Orange Theatre's Blood Wedding Gallops Through Completed Version at ASU Tempe's Lyceum

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Courtesy of Orange Theatre
Katrina Donaldson is the Bride in Orange Theatre's Blood Wedding.
The setup: Orange Theatre's industrially flavored, iconoclastic mounting of Lorca's Blood Wedding is similar in many ways to the roughly two-thirds complete work-in-progress version we got to see last winter. The company develops a play in several periods spanning about a year, and viewing multiple iterations reveals some of the decision-making that goes into the creation of art.

If that alone doesn't sound like fun (and if so, understandably -- a lot of people prefer not to witness the making of sausage, either), you're in luck, because the show is still densely packed with complex characters who strut and romp through a Home Depot-y wonderland, managing to symbolize concepts like lust and vengeance while also representing real people.

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Downtown Phoenix's Space 55 Presents a Different 7 Minutes in Heaven Each Saturday in June

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courtesy of Space 55
Patrick Hershey and Amy Ouzoonian are Expat, and they wail.
The setup: Space 55's Late Night Series is a thing we've visited and written about before. It's alternative performance for (eventually) every taste, something we both enjoy and pine for more of.

This month, Saturday nights at 9 p.m. bring us 7 Minutes in Heaven, a thing that link kind of describes the content of, but not the concept. (Disclosure: I have performed in 7 Minutes Under the Mistletoe. Space 55 does not select or vet artists or material for its 7 Minutes . . . series -- and that is the concept.)

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The Full Monty from Mesa Encore Drops More Than Trou

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Wade Moran
Foreground, Michael Leeth, and left to right, Chad Campbell, Andrew Lipman, Jonathan Holdsworth, and Julian Peña discuss "The Goods" in The Full Monty.
The setup: There really isn't anything wrong with the lemons God gave you, even before you pluckily make lemonade from them. But in 1997, when director Peter Cattaneo showed us the work of screenwriter Simon Beaufoy (Slumdog Millionaire, Salmon Fishing in the Yemen, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire) in The Full Monty, the desperate, laid-off male inhabitants of economically ravaged steel town Sheffield, Yorkshire, England, became brave, brilliant, sexy heroes. (Oh, yeah -- by stripping for money in front of friends, family, and neighbors, despite zero qualifications to do so, in case you didn't know.) Mesa Encore Theatre's mounting of the fine stage musical that resulted (set in Buffalo, New York) runs one more weekend in the Nesbitt/Elliott Playhouse at Mesa Arts Center.

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Young Frankenstein Is Proportionally Large at Peoria's Arizona Broadway Theatre

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courtesy of Arizona Broadway Theatre
From left, Kurtis W. Overby and Adam Vargas put on some Raaarh in Young Frankenstein.
The setup: You may remember a massive hit musical, The Producers, that was based on a Mel Brooks film that, by the time this century turned, not really all that many people remembered. You might not realize that Brooks wrote all the songs for that show, not just "Springtime for Hitler" (which was in the original fake musical in the original movie). He's very musically talented!

Blazing Saddles and Young Frankenstein are probably considered Brooks' biggest hits, and I don't know whether there'll ever be a musical version of Blazing Saddles, but YF makes a nice, fun musical, and it's stomping into Arizona right now at Arizona Broadway Theatre.


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Bitch of the Baskervilles at Downtown Phoenix's Trunk Space This Weekend Only

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Heather Corner
From left, Liz Bragg and Amanda O'Halloran search desperately for a clue in Bitch of the Baskervilles, in a photo that displays vastly greater quantities of hat and lesser quantities of bosom than the real thing.
The setup: Let's set you up, first. You obviously need something to do with yourself this long weekend, based on last night's two-hour-plus karaoke rotations, and now that the chick who sang "Don't Stop Believing" has doubtless been murdered, you can get some investigative tips from Holmes and Watson at Bitch of the Baskervilles, a short new play that's here on a three-day stop on a two-city tour, i.e., get a move on.

A Toronto troupe called Socratic Theatre Collective has collaborated with Current Theatrics, which provided Philippines-born, Dublin-educated, Las Vegas-residing director Ruth Pe Palileo, to produce S. R. Kriger's Bitch of the Baskervilles this weekend in Phoenix and next weekend in Vegas. It's a short, gender-blended parody of the Conan Doyle story with adorable, sexy, steampunky costumes (including the first tiny deerstalkanator hat I've ever seen), some nice, goofy acting choices, and subtly self-referential jokes about literature, stage conventions, and gender [insert noun here].


