Mountain View Voice

Arts & Entertainment - February 15, 2013

Curtain up on TheatreWorks' 44th season

Louisa May Alcott, Sherlock Holmes and Stephen Sondheim get star billing in a new program of plays and musicals

by Rebecca Wallace

If you mixed all the shows in TheatreWorks' new season into one giant stage gumbo, you might get something like this:

Koko the gorilla meets a dashing politician while star-gazing at a desert estate. "Marry me a little," Koko signs, and Jo March runs in, pen in hand, to cover the unlikely love story. But who is the stranger in white driving by? Could this chap in the deerstalker help solve the mystery?

Fortunately, TheatreWorks thought it would be better to present its shows one at a time. This week, the veteran Peninsula group announced its 44th season. Five plays and three musicals, including one world premiere, will be performed in Palo Alto and Mountain View beginning in July.

Once again, the company is starting off with a brand-new work that was popular at the previous season's New Works Festival. This year, playwright Catherine Rush offers "The Loudest Man on Earth," which features the deaf actor Adrian Blue in a romantic comedy about a reclusive stage director who can't hear and a journalist who has a lot to say. As their romance blossoms, they encounter a wild bunch of characters including Ms. Koko. Opening night is July 13 at Palo Alto's Lucie Stern Theatre.

On Aug. 21, "Other Desert Cities," by Pulitzer Prize finalist Jon Robin Baitz, opens at the Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts. The show is a dysfunctional-family, home-for-the-holidays tale set on a movie star's desert estate. One family member is a writer with a juicy memoir.

The comedic political drama "Warrior Class" opens Oct. 12 at the Mountain View center. Playwright Kenneth Lin centers his story on a politician and son of Chinese immigrants who seems to be rising high as "The Republican Obama" — until scandal rears its head.

Next, TheatreWorks goes all Broadway musical with "Little Women," penned by Allan Knee (book), Mindi Dickstein (lyrics) and Jason Howland (music) after the classic Louisa May Alcott novel. The show opened on Broadway in 2005 and earned Sutton Foster a Tony nomination for her portrayal of Jo. It opens at the Lucie Stern on Dec. 7.

A tale of a pioneering woman astronomer follows, in Lauren Gunderson's "Silent Sky." It's a man's world at the turn of the 20th century, which means challenges ensue. Opening night is Jan. 18 at the Mountain View center.

It's off to the Caribbean (and the Lucie Stern) on March 8 with "Once on This Island," with book and lyrics by Lynn Ahrens and music by Stephen Flaherty, the team that created "Ragtime" and "Lucky Stiff." Peasant girl Ti Moune has her life upended when an aristocrat in white races by.

A send-up of Sherlock Holmes follows, with "Hound of the Baskervilles," adapted by Steven Canny and John Nicholson. Three actors, dozens of roles and one peculiar dog. Opening night is April 5 at the Mountain View center.

The season closes with a lesser-known musical from one of the theater's greats. Stephen Sondheim's "Marry Me a Little" is about lonely young New Yorkers singing about their dreams. The songs include many numbers that didn't make it into other Sondheim shows, such as "Can That Boy Foxtrot" (not in "Follies"). The musical opens June 7 at the Mountain View center.

TheatreWorks season subscriptions are now on sale ($99-$492), with single tickets on offer starting June 5. Go to theatreworks.org or call 650-463-1960.

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