Full bloom

This spring, the local theater companies are all grown up

They dance whenever they’re able: The knights of TMCC’s <i>Spamalot</i>.

They dance whenever they’re able: The knights of TMCC’s Spamalot.

Photo/Allison Young

I've been writing these twice-yearly theater previews for a few years, and each year I see local theater companies blazing more trails, landing bigger fish, establishing deeper roots … and lots of other clichés that mean good things for area stages.

A spring theater preview may call to mind all sorts of seasonal metaphors—fledgling, blossoming, budding. A few years ago, they may have fit. But with developments such as multimillion-dollar upgrades, heavyweight artists in residence, original plays and innovative art forms, those terms no longer fit. The local theater scene is officially all grown up.

Drinking age: Brüka Theatre

Raise a glass to a pillar of Reno theater: Brüka’s celebrating its 21st birthday by binging on innovation and challenge—just before construction starts on the new Virginia Street Bridge and potentially affects next season.

In March, spring comes in like The Lyons, a caustic, semi-autobiographical comedy by Nicky Silver (author of Fat Men in Skirts and The Food Chain) about a terminally ill father whose wife has waited far too long to let his kids know about it.

Nothing about April’s Les Liaisons Dangereuses is lamb-like—not with its stories of lust, betrayal and sexual manipulation. Director Holly Natwora sets this version in 1920s Paris, and incorporates costumes by Lady Hull that draw upon French designer Erté’s long, elegant styles, which are so iconic of the period.

An icon of a different kind takes the stage in late May. Controversial President Andrew Jackson gets a 21st-century emo rock star makeover in Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson, which Brüka calls “a Wild West rock musical.”

Playwright-in-residence and director Sandra Neace returned from New York’s International Fringe Festival with Best-in-Show-winner 5 Lesbians Eating a Quiche in tow. This comedy, opening in July, is set in a 1950s Cold War-era bomb shelter, where the ladies of the Susan B. Anthony Society for the Sisters of Gertrude Stein have unwittingly ended up together.

Brüka’s Theater for Children tackles another Brothers Grimm tale with Goldi, a contemporary retelling of the Goldilocks story in which the young home intruder is torn between two families—her own, and the one in her fantasies. For tickets and information, visit bruka.org.

Locals only: Goodluck Macbeth

Goodluck Macbeth’s 2014 season is comprised almost entirely of original work created by Reno-area artists. Kicking things off, and running through Feb. 22, is a coproduction with improv troupe The Utility Players titled The Game Show Show. Two teams—the Utility Players and other teams of locals—will face off in two hilarious and unpredictable game show showdowns.

Also in March, GLM’s Spotlight Academy for Young Actors presents John Lennon & Me, the story of a terminally ill girl with a rich fantasy life.

The Memory Card is a show conceived by the Reno Video Game Orchestra and developed with Goodluck Macbeth. Opening March 21, this sci-fi story plunges an adolescent girl into the world of video games. The show combines original music, video projection and an audience-guided storyline with three possible endings, &#;agrave; la the Choose Your Own Adventure book series.

Playwright-in-residence Stacey Spain directs her own original piece, opening May 2. The Killarney Sabbatical is a comedic drama about a teacher on sabbatical in Ireland who must deal with the daughter she left behind there years ago. Goodluck Macbeth, now a formal acting company as of this season, hopes to tour this production around the region.

Starting in late June comes one of GLM’s only non-original production of the season: Sondheim’s Company, a musical comedy about a 30-something bachelor whose married pals keep offering advice for his commitment phobia. Local dance instructor Jessica Mann choreographs this piece, which will feature Cami Thompson.

A GLM summer staple gets a new look. Now in its third year, Hot August Sock Hop still immerses audiences in the music of the ’50s and ’60s. It revisits a previous character, Gertie, who is now older and the proprietress of a creature-features-only drive-in theater.

Then in late August comes Miss Ginger Devine: Undressed. The local drag queen’s alter-ego, Chris Daniels (a Utility Player), created this semi-autobiographical one-woman show that examines the life and ridiculousness of life as Reno’s number-one drag queen.

For tickets and information, visit GoodLuckMacbeth.org

A little kicky: University of Nevada, Reno

New year, new digs, new name. As the $4 million renovation to its theater space prepares to wrap up this spring, the University of Nevada, Reno’s Department of Theatre & Dance sheds its Nevada Repertory Company moniker, and asserts the important role of dance in its performance schedule, starting with Farflung, opening Feb. 28.

