Reno’s fall theater lineup is all about the fun
Well, folks, it's curtains for summer, and I admit I'm going kicking and screaming into fall this year. Though I dread the gray days, too-soon sunsets and loss of my beloved tomato season, it helps that area stages are there to ease my pain with a playful lineup of shows promising all the laughs and lighthearted fun I need to weather the coming storms.
Here's what you should watch this fall.
Delightful dramedies: Restless Artists Theatre
If you had to say RAT had a niche, it would be the upbeat, sweet, romantic comedy about faulty, fragile people. This fall, its Sparks-based black box theater will host several shows designed to warm your heart on cold nights. First comes Maytag Virgin (Sept. 28-Oct. 14) by Southern playwright Audrey Cefaly. It’s the story of a busted dryer, but more than that, it’s about two badly damaged people—recently widowed Alabama school teacher Lizzy and her lonely new neighbor, Jack—as they struggle to overcome the inertia that has settled over their lives and learn to move forward.
Fall also seems to mean an examination of the recently widowed at RAT. Be a Good Little Widow (Nov. 2-18) is playwright Bekah Brunstetter’s funny-sad story about Melody, who’s new to this whole widow thing after her husband dies in a plane crash. Not knowing what appropriate widow behavior might be, she turns to her mother-in-law, who has plenty of experience, and the two learn together how to negotiate a generation clash and the pain of loss. Like Maytag Virgin, this one promises clever, witty dialogue that ultimately lifts the heart.
Cold weather also makes a perfect time to tuck in for a cozy thriller—especially as an alternative to the saccharine-sweet holiday chestnuts on offer everywhere else. The 39 Steps (Dec. 6-23) is the salty counterbalance, a spoofy, sidesplitting sendup of all those old Hitchcock and film-noir whodunits of the ‘30s, with a little Monty Python mixed in for good measure. A cast of three carries this story featuring a couple hundred ridiculous characters, often at a breathless pace. Just check your brain at the door.
Watch for another silly winter whodunit to kick off the new year: Charles Ludlam’s The Artificial Jungle (Jan. 11) features a couple who own a second-rate pet shop, a plot to kill a husband and a bunch of piranhas.
Tickets and information: www.rattheatre.org
Flashback fun: Goodluck Macbeth
Silly spoofs reign supreme this fall, and Goodluck Macbeth’s got madcap master Mel Brooks on tap. In GLM’s tradition of staging Halloween cult-classic musicals, it’s bringing Brooks’ Broadway musical Young Frankenstein (Oct. 5-Nov. 3) to life. The company’s newish space on Taylor Street in midtown will be transformed into a Transylvanian castle, where a cast of 20 and a 10-person band will put on this extravagant production jam-packed with musical numbers that tell the tale of Dr. Frankenstein ("Fronk-en-steen"), his hunchbacked sidekick Igor ("Eye-gor") and the monster they make together in the attic.
GLM’s season wraps up with another homage to a classic, this one a guilty pleasure from the ‘80s that seems to be enjoying a nostalgic resurgence. The Golden Girls Live Holiday Special (Nov. 30-Dec. 22) is a drag parody of all the sitcom’s holiday episodes, complete with kitchy sets, commercial breaks and the witty barbs we loved from our four favorite Florida seniors, including Blanche Devereaux, who will be played by one of Reno’s favorite drag artists, Christopher Daniels, as well as Bill Ware as Dorothy Zbornak.
GLM goes dark after the holidays before launching its 2019 season in February with the stage adaptation of the film Shakespeare in Love.
Tickets and information: www.goodluckmacbeth.org
White wedding: TMCC Performing Arts
Speaking of cheesy ‘80s stuff, Truckee Meadows Community College Performing Arts presents that monument to the decade of big hair and boom boxes, The Wedding Singer (Nov. 2-18), on the stage. Based closely on the 1998 film, this musical with a cast of 27 features—in typically grand TMCC fashion—15 or more impressive set changes, as well as plenty of musical numbers and a hilarious storyline about a wedding singer who, ironically, gets dumped at the altar and winds up meeting the girl of his dreams.
The college wraps its 2018 performance schedule with a band concert (Dec. 4) and a choir concert (Dec. 12) to show off its students’ multitude of musical talents.
Tickets and information: www.tmcc.edu/visual-performing-arts/performance-schedule
Fancy footwork: UNR Department of Theatre & Dance
Also from the halls of academia, the University of Nevada, Reno’s fall roster of Theatre & Dance productions push the performers’ physical and mental strengths. The season kicks off with a free performance by Surabhi Bharadwaj, classical Indian dance artist (Oct. 5).
Then gears shift rapidly when All in the Timing, an evening of one-act comedies by David Ives (Oct. 12-14), takes the stage the following weekend. The show features six diverse but equally hysterical one-acts by the man called “the maestro of the short form.” The stories run the gamut from romantic to existentially minded or flat-out absurd, and all explore with blatant schtick the day-to-day challenges we all face as we rub shoulders with our fellow man (or, in one case, chimpanzees).
