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All of Maine’s a (summer) stage: A 2022 summer theatre preview

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There’s a lot to love about summer in Maine.

Once again, summer’s arrival is upon us. The weather is warming up and the days are approaching their greatest length. People near and far are going to descend on our state’s beaches, mountains and forests; people are going to swim and hike and boat and generally experience the outdoors in a fashion that one can only achieve in Maine.

But there are other summertime perks, too.

For those who love live theater, there are loads of options. Companies near and far are bringing exciting work to stages all over the region; no matter where you might be, there’s a good chance that you’ve got some excellent theater happening nearby.

Our focus is on the greater Bangor area, but we also go fairly far afield, venturing in every direction to show you just how many great summertime offerings there are out there. Comedies and dramas and musicals, classics and new plays – there’s something for just about every theatrical taste coming our way over the coming months.

It’s well worth your time to experience some of what our area’s summer stages have to offer. Here’s a look at just some of what’s to come.

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True North Theatre

The Moors – June 3-12

We kick things off with a show that opened this past weekend. In fact, you can read our review in this very edition (spoiler alert: it’s great) if you like. The folks at True North Theatre have established themselves as a group willing to do things just a little differently; this production of Jen Silverman’s “The Moors,” directed by Jasmine Ireland, is just the latest example.

Two sisters and a mastiff live out their lives on the bleak English moors, dreaming of love and power. Agatha, the elder spinster sister, is a dangerous, powerful woman who will stop at nothing to get what she wants. Huldey, the younger spinster sister, is enamored of her diary and the fame and glory its words could bring her. The arrival of Emilie, a hapless governess, sets all three on a strange and dangerous path. And then there’s the brooding, depressed mastiff who has developed an affection for a wounded Moor-hen needing care and attention. Above all, “The Moors” is a dark comedy about love, desperation, and visibility.

TBT might still be the new kids on the theatrical block around these parts – they haven’t produced a ton of shows as of yet – but what they lack in quantity, they more than make up for in sheer quality.

“The Moors” runs June 3-12 at the Cyrus Pavilion Theatre on the University of Maine campus. For tickets or more information, visit the TNT website at www.truenorththeatre.org.

Penobscot Theatre Company

9 to 5: The Musical – June 23 – July 31

It has been a couple of years since audiences got to experience one of Penobscot Theatre Company’s summer musical extravaganzas, but PTC is back with another blockbuster song-and-dance spectacular. It’s a chance to see the Bangor Opera House stage spring to life with all of the talented performances and top-notch production values that we’ve come to expect from the company.

This season’s offering is “9 to 5,” with book by Patricia Resnick and music and lyrics by the great Dolly Parton. Directed by Ethan Paulini – who has helmed a few of these summer spectaculars in recent years, to great acclaim – and based on the beloved 1980 film of the same name, this show tells the story of three women, co-workers who are pushed to the brink by their sexist boor of a boss. And when they hit the end of their rope, well … let’s just say that their boss is going to learn a lesson or two at their hands. A lesson soundtracked by Dolly no less, which, I mean, come on – what more could you possibly want?

Expect a rollicking journey back in time to a point just a few decades ago where a woman had to fight harder and longer to earn some modicum of respect from her male peers. Hm … that sounds familiar for some reason.

“9 to 5” opens on June 23 and runs through the very end of July. For tickets or more information, visit the PTC website at www.penobscottheatre.org or call the box office at 942-3333.

Ten Bucks Theatre

Romeo & Juliet – July 21 – Aug. 7

I’ve spoken before about the wonderful tradition of outdoor Shakespeare in the Bangor region, with Ten Bucks Theatre picking up the mantle in the mid-aughts after the Maine Shakespeare Festival ceased operations. There’s nothing like the Bard outdoors; happily, we have TBT to give him to us yet again.