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Avenue Q: We Can Tell You How to Get to It (Go to Phoenix Theatre)

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courtesy of Phoenix Theatre
Colin Ross (right) and two unseen puppeteer/actors operate part of the ensemble of Avenue Q during the number "Purpose."
The setup: Avenue Q, a sort of adults-only musical parody of Sesame Street that exists and functions, nevertheless, completely independently of the kids' show, opened in 2003 and won a cluster of Tonys. One would think its songs and subject matter, apparently quite topical at the time, would feel dated and stale by now, but happily for the show (maybe not so happily for the prospects of people like its 22-year-old characters), it works as well as ever.


Phoenix Theatre
's current production, a revival of its 2011 staging, still has two more weekends to run and, surprisingly, a lot of you have never seen Avenue Q and you need to remedy that immediately.

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Space 55's New Short Plays Heyre Be Dragons . . . In My Mind, Plus Late-Night Serial Captain Jack's Space Attack

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courtesy of Space 55
Claire Monet and Colt Watkiss play siblings facing an extraordinary issue in Carrie Behrens' Intuition, one of eight short plays in Heyre Be Dragons . . . In My Mind.
The setup: One of the myriad ways Space 55 Ensemble enriches our community is by developing, training, and showcasing new writers, whether they're creating solo performance pieces or plays with several characters, a plot, the whole nine yards. Space 55's current mainstage show, Heyre Be Dragons . . . In My Mind, is a fully staged collection of very short plays by local playwrights, all hanging together, per the directors' notes, in their focus on the "many things we still do not understand about why we think and feel the way we do." My favorite! (Well, not alone at 3 a.m. in my mind, but my favorite topic for good art.)

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Actors Theatre's Good People Captivates Downtown Phoenix Audiences

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John Groseclose
Is Margie (Katie McFadzen, seated) too nice? Jean (Maria Amorocho) thinks so, in Good People.
The setup: In playwright David Lindsay-Abaire's (Rabbit Hole, A Devil Inside, Fuddy Meers, Wonder of the World) most recent local première, Good People, South Boston single mom Margie (Katie McFadzen) has, in the latest in a string of bad breaks, lost her crappy job as a dollar-store cashier. The radiant success of Actors Theatre's production of this extraordinary but typically seriocomic Lindsay-Abaire script, and its place in the company's own persistent and beleaguered recent history, affected both particularly and unexceptionally by the economy, stupid, mirrors Margie's struggle and resilience.

Presented simply yet painstakingly on a three-sided thrust platform that initiates the rehearsal hall of Arizona Opera Center, across Central from Phoenix Art Museum, as a part-time informal performance space, this show is that special, evanescent thing you must possess -- or "be possessed by" is probably more accurate. It's the theatrical equivalent of a cronut or a Hunger Games midnight opening or biodegradable condom or geez, whatever, only better.

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Musical The Secret Garden Delves Into the Human Psyche at Peoria's Arizona Broadway Theatre

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courtesy of Arizona Broadway Theatre
Jordan Wolfe (Dickon) and Madeline Alfano, one of the three actresses who take turns playing Mary, in The Secret Garden.
The setup: Late Victorian children's novelist Frances Hodgson Burnett's The Secret Garden is the typical story of a couple of more or less orphaned kids pluckily figuring out how to thrive and then transform the useless adults who were supposed to be responsible for them. One of Burnett's later works, the book's informed by her own experiences and passions and eventually outstripped even Little Lord Fauntleroy in popularity.

1991 found an oddly popular musical version of The Secret Garden enduring on Broadway for 709 performances. I say "oddly" for several reasons that will come up later, but playwright Marsha Norman did skillfully manipulate audience emotions with her libretto, which nabbed a Tony over that for Miss Saigon, as did the problem-solving set by Heidi Landesman (also trouncing Miss Saigon -- something I like to note because musical Tony winners don't always face much competition, either critically or commercially). The show's now at Arizona Broadway Theatre, enjoyable and nicely performed, if somewhat uncanny by nature.

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ASU Tempe's Binary Theatre Looks for Answers with Earthlings, Tonight Through Sunday

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courtesy of Binary Theatre Company

The setup: So Binary Theatre Company is the name of the current incarnation of the student-run live theater production organization (they're not a gang; they're a club) under the auspices of Arizona State University Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts' School of Film, Dance, and Theatre. That is one of the rare times you'll see us bother to give the whole name of that academic unit, because holy crap. But it is descriptive and accurate.

And Binary, to continue in the vein of definition, is an experience-maker. An undergrad doesn't have to be admitted to a specific degree program to participate; it's a way to learn, as early as possible, that artists have to create their own opportunities to get their stuff out there a lot of the time. This spring wraps up Binary's third season, and the current show, Earthlings, shares a brand-spankin'-new local play (by co-director Beth May) that is, in a somehow life-affirming and darkly humorous way, the stuff of one's worst nightmares.


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