As Department Chair Rob Gander explains, Farflung is a production using the postmodern style of devised theater.

“It’s a contemporary method where you start with a premise and build collaboratively,” he says. “You might start with a theme, and you begin to explore the idea, rehearsing without a script.”.

Devised by students and director Susan Pfeffer, and with original music composed by Graham Flett, Farflung will feature media projections; wacky lighting cues; odd audience configurations; an abstract, non-linear story; and an exploration of the intersection between theater and dance.

In April is The Museum Plays, a compilation of student-directed, 10-minute one-acts. The show explores our relationships with art—what it can do, and what it fails to do.

In May, modern dance and performance artists Casebolt and Smith will do four performances of their comedic show O(h). For tickets and information, visit www.unr.edu/cla/theatredance/

Charmed: Reno Little Theater

Love and folly are in the air at RLT this spring. The season starts with the next installment in RLT’s Off-Off Broadway Series, dedicated to spotlighting fringe theater and local playwrights. Jack Neary’s play Jerry Finnegan’s Sister is the charming story of a man finally dealing with his unrequited love for his best friend’s sister.

One of America’s great farces, Ken Ludwig’s Lend Me a Tenor opens in March, complete with slamming doors, mistaken identities and silly outfits. Artistic Director Doug Mishler calls it “insane opera meets Noises Off.” An opera star is believed dead, and the show must go on—someone must dress as him to fool the audience, and, as you’d expect, mayhem ensues.

Comedy turns to drama in May with The Heiress, a story of a trying father-daughter relationship, the changing role of women in the turn of the 20th century and a love story gone horribly wrong.

Off-Off Wells returns in June with the coming of age story Slab Boys, about young Scottish men working at a carpet factory who dream of better lives.

RLT’s Artown offerings feature something for adults and children. In the first weekend of July comes Sleeping Beauty. The following week, audiences will get an opportunity to interact with performers in Shakespeare Abridged, the hilarious parody that takes on every single one of the Bard’s plays in one fell swoop.

For tickets and information visit RenoLittleTheater.org

Stayin’ classy: TheatreWorks of Northern Nevada

Parodies aren’t just for grown-ups. In April, TWNN’s youth company members present The Brothers Grimm Spectacularthon, during which they’ll take on all 209 fairy tales in two hours or less.

TWNN offers a year-round, revolving schedule of youth and teen classes, and all students are invited to audition for company productions, including this July’s Artown Family Series performance of Charlotte’s Web (auditions are in April). Wilbur the Pig, Templeton the Rat, some sheep and, of course, Charlotte the Spider come to life thanks to marvelous costuming.

For tickets and information, visit TWNN.org

Just a flesh wound: TMCC Performing Arts

Twenty-eight TMCC Performing Arts cast members in medieval costumes will sing and dance a lot, eat ham a lot and jam a lot in Spamalot: The Musical, the stage adaptation of the film Monty Python and the Holy Grail, opening March 28.

The mood turns dark in May for Never the Sinner, an intense drama about the 1920s murder trial of “thrill killers” Leopold and Loeb.

Then things lighten up for the end of May and the TMCC Performing Arts season, with Philippine Cultural Night, a student-written theater performance that weaves Filipino history and dances of the cultural heritage into the plot.

For tickets and information, visit performingarts.tmcc.edu

The old razzle-dazzle: Western Nevada Musical Theatre Company

Apparently, May means murder and music. WNMTC brings Broadway blockbuster Chicago to the Carson City Community Center. Also set in the 1920s, the story follows two imprisoned female murderers in the Windy City and the slick lawyer whose showmanship makes them celebrities. Some 40 dancers back up the leads, accompanied by the show’s numerous musical hits performed by a 14-piece orchestra. Parental guidance is suggested, and discounted season tickets are available, which gain holders entrance into both Chicago and November’s My Fair Lady.

For tickets and information, visit WNMTC.com.

Triple threat: Brewery Arts Center

BAC hits all the performing arts this season.

Theater? Check out Proscenium Players Inc.’s murder mystery and dessert buffet, Love is a Many Deadly Thing, February 21-March 1. Bring your kids to see Wild Horse Children’s Theater’s production of Mulan, Jr. in April. Or, see written works adapted for the stage during the Carson City Readers’ Theatre Series of New Works, July 18-20.

Music? Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day early with a concert by Men of Worth on March 14.

Dance is covered during Beer, Brats and Ballet, a dancing/drinking/dining extravaganza presented by Sierra Nevada Ballet and BAC on May 17.

For tickets and information, visit BreweryArts.org.