This year’s entry is “Romeo & Juliet,” perhaps the most familiar of Shakespeare’s tragedies. You certainly don’t need me to tell you the story of these two star-cross’d lovers, the rapid ascent and too-quick burnout of their meteoric romance, as well as the toxic familial dynamics that undermined their efforts at happiness. It is a familiar story, but not so familiar as to lose its impact on the audience. Expect more of the same exceptional Shakespearean excitement that you’ve seen over the years from the folks at Ten Bucks Theatre.

This marks the second time that TBT has mounted this show in the summer, with the first happening over a decade ago. It’s also worth noting that I remain eternally proud of my turn as Mercutio in that long-ago production, giving me yet another opportunity to experience a show I was once in from the perspective of the outside.

“Romeo & Juliet” runs from July 21 through August 7, with two weeks at Indian Trail Park in Brewer followed by a week at Fort Knox in Prospect. For more information, visit the TBT website at www.tenbuckstheatre.org.

Some Theatre Company

Godspell – Aug. 11-14

Every Brilliant Thing – Aug. 25-28

It’s kind of hard to believe that Some Theatre Company has yet to mark its 10-year anniversary as a company, because the impact their work has had on the local theatrical scene is significant and ongoing. The group has made a point of producing interesting, engaging work in their relatively brief history.

Their latest is the musical “Godspell.” The musical, with music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz and book by John-Michael Tebelak, will be directed by STC regular Logan Bard. It’s a show structured as a series of parables, with the majority pulled from the Gospel of Matthew. And even at a half-century old, a lot of these tunes are still absolute bangers.

Yes, there are plenty of Judeo-Christian overtones to be found here, but fear not - even if you aren’t particularly interested in the religious aspects of the story, you’ll find plenty to like in the toe-tapping quasi-subversion of the songs.

Just a couple of weeks later, STC will offer up “Every Brilliant Thing,” a play by Duncan Macmillan and Johnny Donahoe. From the Dramatists Play Service website: You’re six years old. Mum’s in hospital. Dad says she’s “done something stupid.” She finds it hard to be happy. So you start to make a list of everything that’s brilliant about the world. Everything that’s worth living for. 1. Ice cream. 2. Kung Fu movies. 3. Burning things. 4. Laughing so hard you shoot milk out your nose. 5. Construction cranes. 6. Me. You leave it on her pillow. You know she’s read it because she’s corrected your spelling. Soon, the list will take on a life of its own. A play about depression and the lengths we will go to for those we love.

As per usual, you can count on STC to bring something unique and interesting to the table. These shows will take place at STC’s theatre space in the Bangor Mall.

For tickets and more information about either of these shows, visit the STC website at www.stcmaine.org.

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And now, we’re going to cast a slightly wider net. Our focus has been on the greater Bangor area, but with just a little extra travel time, you’ll be able to find some tremendous offerings of all sorts. The following might be a tough tougher to get to, but you better believe that they will be well worth the trip.

Opera House Arts

Much Ado About Nothing – June 29 – July 17

World Builders – Aug. 10-28

The Stonington Opera House is an absolute gem – particularly since it underwent a series of relatively recent renovations – and Opera House Arts has shown itself to be an organization capable of producing excellent work, often featuring fascinating combinations of classic and modern plays as part of their summer season.

It’s more of the same this year. They kick things off with a production of William Shakespeare’s “Much Ado About Nothing,” the classic comedy in which – in the aftermath of war – a love story blooms. A couple of them, actually, when it’s all said and done. But at its core, this is a tale of what happens when two people, each of whom believing themselves to be the smartest person in the room, dig beyond their antagonism and find affection. Oh, and this one is outside – remember me waxing rhapsodic about outdoor Shakespeare? – so it just keeps getting better.

Moving onto the Opera House stage, we get “World Builders” by Johanna Adams. It’s a modern two-hander, a story of two people with personality disorders engaged in a clinical trial aimed at helping them steer clear of the imaginary worlds in which they too often find themselves trapped. Romance follows, but as their delusions fade, can their love remain? This play is another example of the marvelous counterprogramming that OHA has consistently mastered over the years.

