Fall theater forecast

Mostly sunny, with a chance of searing commentary

Director Chase McKenna delivers her solilioquy as Judith in <i>Equivocation</i>. The show runs through Sept. 24.

Director Chase McKenna delivers her solilioquy as Judith in Equivocation. The show runs through Sept. 24.

Photo/Allison Young

Fires, floods, hurricanes—the end of summer felt like the end of days. Now we’re left cautiously poking our heads into the first week of fall, hoping for sunnier news and happier days. The local theater scene is delivering. Though their fall rosters feature shows containing biting criticisms and long-held grudges—leveled at everything from millennials to William Shakespeare, smartphones and the American dream—their schedules also promise plenty of laughter, feel-good musicals, madcap mysteries, silliness and irreverence to chase away those end-of-days blues.

Season of transformation: Brüka Theatre

As the leaves change colors and the air turns cold, Brüka kicks off its quarter-century season with its own theme of transformation. It’s turning theater traditions on their ear, and farce rules the fall. The fun starts with The Real Inspector Hound, running Oct. 6-28. Written by Tom Stoppard, the genius behind Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, this clever spoof of Agatha Christie-like melodramas is the story of feuding theater critics who become swept up in the whodunit they’re viewing. Interestingly (for an October Brüka mainstage show), it’s appropriate for ages 8 and up.

Brüka’s saying a big thank you to the arts community this season, showcasing its staying power in a number of ways. First is the sixth annual Biggest Little Theater Festival, running Nov. 8-12. The event offers a rare opportunity for local budding playwrights to submit their original scripts for short plays and potentially be among the five plays chosen to be staged at Brüka, potentially giving them a boost toward other national and international festival submissions. At press time, winners had not been announced. However, artists make a percentage at the door, so attendance is a great way to support local artists directly.

Brüka’s staying power also can be seen in its long-running, beloved Buttcracker series. This fall’s Buttcracker 8: The Biggest Little Buttcracker in the World, honors its own 25th anniversary and Reno’s year-long 150th birthday celebration. The hilarious show that always skewers holiday traditions will take audiences on a trip through time to witness Reno’s outlandish history, Nov. 24-Dec. 23.

In another tip of the hat to Reno’s contributions to Brüka and the arts community, the company will start 2018 with a fundraiser it’s calling Take Five: Making Art in Reno. Mark those brand-new calendars for the two-night run, Jan. 12-13, as Brüka welcomes artists from all disciplines, who will each give a five-minute talk about making their art, and making it here.

Parents, if you’re looking to schedule something for your kids to do over winter break, Brüka is also holding a one-week, full-day, intensive camp focusing on the craft of acting. Stay tuned to the website for dates and details.

That leads nicely to a modern classic work, The Lion in Winter, opening Jan. 26.

Tickets and information: www.bruka.org

On the Move: Good Luck Macbeth

Reno has indeed been kind to its theater companies. As Brüka’s season is just winding up and it celebrates 25 years in its downtown location, Good Luck Macbeth’s own calendar-year season is winding down, and its company members are pleased to say they’ve outgrown their own beloved Midtown quarters and are on the hunt for larger digs.

Their ultimate destination is uncertain for now, and, for the time being, they’re still on South Virginia, and still rockin’ itin Generation WE: A Hip-HOpera. Producing Artistic Director Joe Atack and fellow Weapons of Mass Creation (WMC) band member and artist Pan Pantoja of The Potentialist Workshop came together, with input from playwright Martin Gonzalez, to devise this hop opera. With WMC’s final 10 tracks of its double album as the soundtrack and story line, the production includes song, rap, poetry and dance as its four characters struggle to chase the illusive American dream. It runs Oct. 20-Nov. 11. But, on Oct. 15, catch a sneak preview concert, to coincide with the Reno Mural Expo, featuring music from the show.

We then, believe it or not, head straight into the holidays. At GLM, that means Jeff Goode’s The Eight: Reindeer Monologues. Perfect for anyone sick of saccharine Scrooges and cheery holiday chestnuts, The Eight is a dark, dark Christmas comedy in which Santa’s eight reindeer dish the real dirt on Santa’s indiscretions. It seems jolly old Saint Nick has been accused of sexual assault. As the police investigation unfolds, a disturbing and hilarious tale of corruption and perversion emerges. Directed by Emily Skyle, it runs Dec. 1-23.

Though it won’t kick off until early February and may be in a different space, make plans to attend GLM’s first show of the season, another show paying tribute to Reno’s 150th birthday: The Royale: A Play in Six Rounds by Marco Ramirez. It’s the story of the fight of the century, a boxing match set in the Biggest Little City.

