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Fall Arts Preview: Light and dark, classic and groundbreaking round out Tampa Bay theater

Joseph Morales and company in the touring production of Hamilton, coming to the David A. Straz Jr. Center for the performing Arts Feb. 12-March 10, 2018. (Photo by Joan Marcus)
Published Sep. 4, 2018

Theater mirrors our world and enlarges it, responds to current events, and allows us to glimpse the present by retelling the classics. Just touch this lineup of shows. In the palm of your hand you can almost feel tremors of anxiety about racial tension, bullying, mental illness and grim reminders of war. American Stage, Innovocative Theatre and Stageworks Theatre all delve into real-life stresses about police work, the Columbine massacre or the Holocaust. A season themed "A Brighter Tomorrow" at Freefall Theatre still contains a premiere about the Nicaraguan revolution.

Even a hit-studded season at the David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts, starting with the juggernaut, Hamilton, looks squarely at racism and infidelity, suicide in Dear Evan Hansen and events following the Sept. 11 attacks in Come From Away. We can't get away from turmoil, but theater can shine a light on some of the causes and even stir an all-too-rare commodity, empathy.

Listen closely and you'll hear laughter, too. Comedies outnumber darker fare in all of the above theaters, as well as at Hat Trick Theatre, Jobsite Theater, Ruth Eckerd Hall and Tampa Repertory Theatre.

Most shows fall somewhere in between. Is Othello only tragic or does humor also live in its tissues? You'll see brand new work, a couple of local playwrights and material the rest of the world might hear about soon. American Stage producing artistic director Stephanie Gularte might have said it best.

"We are committed to telling stories that inspire and impact our hearts and minds, honor our diversity, embrace our differences, and rejoice in our shared experience of what it is to be a human being."

163 Third St. N, St. Petersburg. (727) 823-7529. americanstage.org.

Between Riverside and Crazy Oct. 5-Nov. 4

Stephen Adly Guirgis' Pulitzer winner zeros in on the stress of a former New York cop, his hostile landlord and a son out of prison.

Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley Nov. 30-Dec. 30

An ambitious sequel to Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice by the widely produced Lauren Gunderson and Margot Melcon.

Pipeline Jan. 25-Feb. 24

A Detroit public school teacher trying to fix a broken system

The Roommate,by Jen Silverman, March 15-April 7

A dark comedy about a woman running from her past.

Mamma Mia! April 10-May 12

The wedding story celebrating Abba is the 2019 American Stage in the Park production.

A Long Day's Journey Into Night May 31-June 30

Classic by Eugene O'Neill takes on love and addiction.

Fun Home July 19-Aug. 18, 2019

Alison Bechdel's graphic novel about growing up in a funeral home morphed into a Tony winner for best musical.

1010 N MacInnes Place, Tampa. (813) 229-7827. strazcenter.org.

Chicago Sept.18-23

The right moves and jazzy grooves, show-stopping tunes and gritty glamor.

The Play That Goes Wrong Oct. 16-21

Nesting inside a Sherlock Holmes-style mystery lurks a chaotic comedy.

Hello, Dolly! Dec. 4-9

Winner of the 2017 Tony for best revival of a musical.

Les Misérables Jan. 15-20

Cameron Mackintosh's production includes lavish new staging and scenery inspired by Victor Hugo's paintings.

A Bronx Tale Jan. 29-Feb. 3

Directors Robert DeNiro (who co-starred in the movie) and Jerry Zaks oversees a 1960s-set doo-wop musical about a boy in the Bronx.

Hamilton Feb. 12-March 10

Lin Manuel-Miranda's blockbuster proved that hip-hop could handle a musical about American history at least as well as Broadway or rock genres, maybe better.

Dear Evan Hansen April 9-14

The musical navigating teenage anxiety has wowed Broadway audiences with its searing depth and vulnerability.

Anastasia May 7-12

Terrence McNally's tale of a young woman who survives the Bolshevik revolution swells with music and suspense.

Come From Away June 4-9

True story of 38 planes grounded in Gander, Newfoundland, following the Sept. 11 attacks.

6099 Central Ave., St. Petersburg. (727) 498-5205. freefalltheatre.com.

The Fantastiks Sept. 22-Oct. 21

Long-running musical still resonates with Try to Remember, other favorites.

Every Christmas Story You Ever Heard (And Then Some!) Dec. 1-30

Encyclopedic and silly, historical and current, this Christmas production tries to do it all.

Perfect Arrangement Jan. 26-Feb. 24

Topher Payne's comedy combines closeted life with the Red Scare of the 1950s.

Crumbs From the Table of Joy March 23-April 14

A widower goes on a peace mission. His teenage daughters aren't so sure.

Buyer & Cellar May 11-June 9

In this comedy by Jonathan Tolins, a struggling actor works for a superstar sorting through a basement full of antique dolls.

Under Fire July 13-Aug. 4

Barry Harman's musical adaptation of a 1983 film covers the death of ABC News reporter Bill Stewart in Nicaragua.

Performs at Ruth Eckerd Hall, 1111 N McMullen Booth Road, Clearwater. facebook.com/hattricktheatre.

