Shakespeare's wizardly Prospero becomes a vengeful inventor tinkering with dangerous electrical forces as the Bard's island fantasy is transformed into a steampunk, sci-fi extravaganza. Mr. and Mrs. Macbeth are a pair of vaudeville wannabes aiming at making a killing on the burlesque circuit in an unconventional rethinking of Shakespeare's bloody epic. A whole series of monsters, man-made and otherwise, spring to life in separate stage productions.
These are just the tip of the lighting rod this fall as the local theater scene explodes after a long, not-so-hot summer doing pretty much nothing but Shakespeare. Funny, then, that Shakespeare is still leading the parade, with a pair of audacious adaptations sure to inspire conversation—and a fair share of thrills and chills.
Already up and running is Marin Shakespeare Company's 'Tempest' (through Sept. 25; www.marinshakespeare.org), directed by the ever-inventive Jon Tracy. Using Shakespeare's text verbatim, Tracy has recast Prospero as an outcast turn-of-the-century entrepreneur, creator of the mysterious Ariel Coil, a power source that develops a mind of its own just as its creator finds a way to wreak vengeance on those who've betrayed him. Staged with dazzling retro-future visuals and plenty of electromagnetic pizzazz, this risky romp through one of the Bard's best-loved plays looks to be one of the season's more daring bits of theater.
Local playwright Merlyn Q. Sell (Circus Acts), working with Santa Rosa's Actors Basement (www.facebook.com-actorsbasement), presents her new opus transplanting the tale of Macbeth into the world of 19th-century American show business. Exuberantly titled 'Act M: At the Palace Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow Only,' Shakespeare's original play is mere subtext for the cleverly conceived, darkly comic confection (Oct. 28-Nov. 5).
Tales of horror and fantasy are big this fall, with the trend continuing in October as the Independent Eye brings its eccentric and appropriately poetic take on Mary Shelley's 'Frankenstein' to the studio at Sixth Street Playhouse (Oct. 7&–30; www.independenteye.com). The production created by Elizabeth Fuller and Conrad Bishop is described as employing a combination of actors, puppets, music and theatrical effects.
At the Imaginists Theater Collective, a very different tale of supernatural birth arrives this October with 'The Golem,' based on the timeless 16th-century story of the strange creature fashioned of clay and brought to life by a Czechoslovakian rabbi with miraculous powers (Oct. 7&–22; www.theimaginists.org). The classic horror epics continue at Spreckels Performing Arts Center, where director Gene Abravaya brews up an atmospheric and tunefully macabre staging of Leslie Bricusse's 'Jekyll & Hyde: The Musical' (Oct. 21&–30; www.spreckelsonline.com).
Even more creepy-crawly onstage pleasures lie in wait this fall, including Narrow Way Stage Company's production of Tracy Letts' mind-bending 'Bug' at Spreckels (opens Oct. 21; www.narrowwaystage.com), Peter Cooper directing Agatha Christie's murderous masterpiece 'Ten Little Indians' at the Raven Players (Oct. 21&–Nov. 6; www.ravenplayers.com) and Marin Theater Company's supernatural fairy tale for adults, 'Bellwether' (Oct. 6&–30; www.marintheatre.org).
Though not technically horror or fantasy, the swashbuckling adventure 'Kite's Book' promises to provide many of the same pins-and-needles, edge-of-your-seat qualities as the aforementioned supernatural offerings. Subtitled Tales of an 18th Century Hitman, Robert Caisely's rousing tale of the gun-toting, sword-slashing anti-hero Will Carew—oft sentenced to death but imbued with a strong sense of justice—has its West Coast premiere on Sixth Street Playhouse's main stage (Sept. 30&–Oct. 23; www.6thstreetplayhouse.com).
And for those who prefer their Gothic dramas to have a little more Southern flavor, Cinnabar Theater delivers Beth Henley's outrageous comedy-drama 'Crimes of the Heart' under the direction of Sheri Lee Miller (Oct. 21&–Nov. 6; www.cinnabartheater.org), and the Ross Valley Players bring back the beloved drama-mystery 'To Kill a Mockingbird,' directed by James Dunn (Nov. 11&–Dec. 11; www.rossvalleyplayers.com).
The North Bay may be about to become ground zero for murder, mayhem and monstrosities of nature, but for local audiences, our theaters won't be all that scary—just really, really fun.