The department wraps up 2018 with its annual Fall Dance Festival (Nov. 15-17), featuring student performers showing off their fabulous footwork.
Tickets and information: www.unr.edu/cla/theatredance
Something old, something new: Brüka Theatre
Now in its 26th season, Brüka is mounting “a classic revolution,” a season themed around classic theater at its best. The new season’s lineup features entertaining and timeless works, though fall in particular is marked by some original pieces thrown in to keep us on our toes. It is Brüka, after all.
In October, settle in for a supernatural cinematic classic from 1957, Bell, Book & Candle (Oct. 12-28), which you may recognize as a Jimmy Stewart film you’ve caught once or twice on TCM. This charming precursor to Bewitched tells the story of Gillian, a beguiling and beautiful witch, who casts a spell on Shepherd, an attractive bachelor, setting off a troublesome romance between the two. The show will be produced in cinematic style, complete with background music and a live cat (every witch needs a cat!), a foster kitty on loan from the Nevada Humane Society as part of a mutually beneficial partnership for this production.
Next comes the sixth-annual Biggest Little Theatre & New Works Festival (Nov. 8-11), which blends Brüka’s own sort of classic, a six-year festival tradition that has been committed to highlighting local artists, with brand-spanking-new works. Rather than selecting a batch of locally created pieces to fully produce and run throughout the festival, this year’s event will offer up-and-coming artists an opportunity to have their plays done as live readings, followed by conversations with the performers, rather than having them all mount full productions. Producing artistic director Mary Bennett calls it “more of a ground floor for people who want to write and premiere it as a reading.” However, the festival will also include a few full productions as well as a playwriting workshop. New works—of an hour or less in length—may be submitted for consideration until Oct. 1.
Also beneficial and all new is Brüka Game Night (Nov. 17), the company’s fall fundraiser, which will include, for a small buy-in, such game night classics as cribbage and bingo, as well as door prizes.
If you can’t remember a holiday season without Buttcracker, you may need the break as much as the Brüka gang does. This year, the company’s tackling something completely different: The Mousehole Family Christmas Extravaganza (Dec. 7-22). Bennett herself is writing this hilarious romp in which the Mousehole family is dragged into some questionable holiday cheer, in Dickensian fashion, over a ridiculous 12 days of Christmas.
Tickets and information: www.bruka.org
Retelling tales: Reno Little Theater
This weekend is the last chance to catch David Mamet’s Oleanna (through Sept. 23), an intense, two-character, “he said-she-said” story directed by Sandra Brunell Neace about a university professor and a female student who accuses him of sexual harassment.
Things get decidedly lighter after that—first with RLT’s Theater for Young Audiences show, A Murder of Crows (Oct. 12-21), an eerie retelling of the classic tale of Hansel and Gretel, told from the perspective of a group of noisy crows, in which two poverty-stricken, abandoned children who are lost in the woods encounter a witch who promises treats while playing tricks.
RLT’s ongoing Latino theater series, El Teatro del Pueblo, presents a bilingual version of Frida (Oct. 25-28), a production that was well-received in Spanish only and is coming back by popular demand so that English speakers may also enjoy it.
Next comes another of the season’s twisted holiday tales, Every Christmas Story Ever Told (and Then Some!) (Nov. 23-Dec. 16), in which a small group of actors do just what the title would suggest. This funny and family-friendly romp moves at breathtaking pace, in the style of The Complete Works of Shakespeare (Abridged), as the characters, tired of performing Dickens for the umpteenth time, decide to try their hand at performing every Christmas tale ever told from around the world, from ancient works to pop culture favorites like Rudolph and Frosty.
The theater darkens after that as the company prepares to launch its biggest show of the season, Neil Simon’s Barefoot in the Park (Jan. 19-Feb. 3), about a young newlywed couple struggling to adjust to married life in New York City.
Also, keep your eye out for monthly jazz shows at RLT, as well as theater camps for kids during Washoe County School District breaks.
Tickets and information: www.renolittletheater.org
Now read this: Ageless Repertory Theater
A longtime partner resident at Reno Little Theater’s space, Ageless Repertory Theater offers audiences a rare opportunity to enjoy reader’s theater, a dramatic style in which actors do dramatic readings from scripts. Attendees can see how a play and its characters develop, using their imaginations to construct the sets, costumes and other production aspects. Each month, the seasoned troupe of senior actors with ART presents a short run of free, staged readings (donations are welcome) of a wide variety of plays.
There’s still time to catch the last performance of The Clean House (Sept. 21), a romantic comedy about Matilde, a Brazilian cleaning woman, who aspires to be a comedian.
Next month, catch the award-winning I’m Not Rappaport (Oct. 16 and 19), in which two elderly men sit on a park bench telling tall tales and delving into the issues of growing old.
