Spring stages

At local theaters, tough issues take the spotlight this season

Agatha Christie’s ancient <i>Akhnaton </i>plays at Brüka in March.

Agatha Christie’s ancient Akhnaton plays at Brüka in March.

Photo/Eric Marks

This is the winter of our discontent. The calendar says we’re headed toward spring, but it’s hard to believe. The cold weight of that discontent seems mirrored all around us in the gray, oppressive weather, and, at this time of year, we turn inward to ponder issues and plan our next moves.

Local theaters are up to the task. As the warm months approach, look for classics and new works that confront relevant political and social issues head on, as well as inspirational and heart-warming dramas. Not that you won’t find fun—there’s plenty of that, too.

Here’s what to watch this spring.

Hidden desires: Goodluck Macbeth

After coming off a lighthearted fall and midwinter, Goodluck Macbeth is getting down to business with provocative works. The first of these, running March 16-30, is The Wolves, a Pultizer finalist by Sarah DeLappe, a former Reno resident and American Playwriting Foundation award winner. Set in Reno, it’s the story of the nine adolescent girls on a high school soccer team. Told through an orchestral maneuver of dialogue set to soccer drills, it offers an almost voyeuristic glimpse into their inner lives.

Next up is Equus, April 19-May 11. This intense drama, familiar to many for Daniel Radcliffe’s Broadway performance, is the story of a psychiatrist trying to understand a treat a young man who blinded several horses in a violent fit of passion. The tragic and harrowing story deals with religion, sexuality, violence and more.

For Artown, GLM brings us Fun Home, an award-winning Broadway musical drawn from Alison Bechdell’s graphic memoir of the same name. In this refreshingly honest musical, adult Alison reflects on her experience coming to grips with her own sexuality and that of her recently deceased father, diving deep into his life and finally seeing him through grownup eyes.

The summer wraps with playwright Greg Burdick’s Monessen Falls, Aug. 14-25. It’s the first selection in the company’s New Works Initiative to stage original new works from playwrights from Nevada or around the globe. Set it an aging former steel town in Pennsylvania, it tells of a man who returns home following his mother’s death, after a long absence, and must grapple with his past, including a hostile, jobless brother and the crippling debt their parents left behind.

Tickets and information: www.goodluckmacbeth.org

Deep dark secrets: Reno Little Theater

This spring, RLT plays with what’s hidden beneath the surface. Coming off Neil Simon’s breezy romance Barefoot in the Park, things take a somewhat sinister turn with Violet Sharp, March 8-24. It’s a drama inspired by the notorious 1932 case of the Lindbergh baby kidnapping, but told in a modern way. Violet Sharp, an immigrant servant working in the Lindbergh home, is suspected of committing the crime, and the investigation raises issues of race, class and discrimination.

The tables then turn May 24-Jun 16 with The Foreigner, a hilarious farce from the ’80s that has surprising relevance today. Two Englishmen visit a resort-style fishing lodge in Georgia, and as a way to keep strangers from bothering him, one of the men pretends he cannot speak English. But he immediately becomes privy to juicy, even uncomfortable secrets that no one knows he can understand.

The main stage season wraps with RLT’s Artown show, Kate Hamill’s award-winning retelling of Sense and Sensibility. Running July 5-28, it’s inspired by and set in Jane Austen’s world, though told with modern verve, dialogue and wit that’s more relatable and fun for modern audiences.

Woven throughout the season at RLT, you’ll find Sunday jazz performances each month, monthly staged readings from Ageless Repertory Theatre and an April Latino ARTE bilingual production of Cesar Chavez: Resistance!, about the life of the Mexican-American labor leader and civil rights activist. Plus, families will find two week-long camps for kids during the two-week Washoe County School District spring break, as well as summer break camps.

Tickets and information: www.renolittletheater.org

Of gods and kings: Brüka Theatre

Brüka continues its Classic Revolution season, committing this year to pulling apart classic works of theater to understand how they’re relevant now.

Take, for instance, Akhnaton, a little-known, rarely performed work by Agatha Christie, set in 1350 BC, about Pharaoh Akhnaton and his attempt to convince a nation to abandon their pagan god, Amon, for a new deity. Christie’s research in Luxor and her fascination with ancient Egypt inspired this work, which she wrote in 1939 and updated in 1979. It runs March 1-23.

Brüka’s next mainstage show, April 26-May 18, is The Crucible, directed by Holly Natwora and featuring an impressive cast of 13. Surprisingly relevant in its themes of intolerance, abuse of power and hysteria, the Arthur Miller classic portrays 12 witch hunts of Salem, Massachusetts, and how fear of “the other” tears apart a community.

Watch for Brüka’s Original Readings Workshop Weekend, a weekend of staged readings of locally sourced plays, June 1-2.

