Andrew Rannells, center, performs with an ensemble cast in "The Book… (Joan Marcus / AP )
Presidential elections inevitably steal the national spotlight, and the biggest theater this fall is certain to be the race between President Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney.
Theatergoers will have plenty of opportunity to reflect on the election from a variety of oblique angles in the next couple of months. So turn off the nattering television pundits, hop into your car and risk the possibility of a genuine shift in perspective.
"The Book of Mormon," the runaway Broadway hit from the creators of "South Park" and a co-creator of "Avenue Q," opens at the Pantages Theatre just as questions about Romney's religious background shoot to the fore. This irreverent satire about Mormon missionaries making a farcical bungle in an African village isn't the place to go for a theological introduction. But for much of mainstream America, the show can be viewed as an icebreaker, a willfully silly sendup of beliefs and practices that all faiths are vulnerable to. Laughter is a bridge builder, and the ultimate message about goodness is certainly one that the secular and the spiritual can jointly embrace.
FALL ARTS PREVIEW: Critic's Picks
Playwright provocateur David Mamet, never one to pussyfoot around hot-button issues, will be stoking polemical conversation this fall with new and old work. It's certainly a ripe time for "November," his Broadway play about the Machiavellian farce of presidential campaigns, though the even screwier political drama unfolding on our smartphones, computers and TVs will be difficult to match.
With the economy hobbled by Wall Street pirates, how fitting that "Glengarry Glen Ross," the quintessential Mamet play about the dog-eat-dog nature of capitalism, is being revived at both La Jolla Playhouse, in a production directed by Christopher Ashley, and at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre on Broadway, in a production directed by Daniel Sullivan and starring Al Pacino.
Finally, "The Anarchist," a freshly minted Mamet work starring Patti LuPone and Debra Winger, opens at the John Golden Theatre on Broadway in December. But don't expect that just because the election will be over that the country's mood will have turned apolitical. LuPone plays an inmate with ties to a radical organization who pleads for parole from the warden, played by Winger. Sounds as mouth-watering as the upcoming debates, if you ask me.
SEPT. 5-NOV. 25
Pantages Theatre, 6233 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood.Tickets start at $30 (subject to change), (800) 982-2787, http://www.broadwayla.org
SEPT. 18-OCT. 21
'Glengarry Glen Ross'
La Jolla Playhouse, 2910 La Jolla Village Drive, La Jolla. $15-$69, (858) 550-1010, http://www.lajollaplayhouse.org
Mark Taper Forum, Los Angeles Music Center, L.A. $20-$65 (subject to change) (213) 628-2772, http://www.centertheatregroup.org
'Glengarry Glen Ross'
The Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre, 236 W. 45th St., New York. $72-$157. (800) 447-7400. http://www.glengarrybroadway.com
NOV. 13-FEB. 17
The Golden Theatre, 252 W. 45th St., New York. $59-$134.50, (800) 447-7400 http://www.theanarchist
And bear in mind these other offerings, which are sure to cause a theatrical if not a political stir.
SEPT. 18-OCT. 28
'By the Way,
Meet Vera Stark'
Lynn Nottage, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of "Ruined," explores the racial politics of Hollywood in the 1930s through the journey of a maid who becomes a scene-stealing Hollywood actress. Directed by Jo Bonney and starring Sanaa Lathan, the play serves up its social critique in the screwball style that defined the movie era.
Geffen Playhouse, 10886 Le Conte Ave., Westwood. $37-$77(subject to change), http://www.geffenplayhouse.com
The return of international theater at UCLA? Hallelujah! This production from Paris' Théâtre de la Ville of Eugéne Ionesco's absurdist classic is directed by Emmanuel Demarcy-Mota. Perhaps not Ionesco's most concentrated work but a bracing comic demonstration of the perils of conformity nevertheless.
Royce Hall, UCLA campus, 340 Royce Drive, L.A.
$30-$70, (310) 825-2101, http://www.cap.ucla.edu
OCT. 13-DEC. 16
'In the Red and
Part of Tarell Alvin McCraney's "Brother/Sister Plays," this play tells the story of Oya, a track star on a difficult journey to adulthood. Poetically alive and challengingly original, the work introduces L.A. audiences to a vital new dramatic poet.
Fountain Theatre, 5060 Fountain Ave., L.A.$30-$34, (323) 663-1525, http://www.fountaintheatre.com
NOV. 27-JAN. 6
Cole Porter's tunes never get old, and if this touring production of Kathleen Marshall's Tony-winning revival retains any semblance of its Broadway deliciousness, be prepared to be tap-danced into ecstasy.
Ahmanson Theatre, Los Angeles Music Center, L.A. $20-$120 (subject to change). (213) 628-2772, http://www.centertheatregroup.org
NOV. 28-DEC. 9
Elevator Repair Service pays theatrical homage to every shimmering sentence in F. Scott Fitzgerald's "The Great Gatsby" in this marathon performance that occupies a dusky realm somewhere between reading and dramatization.
REDCAT, 631 W. 2nd St., L.A., $105 -$150, (213) 237-2800, http://www.redcat.org
NOV. 28-JAN. 6
'Other Desert Cities'
Jon Robin Baitz's critically esteemed Broadway drama about an adult daughter writing a family memoir concerning the tragic death of her anti-war activist brother causes great tumult in the Palm Springs household of her Ronald Reagan Republican parents. A domestic dramatic comedy rife with pungent punch lines, the play offers a sly reminder of the misleading nature of stereotypes — a lesson that will be useful no matter which party scores a victory in November.
Mark Taper Forum, Los Angeles Music Center, L.A. $20-$65 (subject to change), (213) 628-2772, http://www.centertheatregroup.org