November brings New Kid on the Block (Nov. 6 and 9), the story of three older gentlemen sharing a house who are looking to rent out their fourth bedroom—only there are some skeletons in their closets.
ART wraps up 2018 with Over the River and Through the Woods (Dec. 11 and 14), a play about a New Jersey bachelor whose frequent visits to see his Italian grandparents lead to some attempted matchmaking.
Tickets and information: www.renolittletheater.org/ART-at_RLT
Here we go again: Western Nevada Musical Theatre Company
On the heels of the film sequel, WNMTC, Carson City’s premier musical theater company, presents the stage version of Mamma Mia! (Nov. 2-18) to the Carson City Community Center. Set to the beloved soundtrack of Abba hits from the ‘70s, it’s a comedy about a young bride to be who discovers from her mother’s diary that there are three men who could possibly be her father—so she invites all three to the wedding, hoping to smoke out the real one in time for him to walk her down the aisle. Parental discretion is advised.
Tickets and information: www.wnmtc.com
Practically perfect in every way: Wild Horse Theatre
When it comes to beloved musicals, this one is timed perfectly to coincide with Disney’s upcoming holiday film release of a years-in-the-making sequel. Wild Horse Theatre, Carson City’s resident youth theater company, presents the Northern Nevada premiere of Disney’s Mary Poppins, Jr. (Nov. 30-Dec. 9). With a whopping 90-actor cast (leads are double cast, thanks to an overwhelming turnout in auditions), Wild Horse presents this magical production that mirrors the 1964 film, only somewhat shortened in content and music for the enjoyment of younger audiences. Audiences of all ages can expect to see Mary fly and hear all the classic songs they love. A midweek, school-audiences-only performance follows the run, so that area schoolchildren, who may not otherwise, can get the chance to see a live theater performance.
Families with aspiring actors in your home, take note: In January, Wild Horse holds auditions for its spring shows, Winnie the Pooh Kids and Disney’s Newsies.
Tickets and information: www.wildhorsetheater.com
Thinks you can: Sierra School of Performing Arts
Dedicated to inspiring young people to enjoy and take part in theater, as well as celebrating theatrical talent in the community, Sierra School of Performing Arts presents two productions each year, in summer and fall.
This holiday season, join the Grinch and his friends in Seussical the Musical (Dec. 7-8), a Tony-winning Broadway musical drawn from Dr. Seuss’ characters and famous stories, from Horton to the Cat in the Hat, who presides as master of ceremonies in this story about the magic of your imagination. A 30-plus-person cast of youth actors ages 7 to 18 performs three shows at Damonte Ranch High School, and the entire community is welcome.
Also, watch for SSPA classes held all year in acting, voice and dance.
Tickets and information: www.sierraschoolofperformingarts.org
A nice variety: Eldorado Resort Casino
Remember those old TV holiday variety show spectaculars from the ‘70s? The ones where you have skits performed by celebrity actors, singers, dancers, musicians, comedians, even ventriloquists, all wearing gorgeous costumes and entertaining the hell out of you for two hours? Crank that up to an 11 and add some contemporary music and performances, and you’ll have The Unbelievables (Nov. 16-Jan. 6), returning for a second holiday season in a row to The Row—the Eldorado Showroom, to be precise. This year’s production features local children’s choirs, 15-year-old singing sensation Evie Clair from America’s Got Talent and lots more family-friendly fun, performed in the round with champagne—or mocktail—seating.
Tickets and information: www.eldoradoreno.com/index.php/entertainment
The kids are all right: TheatreWorks of Northern Nevada
With a host of activities and performances that welcome kids of all ages and experience levels, TWNN launches into fall with a story that proves learning can be fun. The Phantom Tollbooth (Sept. 28-Oct. 7), based on the book by Norton Juster, tells the story of Milo, a kid who’s bored with life until one day he comes home to find a tollbooth in his room. It takes him to the Land of Wisdom, where he meets King Azaz, the Mathemagician and some new friends, and he is forced to rescue a princess from the Land of Ignorance. It’s a story about seeing learning in new ways and approaching it with a positive attitude. Students in TWNN’s new tech training program for youth will run sound and lights on this show.
Then, good grief, it’s our favorite blockhead in TWNN’s third-annual Charlie Brown Christmas Family Gala Fundraiser (Nov. 4). This family-friendly fundraising dinner and show will feature Showtime comedian Oscar Ovies as MC, vocal performances by Jakki Ford, a silent auction, a choose-what-you-want raffle, dinner provided by the Atlantis Casino Resort Spa, milk and cookies and Christmas crafts and photos with Santa. Tickets go on sale Oct. 1. Following the fundraiser, TWNN will present public performances (Dec. 7-9) at a location to be determined and another show at Carson City’s Brewery Arts Center (Dec. 22).
Watch for fall and winter camps from TWNN during WCSD school breaks and classes held year round.
Tickets and information: www.twnn.org