Mindgame Oct. 18-28

Thriller involving a serial killer, just in time for Halloween.

The Odd Couple Feb. 14-24

The late Neil Simon was a master of urbane comedy. Updated version with a female couple.

1120 E Kennedy Blvd., Tampa. (813) 374-2416. innovocativetheatre.org.

Columbinus Jan. 11-20

This play, by Stephen Karam and PJ Paparelli, examines the Columbine High shootings.

The Hundred Dresses Aug. 1-11

Mary Hall Surface's adaptation of the book takes on school bullying.

Performs at the Straz Center. (813) 229-7827. jobsitetheater.org.

Edgar & Emily Oct. 12-Nov. 4

Emily Dickinson was a famous recluse. Joseph McDonough posits a surprise visit from Edgar Allen Poe.

Othello Jan. 11-Feb. 3

Shakespeare's tragedy gets a modern makeover.

The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged) March 15-April 7

Which Shakespeare to perform? All, said Adam Long, Daniel Singer and Jess Winfield, who condensed 37 plays into 90 minutes.

Hedda May 10-June 2

This adaptation revisits Henrik Ibsen's Hedda Gabler, about a woman caught between three men.

Constellations July 12-Aug. 4

This play by Nick Payne explores physics, parallel universes and romance.

Silver Meteor Gallery, 2213 E 6th Ave., Tampa. $15. (813) 586-4272. labtheaterproject.org.

The Redemption of Rube Moats Nov. 2-18

Lab Theatre Project focuses on new work. A. J. DeLauder's baseball-themed play follows a former semi-pro player turned manager who wants to help his brother.

Duende: Recuerdos de Flamenco Feb. 8-24

Through Flamenco dance, a couple narrates the Spanish Civil War, their exile to New York and their own troubled marriage. By Sarah Lawrence.

Tighten Your Borscht Belt June 28-July 14

In 1952, a young Jewish woman tries to break a glass ceiling in Catskills comedy clubs. By Hilary Bluestein-Lyons.

620 1st Ave. S, St. Petersburg. (727) 895-6620. thestudioat620.org.

The Adventures of Noel Berlin Oct. 22

Radio play by Paul Wilborn and Matt Cowley. Other original plays to follow on the fourth Monday of each month.

1111 N McMullen Booth Road, Clearwater. (727) 791-7400. rutheckerdhall.com.

The Wizard of Oz Dec. 9

Charlie Brown Christmas Live on Stage Dec. 12

The Sound of Music Dec. 22-23

Something Rotten Jan. 5

Spoofs the origins of the Broadway musical.

Monty Python's Spamalot Jan. 19

Puts King Arthur's legend in a blender, out of which comes flying cows and killer rabbits.

Mike Hammer: The Little Death Jan. 17-27

Max Allan Collins completes an unfinished Mickey Spillane novel in this world premiere, styled after a radio play. Stars Gary Sandy of WKRP in Cincinnati.

An Intimate Evening With Kristin Chenoweth May 17

A Broadway legend reprises hits from Wicked, You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown, and more.

Finding Neverland Feb. 23

Playwright J. M. Barrie discovers Peter Pan.

Love Letters March 9

Barbara Eden and Hal Linden star in this tribute to the lost art of letter writing

Legally Blonde March 10

Elle Woods fend off snobbery and heartbreak.

Jukebox Hero The Musical March 14

Follows the creation of the band, Foreigner.

Friends! The Musical Parody March 21-23

Satirizes the hit television show.

Rent April 11-12

Jonathan Larson's game-changing musical.

1120 E Kennedy Blvd., Tampa. (813) 374-2416. stageworkstheatre.org.

Judgment at Nuremberg Sept. 28-Oct. 14

Stanley Kramer fictionalizes a 1947 trial by the International Military Tribunal.

The Revolutionists Nov. 2-18

Lauren Gunderson's play follows Marie Antoinette during the French Revolution.

The Winter Wonderettes Dec. 8-23

A retro foursome like last season's The Marvelous Wonderettes returns for the Harper's Hardware holiday party.

Ready Steady Yeti Go Feb. 8-24

New romantic comedy by David Jacobi, with a side of politics.

The Mousetrap March 22-April 7

On London's West End, Agatha Christie's mystery has kept them guessing since 1952.

Four Guys Named Jose and Una Mujer Named Maria May 31-June 16

Four men share a name in this bi-lingual play with music.

620 1st Ave. S, St. Petersburg. (727) 895-6620. thestudioat620.org.

Shakespeare in the City — A Midsummer Night's Dream Oct. 25-Nov. 11

Studio founder and artistic director Bob Devin Jones directs this free production in Williams Park.

Hillsborough Community College (Ybor City campus) Studio Theatre, 1411 E 11th Ave.; or Studio 120, Theatre Centre, University of South Florida, 3837 USF Holly Drive, Tampa. tamparep.org.

Heisenberg through Sept. 23

Aided by a kindly stranger, a woman searches for his missing son.

Copenhagen Jan. 10-27

Set in the afterlife, the play pits physicists Werner Heisenberg against Niels Bohr.

Stupid F------ Bird
May 30-June 16

Aaron Posner's takeoff on Anton Chekhov's The Seagull.

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