deep thoughts about time, brain damage, and other themes as the classic album winds along underneath—before the great gig in the sky, of course.

A SOLDIER'S PLAY
Oct. 13–29, Justice Theater Project at Umstead Park UCC
Before A Soldier's Story gave Denzel Washington his first major film role, A Soldier's Play, the off-Broadway stage work it was based on, won the 1982 Pulitzer Prize for Drama. In it, a black Army captain—a rarity in 1944—is sent to investigate the murder of a black sergeant near a segregated base in Louisiana, where the captain uncovers interracial strife and hatreds, potentially just as murderous. TJ Swann and Moses T. Alexander Greene star.

HOUSE OF THE FURY
Oct. 26–31, Sonorous Road Theatre
Why do few parents name their children Tisiphone, Megaera, or Alecto? In Ancient Greece, the mere mention of these names was believed to summon the Furies. In Sonorous Road's interactive, immersive Halloween offering, the decisions you make in small groups of eight determine what's going to happen to the twenty-odd characters you meet—and, of course, to you—in the darkened rooms ahead. Artistic director Michelle Murray Wells promises this choose-your-own-adventure work is "about a lot more than jump scares and spooky costumes."

LIFE SUCKS
Oct. 26–Nov. 11, Manbites Dog Theater
The titles are the first indications that Aaron Posner's adaptations of Chekhov are a little ... looser than most. His version of The Seagull? Stupid Fucking Bird. Manbites Dog opens its thirty-first and final season with this optimistically titled opus, a riff on—what else?—Uncle Vanya. In Posner's hands, the Russian classic devolves into a series of grudge matches between ex-lovers, embittered in-laws, and lifelong enemies. Come out swinging when you hear the bell. Company cofounder Jeff Storer directs.

PERFECT ARRANGEMENT
Oct. 27–Nov. 12, Raleigh Little Theatre
Audiences gasped during Angry Fags, Topher Payne's pitch-black comedy about gay vigilantes, during a staged reading last year. In Payne's second local sighting, it's 1950, at the start of McCarthy's witchhunt for commies, and Bob and Norma have been tasked with rooting out another security risk: sexual subversives at the State Department. The problem? They're both gay themselves, and they've married each other's partners and acquired adjoining apartments to conceal this little wrinkle. If I Love Lucy had gone LBGTQ, it probably would have looked like this.

PARABLE OF THE SOWER
Nov. 16 & 17, Carolina Performing Arts at UNC's Memorial Hall
In MacArthur Fellow Octavia Butler's science-fiction novel, Parable of the Sower, a near-future California has devolved into fortified, corrupt communities besieged by scavengers and gangs. In one of them, a young woman who feels every physical pain she witnesses is starting a new religion that could save the people and the planet. Toshi Reagon and her mother, Bernice—cofounder of Sweet Honey in the Rock—have drawn on two centuries of black music in adapting Butler's work into a powerful political opera.

DOT
Nov. 22–Dec. 10, PlayMakers Repertory Company

Christmas comes to a declining neighborhood in West Philly, and Shelly, a middle-aged lawyer, is fed up. Her sister, a wannabe actor named Averie, has been hanging out in her basement for too long. Her less-than-useful gay brother, Donnie, has brought his white husband, Adam, home for the holidays. And her mom, Dot, keeps veering back and forth between lucidity and dementia. Colman Domingo's dramatic comedy looks at a constellation of social issues with compassion and wit as a black nuclear family teeters on the verge of meltdown.

LAKE PLACID
Nov. 24–Dec. 9, Little Green Pig Theatrical Concern at Durham Fruit & Produce Company

The next improbable challenge for Little Green Pig artistic director Jaybird O'Berski and a talented nonet, including Germain Choffart, Dana Marks, and Mara Thomas? 1. Create and explore the structure for an improvised play that's different every night. 2. Set it in the titular city during the 1980 Winter Olympics. 3. Add music by coconspirators Louis Landry and Matt Booth. This is a world premiere.

LITTLE NEMO
Nov. 30–Dec. 16, Manbites Dog Theater

Torry Bend's "toy theater" productions have dazzled us in the past. In works including The Paper Hat Game and If My Feet Have Lost the Ground, her characters confront the dilemmas of making and maintaining community. Her audacious innovations convincingly simulate a host of cinematic techniques involving tracking shots, zooms, and changes in point of view. In this workshop production, hosted by Manbites Dog Theater, Bend forays into the dream world of Winsor McCay's beloved cartoon creation.

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