For Artown, June 21-July 27, catch Blake Edwards’ Victor/Victoria, a hilarious, romantic musical about mistaken identity and sexuality. In 1930s Paris, Victoria Grant is a singer who can’t get a gig because she’s not edgy enough, until she meets up with a flamboyantly gay nightclub singer with a brilliant idea: dress Victoria as a man, pass her off as a female impersonator and shock crowds with his/her talent.

While adult themes are being explored throughout the spring on the mainstage, Brüka’s Theatre for Children program will explore the magic of science through a child’s eyes in Galileo—Stars in His Eyes. Inspired by the children’s book Galileo’s Treasure Box, it’s about Virginia, Galileo’s eldest daughter, who was only 9 years old when he perfected his telescope and experimented with the laws of nature. The company will open the show with public performances at Brüka March 7-9, then from March through July they’ll take it on the road to more than 25 schools and libraries in Washoe County as part of the Pioneer Youth Performing Arts Roster (and they’re still booking appearances) and will perform its closing shows once again at Brüka.

In addition to its performance schedule, Brüka’s got more up its sleeve, including an April 6 fundraiser, The Lavender Ball, which will feature local artisans and an auction and will celebrate the local arts and theater community. Attendees are encouraged to wear their funkiest lavender ensembles.

Also, mark your calendars for Memorial Day weekend, when Bennett and her gang of ghostly friends kick off the annual Carson City ghost walks with evening strolls past the capital city’s favorite haunts, accompanied by spooky storytelling and fun, all leading up to the full ghost tours that begin in October.

And, as if that weren’t enough to keep them busy, Brüka’s got a two-week theater creation summer camp for kids ages 8-18 planned for July, which, this year, features a sci-fi twist.

Tickets and information: www.bruka.org

Girl power: Restless Artists Theatre

For a more rose-colored-glasses view of life, head to downtown Sparks, where RAT revels in upbeat comedies and light dramas. March 15-31 you’ll find End Days, a dark comedy about 16-year-old Rachel who feels abandoned by her parents. Her dad hasn’t changed out of his pajamas since 9/11 and her mom, a Jew, has become a born-again Christian. Meanwhile, there’s a new boy living next door—an Elvis impersonator who has a crush on Rachel. Oh, and the apocalypse is coming.

Not only are all RAT’s shows this season written by women, but they feature a healthy dose of female empowerment. May 3-19 brings Lauren Gunderson’s Silent Sky, based on the true story of a young woman who, in the early 20th century, made a groundbreaking scientific discovery about the nature of stars and their distance from Earth—despite being hard of hearing and held back in a man’s world where women weren’t even allowed to use the telescope.

Empowerment turns ugly in RAT’s Artown installment, Exit, Pursued by a Bear, another Gunderson play, July 5-21. This absurd revenge murder comedy, named for a bizarre stage direction written into Shakespeare’s A Winter’s Tale, centers on Nan, who is married to abusive, violent Kyle. Fed up, she and her friends tie Kyle to a chair and cook up a plot to torment him and then feed him to a bear.

Tickets and information: www.rattheatre.org

Illuminating experiences: TMCC Performing Arts

You can catch the Aurora Borealis in Reno this spring … or a facsimile of it, anyhow. Truckee Meadows Community College’s troupe of talents is led by director Stacey Spain in presenting Almost, Maine, April 5-14 at the Redfield Performing Arts Center. This romantic comedy set on a Friday night in winter in the remote town of Almost, Maine, takes on an almost magical feeling as the northern lights become one of the characters in a story about love and human connection. The show will feature original music by sound designer Anna Alex, original neon by Jeff Johnson and a remarkable Aurora Borealis effect created by lighting designer Ty Hagar.

Nevada is the setting for the musical Crazy for You, planned for May in Carson City.

April 26-28 features What’s in a Name?, an evening of concert dance featuring original works by TMCC’s new artistic director for dance, Dayna DeFilippis. The show is a mixed program of traditional and creative dance styles that investigate the meaning of identity, inclusion and equality in today’s society, as seen through a personal and communal lens.

The season wraps May 7 with a joint performance of the TMCC Concert Band and Choir.

Tickets and information: www.showtix4u.com or 674-7610

Revolutionaries: University of Nevada, Reno Department of Theatre & Dance

UNR breaks new ground this spring when its new musical theater department presents its inaugural production, Urinetown, March 1-9. This multi-award-winning musical hilariously spoofs the legal system, capitalism, bureaucracy, corporate mismanagement, politics and even musical theater itself. It’s the story of how one town’s water shortage leads to a government ban on private toilets, forcing citizens to pay to use public amenities … until one hero leads a revolution to take back the toilets.

