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FALL ARTS PREVIEW / THEATER

Theater

September 10, 2006

Throughout this section: A selection of highlights from the upcoming season.

'Rabbit Hole'

A couple lose their child in an accident and are left to deal with the shattered remains of their lives. This wrenching tale, though shot through with moments of domestic comedy, is hardly the fare expected from the playwright behind the whimsical "Fuddy Meers" and "Kimberly Akimbo." "Rabbit Hole," which was part of South Coast Repertory's 2005 Pacific Playwrights Festival, marks a change in direction for David Lindsay-Abaire. The play opened in February on Broadway, starring Cynthia Nixon, who went on to win a Tony Award. The Geffen's production, directed by Carolyn Cantor, features Amy Ryan, Tate Donovan and Joyce Van Patten.

Geffen Playhouse, 10886 Le Conte Ave., Westwood. Opens Sept. 13. More at www.geffenplayhouse.com.

'The Wiz'

When it bowed on Broadway in 1975, "The Wiz" made history of sorts as a big-budget, pop-rock musical with an all-black cast. Charlie Smalls and William Brown's urban update of L. Frank Baum's "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz" went on to win seven Tony Awards, including best musical. Sidney Lumet upped the ante with his 1978 film, starring Diana Ross as Dorothy, Michael Jackson as the Scarecrow and Richard Pryor as the Wiz. Now Tony Award-winning director Des McAnuff is set to unveil his "reimagined" version of the tale, this time with Nikki M. James and other Broadway veterans off to see the Wiz, played by David Alan Grier. It remains to be seen whether the musical, McAnuff's final production as artistic director of La Jolla Playhouse, will ease on down the road to Broadway.

La Jolla Playhouse, 2910 La Jolla Village Drive, La Jolla. Opens Oct. 11. More at www.lajollaplayhouse.com.

Free Night of Theater 2006

Bargain lovers, you're not going to find a better deal than this one: theater tickets that aren't going to cost you a cent. That's right, they're absolutely free. On Oct. 19 more than 50 theatrical organizations -- large and small -- will offer tickets to their productions at no charge. Oh, and make note of one more date: Oct. 3; that's when tickets will be made available at www.freenightoftheater.net. The event is presented by Theatre Communications Group, which held the first Free Night of Theater last year in Austin, Texas; Philadelphia; and San Francisco, and by L.A. Stage Alliance. Of course, we can't guarantee you'll love what you see, but who cares? It's not going to cost a thing.

Various locations. Opens Oct. 19. More at www.lastagetix.com/freenight.

'Sister Act'

Start with a 1992 hit movie. Add music by Alan Menken ("Beauty and the Beast," "Little Shop of Horrors") and Glenn Slater. Mix with a script from former "Cheers" writers Bill and Cheri Steinkeller. Throw in singing and dancing nuns. Then tap the creative mind of Peter Schneider, the former head of Disney Theatricals, to pull it all together. Calling it "a fabulous disco spin on the heavenly hit movie," the "Sister Act" team has updated the film that starred Whoopi Goldberg as a Nevada lounge singer who finds sanctuary in a convent while trying to dodge her mobster boyfriend. This new musical at the Pasadena Playhouse will feature Dawnn Lewis ("A Different World") as Deloris, and Elizabeth Ward Land as Mother Superior.

Pasadena Playhouse, 39 S. El Molino Ave., Pasadena. Opens Nov. 3. More at www.pasadenaplayhouse.org.

Samuel Beckett Centenary Celebration

Poor Samuel Beckett. So many people label his works as pessimistic (pause). Minimalist (pause). Grim (pause). And they fail to focus on the beauty, humor and wit of his prose. (silence). Come November, Los Angeles will have a chance to experience the words of this Nobel Prize-winning Irish writer, above, as part of UCLA's fifth International Theatre Festival. Ireland's Gare St. Lazare Players kick off the events with "The Beckett Trilogy": "Molloy," "Malone Dies" and "The Unnamable," then follow with "Three Works by Beckett": "A Piece of Monologue," "Enough" and "Texts for Nothing III, VIII & XI." If you're waiting for Godot, that comes Nov. 15, with a return of the acclaimed production by the Gate Theatre of Dublin.

UCLA Live, Freud Playhouse, Nov. 7-19. More at www.uclalive.org.

'365 Plays/365 Days'

Imagine writing a play a day for a year. Even the thought is exhausting. But that's what Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Suzan-Lori Parks, above, did between November 2002 and November 2003. Some are short, some not so short. The fruits of her labor will be seen nationwide from Nov. 13, 2006, through Nov. 12, 2007, in some 700 theaters in at least 15 cities, including Los Angeles. The 365 National Festival was conceived by Parks and producer Bonnie Metzgar.

Various locations. Beginning Nov. 13 nationwide, Nov. 15 in Los Angeles. More at www.365inla.com.

'Vertical Hour'

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