Tickets and information: www.goodluckmacbeth.org

In Flight: Laughing Owl Productions Theatre Company

It’s a unique time in this community right now, both in terms of theater and real estate. As Good Luck Macbeth begins scouting new locations, Laughing Owl Productions searches for a place to land. The fledgling company started by Dave and Angela Anderson in 2015 took its shows on the road back in spring when the rent at its Wells Avenue location became too steep. Though they are currently without a place to roost, the company enjoyed a successful three-show summer at Sparks Amphitheater.

As Laughing Owl awaits approval on its 501(c)3 filing, it plans a one-week theater boot camp timed for the Washoe County School District’s fall break, Oct. 2-6. Designed for the underserved 11-17 age group, the camp, which will run 9 a.m.-3 p.m. each day, will take place at McQueen High School and cover everything from movement and voice to audition preparation and scene study. The company is fortunate that several local theater luminaries share their talents; boot camp lessons will be led by the likes of Sandra Brunell-Neace, Rachel Lopez and Adam Whitney.

Tickets and information: www.laughingowlproductions.com

Sending Sparks: Restless Artists Theatre

Happily rooted in downtown Sparks, Restless Artists remains true to its name by planning under-the-radar, character-driven shows that tackle real issues without bells and whistles. Take, for instance, Going Green, which runs Sept. 2-Oct. 8. This lighthearted political comedy tells the story of John Brown, future leader of the Green Party, who finds he must step away from politics because of a mysterious illness, and his medication has unexpectedand propheticresults.

Then comes Out of Sterno, Oct. 27-Nov. 12. It’s a comedy about Dotty, a woman who is blissfully married to Hamel, despite the fact that he hasn’t let her leave their tiny apartment or speak to anyone in years, and he insists upon her repeatedly watching video re-enactments of the day they first met. She’s thrilled to do it until a strange woman’s phone call forces her to leave her apartment and venture into the big, bad city of Sterno.

The charming Heisenberg takes the stage Dec. 1-17. This spin on romantic comedies introduces Alex, a standoffish 75-year-old British butcher, to Georgie, a loud, aggressive, 42-year-old woman who can’t decide what she wants to be when she grows up. Turns out they’ve found the true love neither of them went looking for.

RAT looks forward to more great things, thanks to a grant bestowed upon them by the City of Sparks and the Nevada Arts Council, which will enable them to put in new lights and continue improving an ever-evolving space.

Tickets and information: www.rattheatre.org

Stage and screen: UNR Department of Theatre & Dance

The tension between old school and new school is brought to life at our local university this fall with Annie Baker’s The Flick, in which employees of a rundown movie theater mop the floors and attend to one of the last remaining 35-millimeter film projectors in the state. Millennial angst runs rampant among the play’s characters, who are all trying to find themselves as they wrestle with the walls the digital age has built between us and the pain that comes from progress and growing up. The theater students involved are building a theater-within-a-theater for this production, which runs Oct. 13-21.

The annual fall dance festival will take place Nov. 16-18 and feature student-choreographed work as well as choreography by faculty members Cari Cunningham and Eve Allen.

A concerned Christine (Kathy Welch) comes around with a casserole for John Brown (Kevin McCray) in Restless Artists Theatre’s production of <i>Going Green</i>.

Photo/Allison Young

Tickets and information: www.unr.edu/cla/theatredance

Playing with the classics: Reno Little Theater

There’s only one more weekend to catch Equivocation, a satire that takes aim at politicians and even the great Bard himself as it asks the question, “How do you tell the truth in dangerous times?”

Then, next week, the RLT gang starts setting up for its first children’s show of the season, A Wrinkle in Time, running Oct. 13-15. With the March release of the Hollywood film rapidly approaching, this show’s tickets are already selling, so you might want to get yours now.

Following that, RLT heads into its first production in its ongoing Latino series (in collaboration with Latino ARTE), a Spanish-language Frida, which tells the story of artist Frida Kahlo, including her tempestuous relationship with muralist Diego Rivera. It runs Oct. 26-29.

This year’s RLT holiday promises fun and irreverence. It’s Jacob Marley’s Christmas Carol, running Nov. 24-Dec. 17. It’s a modernized retelling of Dickens’ classic tale, as told from the perspective of Jacob Marley, who “was dead to begin with” in the original. Chad Sweet directs the three-person cast, who play a multitude of characters.

RLT’s highly successful Act Out! education program will include a Broadway Our Way class that will take students to the famed school that was built vertically by mistake: Sideways Stories From Wayside School. It culminates in performances that are open to the public, Dec. 15-16.

