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Maine’s mainstages light up again: A 2021 summer theatre preview

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Ah, summer – we’ve missed you. And after many months, something else that we’ve missed – the theatre – is making a triumphant return.

For those who love live theatre, 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 theatre happening nearby. There’s a lot of variety out there just waiting to be experienced.

We’ve been waiting a while for this, thanks to the circumstances of the pandemic. Summer stages were largely dark last year. And not every company is quite ready to mark their return. But numerous groups are bringing their talents back over the coming weeks, giving those of us who love the theatre a chance to experience that love once again. If you choose to see a show, be sure to familiarize yourself with the company’s individual protocols – different groups will have different policies in place. Some will be outdoors, others will be inside, but all will be bringing live theatre back.

I know you’ve missed it. I’ve missed it too. So let’s all take the time to get out there and see something. One thing is for certain – there are plenty of options. Here’s a look at just some of what’s to come.

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Ten Bucks Theatre Company

As You Like It (July 15 – Aug. 1)

One of our area’s most beloved cultural traditions continues as the folks at Ten Bucks Theatre once again renew their commitment to the presentation of outdoor performances of the works of the Bard.

This summer’s installment is “As You Like It,” a comedy packed with the sort of pastoral shenanigans and cross-dressing disguises that we’ve come to know and love with regard to Shakespeare. Suffice it to say, a noble youth is banished. His recent infatuation is also banished. She disguises herself as a boy, only to wind up wooing the aforementioned youth anyway. Hijinks, as they are wont to do, ensue. The production is helmed by Amy Roeder, who also directed last summer’s production of “Taming of the Shrew.”

(Editor’s note: This is where I make sure to inform you that “As You Like It” is one of my absolute favorite Shakespeare plays; the last time TBT produced it, back in 2007, I played Jacques as a wise overall-wearing hillbilly and it was one of my favorite theatrical experiences ever. Now, more than a decade later, I look forward to watching it unfold from the outside.)

The show will unfold over the course of three weekends – Thursday through Sunday – with the first two taking place at Brewer’s Indian Trail Park before moving to Fort Knox in Prospect for the final performances.

(For more information about “As You Like It,” visit the Ten Bucks Theatre website at www.tenbuckstheatre.org or find them on Facebook.)

Some Theatre Company

Puffs (July 8-17)

No Exit (Aug. 26-29)

Over the course of its history, Some Theatre Company has shown itself to be a group that embraces the opportunity to do things a little bit differently. Those tendencies are front and center with the troupe’s pair of summer offerings, both of which will be mounted at the company’s storefront theatre space in the Bangor Mall.

First up is “Puffs,” the Matt Cox-penned parody of a certain school of magic and the various people who attend it. Specifically, the people who maybe don’t get all the glory and accolades of the more well-known students. It’s a hilarious deconstruction of a cultural phenomenon, packed with goofy puns and plenty of inside baseball-type references, but also perfectly accessible to those who don’t even know what I’m talking about when I say “a certain school of magic.”

The production, directed by Elaine Bard, is a reprise of the company’s wildly successful run of the show from early last year. Expect loads of laughs from this one, running July 8 through July 17.

Later in the summer, STC will present the Jean-Paul Sartre classic “No Exit.” It’s a bleak work of existentialist theatre, a piece that will haunt audiences long afterward, both viscerally and philosophically. Three people – two women and a man – are trapped in eternity, locked in a windowless, doorless room with lights that never dim. Bleakly funny and intellectually challenging, this is the play that gave us the oft-repeated line “Hell is other people.”

This show, directed by Deb Elz Hammond, might not seem like the usual summer fare, but since when has STC done the usual? “No Exit” runs the last weekend in August.

(For more information about “Puffs” and “No Exit,” visit the Some Theatre Company website at www.stcmaine.org or find them on Facebook.)

Midcoast Theater Company

The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee (Aug. 6-15)

This Belfast-based group recently changed its name from Midcoast Actors’ Studio, but while the name is new, the quality of the work is undoubtedly what we’ve come to expect from this first-rate crew.

While this story is landing just a little too late to include their season’s early offering – the MTC production of “She Kills Monsters” closed at the beginning of June – there’s still plenty of time for you to plan to make the trip to see “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee,” the beloved musical comedy involving a handful of oddball spellers and the oddball adults who facilitate them. With great tunes and a surprising amount of audience participation (a select few from the house actually participate in the bee), it’s a fun and heartfelt time for all.