On April 4, join the department for a free “performance, lecture and rant” entitled A Body in the O by special guest Tim Miller, an award-winning and internationally acclaimed performance artist and writer whose work centers around the artistic, spiritual and political landscape of his identity as a gay man, including issues such as marriage equality and immigration rights.

Students will showcase their theater and dance training in Performance/Body/Self, a student-developed work for which admission is also free.

Capping off the semester is the Spring Dance Concert, May 2-4, featuring new choreography by faculty and guest artists and performance by UNR students.

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

By the book: Ageless Repertory Theater

From our community’s more seasoned performers come two dramatic staged readings at Reno Little Theater every month. This spring, look for Beth Henley’s Crimes of the Heart, March 19 and 22. This tearjerker is the story of three sisters from a dysfunctional family who reunite at their grandfather’s house after one of them shoots her abusive husband.

Things get decidedly lighter and more civilized in April, when Mathew Barber’s Enchanted April takes the stage April 16 and 19. In this period comedy, four wildly different women look to escape rainy London and rent a villa in Italy for the month of April.

On May 7 and 10, Joe diPietro’s Clever Little Lies is about Alice, a housewife who learns of her son’s adultery, and she’s out to make things right, which is just when things go even more wrong.

After a June hiatus, ART returns for Artown July 16 and 19 with Neil Simon’s Fools, about a Russian schoolteacher in a cursed village who falls in love with his student.

Tickets and information: www.renolittletheater.org/ART-at_RLT

It’s an illusion: Eldorado Resort Casino

Looking to be amazed? Check out The Illusionists Experience in the Eldorado Showroom, opening April 17. Billed as Broadway’s biggest-selling magic spectacular, the show features the talents of five of the world’s best illusionists, merging the showmanship of luminaries such as Harry Houdini with a modern aesthetic.

Tickets and information: https://www.eldoradoreno.com/entertainment/shows

Can’t take that away: Western Nevada Musical Theatre Company

Carson City’s resident musical theater company opens its 2019 season May 10-19 with a musical set in Nevada, Crazy For You. With a truckload of recognizable Broadway tunes by George and Ira Gershwin, it’s the story of a young banker from New York City who craves the spotlight and winds up in a nearly deserted Nevada town to foreclose on a theater. Instead, he falls for the theater’s owner and sets out to revive the old place. The show includes music performed by a 17-piece professional orchestra.

Tickets and information: www.wnmtc.com

Extra, extra!: Wild Horse Children’s Theater

Carson City’s talent extends to its youth, many of whom can be found on stage at the Brewery Arts Center March 22-31, in Wild Horse Children’s Theater’s production of Disney’s Winnie the Pooh, Kids. With an enormous double cast totaling almost 70 kids ages 5 to 14, the show is based on the beloved characters of A.A. Milne and the 2011 Disney film.

This summer, Wild Horse will become the first company in Northern Nevada to perform Disney’s Newsies, the Broadway musical about a homeless New York City newsboy in 1899 who, along with his newsboy friends, goes on strike against their unscrupulous publisher. Local performers ages 10 to 21 are invited to audition for the show in early March, and the production looks to be impressive, thanks to a grant from the Carson City Redevelopment Authority. On stage at the Carson City Community Center, it will feature choreography by Robin Kato-Brong, Rachel Bennett and professional dancer/actor Sierra Scott.

Tickets and information: www.wildhorsetheater.com

Kids acting up: TheatreWorks of Northern Nevada

TWNN’s all-inclusive philosophy that exposes young people to live theater experience presents Stuart Little, the story of a plucky mouse from an orphanage who’s adopted by a family and must forge a relationship with his new brother and the family cat. The show runs March 15-24 at Southside School in downtown Reno.

Next up is The Prince and the Pauper May 17-26, the classic tale by Mark Twain about a rich, spoiled prince and his poor doppelganger who trade places and get to experience life in the other’s shoes.

For Artown, TWNN presents the beloved Disney version of The Little Mermaid, July 10-28, about a young mermaid princess who falls in love with a human prince and sacrifices her voice for legs so she can be with him. Watch the website for performance locations.

Families, stay tuned for spring break camps and two weeks of summer camp that include an opportunity to be in The Little Mermaid cast.

Tickets and information: www.twnn.org

Perfect pairs: Sierra School of Performing Arts

Reno’s performing arts academy will spend the first half of the year gearing up for its two biggest shows. The first of these is Guys and Dolls, the Broadway classic musical set in the 1930s about two unlikely romances: a gambler with a missionary, and a showgirl seeking the straight and narrow with a crap game manager who is anything but. The show will run Aug. 9-25 at the Hawkins Outdoor Amphitheater at Bartley Ranch, and auditions will be held March 16-17.

SSPA will also host musical theater camps during spring break and summer.

Tickets and information: www.sierraschoolofperformingarts.org