“Much Ado About Nothing” runs from June 29 to July 17, while “World Builders” runs August 10-28. For more information about either show, visit the OHA website at www.operahousearts.org.

The Grand

Downeast Shakes & Shenanigans – Aug. 5-14 (Woodlawn)

While the Grand won’t be offering this show on their venerable stage, they’ve managed to find a way to get up to some nonsense all the same, offering up another Downeast take on the works of William Shakespeare.

“Downeast Shakes & Shenanigans” is the brainchild of writer-director Brent Hutchins, who once again seeks to adapt the words of the Bard into the vernacular of Downeast Maine after the success of last year’s efforts. The production will take place outdoors at the Woodlawn Museum in Ellsworth, billing itself as “a Downeast romp through some of the Bard’s best bits.”

Expect a lot of goofy fun from this one as the words of our finest theatrical poet are converted into fodder for a “broader and perhaps earthier populace.” Seriously, gang – it’s going to be a hoot.

“Downeast Shakes & Shenanigans” runs at the Woodlawn Museum August 5-14. you can visit the Grand’s website at www.grandonline.org or visit them on Facebook.

(Note: The Grand’s production of “Charlotte’s Web,” the stage version of the beloved children’s story, runs at Woodlawn this weekend as well – June 3-5. Contact The Grand for more info.)

Belfast Maskers

Little Shop of Horrors – July 28 – Aug. 7

There was a brief stretch not long ago where the Maskers – one of the more venerable community theatre groups in all of Maine – were struggling a bit. However, they have powered through that adversity and look to be as strong as ever, filling their space – known colloquially as “the Bazz” – with strong work.

This summer’s offering is none other than the beloved musical “Little Shop of Horrors.” The show, with book and lyrics by Howard Ashman and music by Alan Menken, is the story of a sweet, dorky flower shop employee who stumbles into possession of an alien plant – a plant that could make the man’s dreams come true … at a price. The doo-wop inspired music combines with some wonderfully written comedy to create a delightful musical experience – one that the Maskers will no doubt nail.

This campy toe-tapping musical is a wonderful example of the kinds of shows that can prove to be summer blockbusters. I anticipate some great work from the folks in Belfast. Check this one out at the Bazz, but please, don’t feed the plants.

“Little Shop of Horrors” runs from July 28 to August 7. For tickets or more information, visit their website at www.belfastmaskers.com.

ISLE Theater Company

Playing Mercury – Aug. 4-14

And here we have a newcomer to this preview, as I missed out on their debut productions from last year. However, I won’t be making this mistake again, as these exciting young theatremakers bring their passion to the Maine coast.

“Playing Mercury” is an original play by ISLE co-founder Anna Fitzpatrick, a period comedy set in medieval times and inspired by Shakespeare’s “As You Like It.” After her father’s failed military campaign in France leaves their English fiefdom in upheaval, Rosalind throws aside her embroidery to lace up her bodice and restore order to the dukedom. In a captivating quest to recover her dad, she enlists the help of her clueless cousin Celia and the fief’s favorite jester Touchstone as they venture beyond the confines of the castle. What could possibly go wrong?

The production takes place outdoors, staged at Horsepower Farm in the town of Penobscot. ISLE co-founder Marvin Merritt IV directs the show. And again, it can’t be stressed enough – outdoor theatre in a Maine summertime is an exquisite experience; I’d anticipate something altogether unique from these folks.

“Playing Mercury” runs Aug. 4-14. For more information or tickets (which go on sale June 15), visit the ISLE website at www.isletheater.org.

New Surry Theatre

Head Over Heels – Aug. 5-20

The New Surry Theatre has been a mainstay of Maine theatre for half-a-century at this point – seriously, this season marks their 50th – with a longstanding history of producing excellent work. That history continues to this day.