Then the company takes a few weeks off for the holidays and prepares to mount its biggest show of the season, Steel Magnolias, directed by Rachel Lopez and running Jan. 19-Feb. 11.

Tickets and information: www.renolittletheater.org

Dammit, Janet!: TMCC Performing Arts

Time to do the time warp again. Truckee Meadows Community College Performing Arts is bringing back The Rocky Horror Show by popular demand—its 2009 production sold out every performance and even forced some standing-room-only admissions. Catch it Oct. 20-29, or a special Halloween performance Oct. 31. But leave your bags of toast and rubber duckies at home: It’s only interactive if you purchase a bag of goodies at the door (gotta protect that 25-person cast, you know).

That’s followed in December by TMCC’s annual children’s production, through which up to 1,800 Washoe County schoolchildren are provided with the opportunity to see live theater. This year’s show is Totally Red, a spinoff of the tale of Little Red Riding Hood. TMCC also will offer public performances on Dec. 15 and 16.

Tickets and information: www.tmcc.edu/visual-performing-arts/performance-schedule

Tale as old as time: Western Nevada Musical Theatre Company

Renowned for its big blockbuster musical productions, this Carson City company offers up another spectacular Disney production, on the heels of a film release that broke records. This full Broadway version of Beauty and the Beast will feature stunning costumes, sets and lighting, as well as accompaniment by a large, professional orchestra.

You’ll see complex production numbers choreographed by Gina Kaskie Davis, as well as the work of 20 professional seamstresses, set artists and builders, vocal and instrumental directors, technicians and musicians.

And a word of caution: If WNMTC’s trend of increasing ticket sales are any indication, this one should sell out early, so prepare to purchase tickets early. With only 10 performances, it runs Nov. 4-19.

Tickets and information: www.wnmtc.com

It's an illusion: Eldorado Resort Casino

If spectacle is your thing, don’t miss Adam Trent, the breakout star of traveling magic production The Illusionists, for 90 minutes of magic and comedy at the Eldorado Theatre. He’s playing now through Oct. 22.

That segues nicely into The Unbelievables, a new, large-scale, touring variety show featuring magic, acrobatics, music and more, brought to you by the folks behind The Illusionists. The Eldorado is being tight-lipped about this one, but stay tuned to the website for big updates on this show, which runs Nov. 21-Dec. 31.

Tickets and information: www.eldoradoreno.com

Swan song: Wild Horse Children's Theater

This theater company dedicated to providing performance opportunities to Carson City-area school kids has a reputation for providing knockout juniorized versions of Broadway musicals, and always with professional-quality song-and-dance numbers and intricate sets and costume designs. This fall’s production of Honk! Jr. is no different. This musical version of the classic tale about bullying—Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Ugly Duckling”—runs for eight performances between Dec. 8-17 and will feature about 80 local youths, on stage and backstage, ages 5-18. Look for them to make a splash in raincoats and 1950s-era dress as they belt out fun, upbeat tunes about the show’s theme of love and acceptance.

The company will also be taking this production on the road to the iTheatrics Broadway Junior All Stars competition in February in Sacramento, where they’ll perform before a potential 1,500 students from around the world. They’re no strangers to the competition; last year, they took Beauty and the Beast and snagged awards, including an Excellent Visual Performance by a Female award for their lead actress. They have high hopes for Honk! JR., not least because the company received a grant to produce anti-bullying workshops at the Carson City Library and Boys and Girls Clubs for elementary kids in concert with the show.

Tickets and information: www.wildhorsetheater.com

Good Grief: TheatreWorks of Northern Nevada

Another local company committed to introducing youth to performance opportunities, TWNN is really getting into the community spirit this fall. It starts Oct. 4 when the Kids Take Center Stage education program cast presents a free public performance of an excerpt from their summer Artown show, Shrek: The Musical, at the Southside School in downtown Reno. Donations are requested, and all proceeds benefit Volunteers of America.

That’s followed by TWNN’s second-annual family fundraiser gala, A Charlie Brown Christmas, on Nov. 5. Along with the show—watch for all-new directors, casts and sets every year—you’ll enjoy photos with Santa, face painting, arts and crafts projects, cookies and milk and a full, seated dinner, all at the Atlantis Casino Resort Spa. A one-weekend run of public performances then take place Dec. 15-17.

And if your kids are looking to take the stage, check out TWNN’s fall break, full-day arts camp, featuring music, theater, improv and visual arts, culminating in a showcase at the end of the week for parents. TWNN’s winter break camp runs Jan. 1-12. See the website for details.

Tickets and information: www.twnn.org