Midcoast Theater Company head honcho Jason Banister is running things for this one – you can expect to have a great time. The show runs from August 6 through August 15.

(For more information about “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee,” you can visit the Midcoast Theater Company website at www.midcoasttheater.org or find them on Facebook.)

Acadia Repertory Theatre

The Lifespan of a Fact (July 6-25)

Fully Committed (July 27 – Aug. 15)

TBA (Aug. 15 – Sept. 5)

One of the artistic gems of the coast is making its return after a dormant 2020. Acadia Repertory Theatre is once again bringing its delightful brand of theatrical excitement to audiences on Mount Desert Island.

Current circumstances mean that ART’s usual four-show season has been reduced by one, with each production receiving a three-week run. But hey – three shows is definitely better than none, and it looks like Acadia Rep’s got an interesting selection.

First up is “The Lifespan of a Fact,” a comic piece that’s a good deal more meta than you might be expecting. It’s the story of what happens when one starts to fact-check … and is unable to stop. Based on a true story involving a magazine article that became a book, the people involved in both and what happens when the lines between fact and fiction become blurry. How much liberty is too much? What does it even mean to BE a fact? And how creative can one get when it comes to nonfiction. A clever, comedic Broadway hit, expect this one to elicit loads of laughs even as it makes you think. Running July 6 through July 25.

Next on the docket is “Fully Committed,” a one-man show wherein a single versatile actor brings to life some 40 different characters. It’s the story of an out-of-work actor whose day job involves handling reservations for a hot Manhattan restaurant. Not only is he holding off the angry and entitled New York City elite, but he has to figure out his own situation as well. This one looks like it could be a real tour de force – well worth checking out during its late July/early August run.

Last but not least, ART will be closing out the season with a yet-to-be-determined mystery. Sure, we don’t have a title yet, but given the company’s history with producing this kind of show, odds are good that this is going to be a top-notch time at the theatre. This one will be running from mid-August through Labor Day Weekend.

(For more information about Acadia Repertory Theatre, visit their website at www.acadiarep.com or check out their Facebook page.)

Opera House Arts

Desdemona, a play about a handkerchief (Aug. 13-29)

The folks at Opera House Arts have spent years building a reputation for producing shows that are just a little bit … different. And that’s a good thing – the work that they put on the Opera House stage (or other venues) tends to be thoughtful, unconventional and challenging.

This summer is no exception, as they mount a production of Paula Vogel’s “Desdemona, a play about a handkerchief,” a comedic deconstruction and reimagination of William Shakespeare’s “Othello” (which will be receiving a reading through OHA’s community playreading program on July 30 & 31). No longer the faultless victim, in this play, Desdemona is in full charge of her own life and destiny, though the reality is that even though the script may have flipped, there will always be those out there willing to betray others for their own benefits.

Julia Sears directs this one, which will be staged outdoors at nearby Nervous Nellie’s, a spot that has previously played host to outdoor OHA productions with great success. There’s no reason to expect anything less this time around; I anticipate another first-rate piece featuring one of the high-quality ensembles we always see from this crew.

(For more information about “Desdemona, a play about a handkerchief,” visit the Opera House Arts website at www.operahousearts.org or visit their Facebook page.)

The Grand

Downeast Shakes & Shenanigans (July 8-18)

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 a Downeast take on the works of William Shakespeare.

“Downeast Shakes & Shenanigans” is the brainchild of writer-director Brent Hutchins, who seeks to adapt the words of the Bard into the vernacular of Downeast Maine. 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.”

(For more information on “Downeast Shakes & Shenanigans,” you can visit the Grand’s website at www.grandonline.org or visit them on Facebook.)

Belfast Maskers

One Act Plays by Maine Authors (June 17-26)

Little Women (July 22 – Aug. 1)

The Belfast Maskers have been doing what they do for over 35 years now, having begun way back in the long-ago time known as the late 1980s. They’ve got an interesting selection for their summer offerings, to be sure.

First up, we’ve got “One Act Plays by Maine Authors,” an evening of one-acts from playwrights who hail from the great state of Maine. The bill of fare includes “Great Escapes” by David Susman, “Gloria Anderson” by Kevin O’Leary, “O’Hare–Gate4A” by Eddie Adelman and “The Store” by Travis Baker. It’s an eclectic selection that promises some good times.

Next, the Maskers go the musical route with a production of “Little Women,” a musical adaptation of the classic novel by Louisa Mae Alcott. This tender and beloved tale of four sisters and their lives in mid-19th century New England. It’s a chance to check out a classic story told in a manner that you may not have seen before, so march down to Belfast and see how things turn out for the Marches.