The group will be producing the jukebox musical “Head Over Heels,” featuring music and lyrics by ‘80s icons The Go-Go’s. The original book was by Jeff Whitty and ultimately adapted by James Magruder. It’s a comedic celebration of love that follows a royal family on a journey to save their kingdom from ruin, all set to a soundtrack of killer tunes from one of our most beloved pop bands. It’s a combination that will almost certainly win your heart and tickle your eardrums.

It's a relatively new show, having only made its debut in 2015, but it has already proven to be a delight to audiences around the country. If any of this sounds intriguing to you, you should make the trip to Blue Hill, because New Surry Theatre clearly has the beat.

“Head Over Heels” runs August 5-20. For tickets or more information, visit the NST website at www.newsurrytheatre.org.

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Finally, we’ve got a pair of theaters with long histories of extensive summer seasons. Whether you’re talking about the Shakespeare-centric professionals of Theatre at Monmouth or the passionate talents of the community driving the historic Lakewood Theatre, you’re looking at some pretty great opportunities to see engaging, entertaining theatre.

Theatre at Monmouth

Lysistrata – June 25 – Aug. 18

On a mission to end the Peloponnesian war, Lysistrata bands together the women of Greece in a pact to withhold sex until the men declare peace. As the women tantalize and tease their way to a cease-fire, a timeless story emerges of sexual politics, political power struggles, and the battle between the sexes. Funny, poignant, and just a little dirty, “Lysistrata” is a comic romp of more than adequate proportions.

Antony and Cleopatra – July 7 – Aug. 20

Reason and judgement prove no match for the tsunami of mutual passion engulfing Mark Antony, one of the three joint rulers of the Roman Republic, and Cleopatra, the powerful Queen of Egypt. Surrendering everything to their desires, they open the floodgates to a civil conflict that will shake the very foundations of their world. Shakespeare’s dark and intimate “Antony and Cleopatra” features some of the most transcendent poetry on love and loss in the cannon.

Amphitryon – July 14 – Aug. 19

Jupiter, the king of the gods, is obsessed with a mortal woman, Alcmena. To woo her, he assumes the bodily form of her husband Amphitryon. When the real Amphitryon returns home victorious from the Theban War, he finds his conquering hero welcome has been usurped by another…him. Moliere’s “Amphitryon” offers a blend of high comedy and slapstick that unlocks a Pandora’s box of ideas about love, marriage, and power.

Comedy of Errors – July 21 – August 21

Two sets of twins, each with the same name—what could go wrong? Everything, apparently. Leave logic behind and delight in the mayhem of Shakespeare’s slapstick comedy. Chaos and confusion reign when two sets of identical twins, separated at birth, end up in the same town on the same day. In “Comedy of Errors,” the blunders double, triple, and quadruple until everyone is pretty sure that everyone else is completely insane.

Eurydice – July 28 – August 19

On her wedding day, Eurydice falls victim to a tragic accident that sends her hurtling into the Underworld, erasing her memory and reuniting her with her long-dead father. When Orpheus arrives to save his bride, Eurydice is torn between her desire to return to the real world and the tender relationship she rediscovers with her father in the afterlife. Brimming with lyrical beauty, and Sarah Ruhl’s trademark wit, “Eurydice” is a visceral and surreal mediation on love worth grieving for.

Lakewood Theater

The always-extensive Lakewood season is underway, with the theatre’s first show already in the rearview. But there’s plenty more where that came from! Here’s a list of the historic theatre’s offerings for the coming months – definitely worth the trip to Madison if you’re able! Check out one of the oldest summer theaters not just in Maine, but in the country.

The Girl on the Train – June 9-18

Critic’s Choice – June 23 – July 2

The Drowsy Chaperone – July 7-16

Halfway There – July 21-30

King’s Night Out – Aug. 4-13

Dirty Rotten Scoundrels – Aug. 18-27

Great Expectations – Sept. 1-10

Anything to Declare? – Sept. 15-24

Last modified on Wednesday, 08 June 2022 08:40

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