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Laughter, Tears Mingle Onstage

World Premieres, Revivals Highlight Local Venues


Whether their tastes run toward the new, the classic or the musical, theater-goers in Orange County should be able to fill out a stage itinerary worth anticipating this fall.

* The world premiere of Richard Greenberg's "Everett Beekin" runs through Oct. 8 on the Mainstage at South Coast Repertory in Costa Mesa; though witty throughout, there is a sadness at its core as Greenberg, who has had five plays produced at SCR, examines how a family runs from some of the most painful chapters of its past, leaving a void in its present. The second act takes place in contemporary Orange County--including a brief, scathingly satirical scene on the "Unity Bridge" that connects South Coast Plaza with the arts district of Costa Mesa.

* Ron House, a transplanted Chicagoan, made his name as a farceur as part of a London-based team that created the '80s comedies, "El Grande de Coca Cola" and "Bullshot Crummond." House's new play, "Butlers, Bobbies & Boobs," draws on his experiences in England and has its world premiere Oct. 11-29 at the Grove Theater Center's Gem Theater in Garden Grove.

* "Art," by French playwright Yasmina Reza, is another play new to Orange County. The object of art in question is a white, featureless canvas that a collector has bought for a bundle; when two of his friends prove less than admiring of his taste, the bonds of friendship are put to the test. Oct. 13 to Nov. 19 on SCR's Mainstage.

* The art of painting also provides the dramatic canvas for "The Countess" by Gregory Murphy. The 1999 off-Broadway hit, receiving its West Coast premiere on SCR's Second Stage, dramatizes a true-life marital scandal among famous 19th century art-folk: critic John Ruskin, his wife, Effie, and his protege, painter John Everet Millais. Oct. 31-Dec. 3.

* Greasepaint gets mixed with oil paints in yet a third coming production: "Vincent," by Leonard Nimoy (yes, that Leonard Nimoy), tells the story of Van Gogh based on the artist's letters to his brother and with projections of his paintings. Jim Jarrett plays both brothers Van Gogh in a one-man one-night stand. Nov. 4 at Plummer Auditorium in Fullerton.

* The American-Soviet race into space and its implications for one troubled, everyday man is the subject of "The Far Side of the Moon," by Canadian writer-performer-director Robert Lepage. With an original score by avant-gardist Laurie Anderson, the multimedia theater piece has its West Coast premiere Oct. 26-28 at the Irvine Barclay Theatre.

* The Rude Guerrilla Theater Company's Empire Theater in Santa Ana rings out its third season with two plays new to Orange County. "Simpatico," by Sam Shepard, runs through Oct. 1. It deals with the ongoing repercussions of a racetrack scam, offering a noir-ish mixture of blackmail and past sins unearthed. The 1994 piece reached local movie screens early this year in an adaptation starring Nick Nolte, Jeff Bridges and Sharon Stone.

Rude Guerrilla will also conjure the O.C. premiere of Clive Barker's "The History of the Devil," a stage play that the master of film and novelistic horror wrote before he found fame on page and screen. It runs Oct. 20 to Nov. 11.

* The season also offers established, edgy repertory works from three top names in modern theater. "Sexual Perversity in Chicago," the 1976 play that made David Mamet's reputation and established his profane, staccato style, runs through Sept. 30 at Stages in Anaheim.

* Joe Orton's "Entertaining Mr. Sloane," Sept. 19 to Oct. 22 on South Coast Repertory's Second Stage, plays murder and lust for laughs in what a Times critic has called "an outrageously lewd parody of a stuffy British drawing-room comedy." In other words, don't invite Joe Lieberman if he's campaigning hereabout.

* Before Tony Kushner wrote the monumental "Angels in America," he warmed up with "The Illusion," an adaptation of Pierre Corneille's 1636 "L'Illusion Comique." It's a hybrid of fantasy and humor, based on a father's enlisting of a magician to help him find the son he has provoked to run away. The Saddleback College production runs Nov. 3-12 at the campus' McKinney Theatre in Mission Viejo.

* The first year of the new century wouldn't be complete without a production of "The Three Sisters," written by Anton Chekhov in 1900. Cal State Fullerton obliges with a 100th anniversary student production of the play about a cultured Moscow family's descent toward despair as it lives exiled in a small-minded provincial town. At the campus' Arena Stage, Sept. 29 to Oct. 15.

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