(For more information about “Little Women” or the one-acts, visit the Belfast Maskers’ website at www.belfastmaskers.com or find them on Facebook.)

Theatre at Monmouth

I would be remiss if I didn’t include some information about the Theatre at Monmouth, one of the artistic gems of the state, as it celebrates its 52nd season. It might take you a while to get to historic Cumston Hall from the Bangor area, but it is always well worth the trip. The Theatre at Monmouth is one of the finest theatrical organizations in all of New England, with a reputation for quality that it has earned over the last half-century-plus.

Daddy Long Legs (June 25 – Aug. 20)

This heartwarming musical story about a witty and tenacious young woman and her mysterious benefactor is filled with soaring melodies and deep longing. Based on the classic novel, which inspired the 1955 movie starring Fred Astaire, “Daddy Long Legs” is a “rags-to-riches” tale of newfound love in the spirit of Jane Austen, The Brontë Sisters, and “Downton Abbey.

The Agitators (July 3 – Aug. 20)

Brimming with urgency and relevance, Mat Smart’s “The Agitators” examines the friendship and rivalry between Frederick Douglass and Susan B. Anthony. It’s 1849 and two young activists steel themselves for the battles to come. Over the next 45 years, they journey from allies to adversaries and back. Theirs is a story of defiance, of rebellion, of revolution. They agitated the nation. They agitated each other. They changed the course of history.

Crumbs from the Table of Joy (July 8 – Aug. 21)

Brooklyn, 1950. After the death of their mother, Ernestine and Ermina Crump move to New York with their father, Godfrey, who seeks guidance from charismatic preacher, Father Divine. In the swirling, glamorous commotion of this new city, with calls for equal rights and communist rebellion hanging in the air, the girls begin a journey toward independence and a challenging future. This sharp and boisterous play from two-time Pulitzer Prize-winner Lynn Nottage about family, faith, and revolution has been described as a mash-up of Lorraine Hansberry and Tennessee Williams, a memory play about a black family, a glass menagerie in the sun.

Measure for Measure (July 15 – Aug. 22)

With a unique brew of laughter and darkness, Shakespeare’s tale of impassable moral dilemmas, religious hypocrisy, and he said/she said examines the complex relationships between those in power and those they govern. The quality of mercy is strained to the point of breaking in this dark comedy about the corruption of justice and authority…and the true nature of love and mercy.

The Age of Bees (July 22 – Aug. 19)

Tira Palmquist’s coming-of-age drama, imagines a world where environmental disaster, and a rapidly spreading plague, has reduced civilization and decimated hope. Mel finds safe haven on an isolated farm, tending to the last blooming apple orchards as primary pollinator. Enter Jonathan, an independent field researcher collecting samples of plants to start anew. Mel sees possibility and purpose in Jonathan, and in Mel, Jonathan discovers a secret that could save the world.

Sofonisba (July 29 – Aug. 21)

Michelangelo’s 27-year-old apprentice, Sofonisba Anguissola, boards a ship from Italy to become the first female court painter for King Philip II. Her 20 years at the Spanish Court are one long chess match, played for and against the expectations of king, bishop, fool, knight, and 14-year-old queen. The negotiations and sacrifices she makes in service to her art and her heart reveal the dangerous waters of court politics for an unmarried, headstrong woman. A world premiere from playwright Callie Kimball about the hunger for creation of birth and art and the very real cost of both.

Lakewood Theater

The Lakewood Theater is, to put it simply, iconic. It is the oldest summer theatre in the state’s history, marking its 120th(!) season this summer. And they’ve got a robust selection this year, just like always – so robust, in fact, that we don’t have room to go into full detail about these shows.

However, we can offer up a look at their schedule and accompany that with a recommendation: if you’ve never been, you should really check it out. The Lakewood Theater is an integral part of Maine’s theatrical history and well worth seeing for yourself.

(Note: Even with the early date of this preview, we’ve already missed the season’s first offering from Lakewood – “But Why Bump Off Barnaby?” closed on June 13.)

Four Old Broads (June 17-26)

Mid-Summer (July 1-10)

Bullshot Crummond (July 15-24)

Drinking Alone (July 29-Aug. 7)

Living on Love (Aug. 12-21)

Scapino (Aug. 24-Sept. 4)

Who’s in Bed with the Butler? (Sept. 9-18)

Last modified on Thursday, 17 June 2021 08:29

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