Five plays I can't wait to see in 2008

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The upcoming year promises to offer many exciting stage plays. The Fox Theatre's Broadway Across America has two particularly intriguing productions coming up: the "Sesame Street" satire Avenue Q (March 25-30); and director John Doyle's reportedly thrilling staging of Stephen Sondheim's Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (May 17-June 1). For more daring fare, Georgia Shakespeare artistic director Richard Garner will direct two Greek tragedies, Eurydice (March 14-April 13) for the Alliance Theatre Hertz Stage and Antigone (Oct. 9-Nov. 2) for Georgia Shakespeare. And Jewish Theatre of the South's Hard Love (Jan. 30-Feb. 24), starring Chris Kayser and artistic director Mira Hirsch, is the company's last drama before staging its final show, the comedy The Last Schwartz, in the spring.The following five shows, presented in chronological order, are the ones that intrigue me the most, with a few representing the most risky plays of the season:

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Octopus (Jan. 24 – Feb. 23), Actor’s Express. Young playwright Steve Yockey (pictured), a recent Atlanta resident (and, briefly, a Creative Loafing employee), shows more maturity with each new script, particularly last year’s Skin at Dad’s Garage Theatre and 2006’s Cartoon at Out of Hand. Dad’s Garage artistic director Kate Warner, a champion of Yockey’s, directs the world premiere of Octopus, setting expectations and the curiosity factor very high for the dark drama.

Poker Night in the White House (Feb. 1-23), Dad’s Garage Theatre. This satiric look at America’s political process harks back to the administration of Warren G. Harding, arguably the most corrupt White House of the 20th century, and uses puppets to turn history on its head. Playwright Sean Benjamin of Chicago’s Neo-Futurists troupe co-wrote the brilliant, hilarious and educational 43 Plays About 43 Presidents, which Dad’s Garage staged in 2002.

Angela’s Mix Tape (Feb. 15-March 16), Synchronicity Performance Group. Playwright Eisa Davis, niece of Black Panther Angela Davis, offers a musical memoir that finds the radical politics of the 1970s at odds with the materialism of the 1980s. Clearly a one-of-a-kind play, this Pulitzer Prize finalist sounds like a mashup of autobiographical and hip-hop music.

Doubt (April 2-May 4), Alliance Theatre Mainstage. With artistic director Susan V. Booth helming the Pulitzer-winning drama by John Patrick Shanley (about a nun investigating allegations of sexual abuse against a priest), this sounds like a slam dunk. Despite the difference in subject matter, Doubt reminds me very much of Proof, another Pulitzer winner with four actors, lots of fireworks, many productions nationwide, and the same kind of five-letter title. (Incidentally, Wikipedia says this: "Miramax Films' adaptation of the play stars Meryl Streep as Sister Aloysius, Philip Seymour Hoffman as Father Flynn, Amy Adams as Sister James and Viola Davis as Mrs. Muller. Production began on December 1, 2007 with playwright John Patrick Shanley directing and Scott Rudin producing.")

In Darfur (April 11-May 11), Horizon Theatre. Winter Miller’s play humanizes the conflict in Darfur, only one of the most recent African crises to be neglected by the international community. In it, a New York Times reporter becomes caught up in an aid worker’s mission to save life and a Darfuri woman’s fight for survival at a refugee camp. Horizon Theatre frequently excels at smart, political theater on a global stage.

(Photo by Linnea Frye)

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