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THEATER: Our theater critics discuss the upcoming season and its underlying theme: women

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One look at the upcoming fall lineup of theater in Richmond, and you may find yourself thinking of a slogan that first became famous in the 1970s: The future is female.

Between the all-woman cast of Cadence's upcoming co-production with Virginia Commonwealth University, "The Wolves" (Sept. 27-Oct. 7), Virginia Repertory Theatre's staging of "Sister Act" (Nov. 16-Jan. 6) and TheatreLab's production of Henrik Ibsen's classic "A Doll's House" (Dec. 6-Dec. 22), both the fall and the rest of the season — including TheatreLab and 5th Wall Theatre's inaugural Women's Theatre Festival in the spring and Quill Theatre's all-female "Taming of the Shrew" next summer — seem focused on women.

To get their take on these and other upcoming theater offerings, we asked Style critics Claire Boswell and Rich Griset for their picks for the fall season:

Griset: It used to be that – aside from the Richmond Shakespeare Festival — summer used to be the dead period for local theater. Now there's barely a break between seasons. As this new season ramps up, what are you looking forward to most this fall?

Boswell: Virginia Rep's "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time" (Sept. 21-Oct. 14). Told from the perspective of a neurologically atypical teenager, "Curious Incident" is touching, funny, heartbreaking and hopeful, and the Broadway production brought me to tears the minute the curtain went up and I saw the set come to life. This play was such an incredible experience on Broadway, and I'm eager to see how Virginia Rep will reinvent or re-create that experience for me and for audiences who are unfamiliar with the story.

So Rich, what are you most interested in this fall?

Griset: Firehouse's Season of Making theme has me intrigued. Instead of issuing a standard season in advance, the theater is focusing on new scripts that will be presented as they are ready. Some will be staged as regular performances and others will be shown as works in progress or members-only previews. Currently playing is "Invalid" (now-Sept. 29), an adaptation of Molière about a hypochondriac trying to marry his child off to a doctor for free medical advice. Firehouse's "Songs of Bedlam" (Oct. 17-Nov. 4) looks interesting too. It's a play that aims to give voice to the mentally ill.
We've talked a lot about plays so far. What are you anticipating musically?

Boswell: I'm excited about Quill's "Gutenberg: the Musical" Developed and first performed at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theater, it sees a pair of would-be playwrights pitching their musical retelling the story of Johann Gutenberg's invention of the printing press. Based on their past productions of similar fare, like "The Complete Works of Shakespeare (Abridged)," I think Quill's going to do well with this one. I'm also looking forward to Virginia Rep's "Sister Act," which is a smart choice for the holiday season.

Aside from these, are there any other musicals you're looking forward to?

Griset: Well, I'm always a sucker for the campy, man-eating-plant musical "Little Shop of Horrors," (Nov. 2-18) which VCU is putting on this fall. Also from the university, I'm excited about its coproduction of "The Wolves" with Cadence. Set inside an indoor soccer facility, this volatile play explores the anxieties and struggles of a teenage girls soccer team as players warm up before their game each week.

I also have high hopes for Cadence's Pulitzer-winning "Between Riverside and Crazy" (Oct. 13-Nov. 4). Written by Stephen Adly Guirgis – the same playwright responsible for "The Motherfucker With the Hat" and "Jesus Hopped the A Train" – it looks to be a darkly funny evening. Revolving around a retired cop in a rent-controlled apartment, "Riverside" explores issues of poverty, race and familial relationships.

Any other plays pique your interest this fall?

Boswell: I'm looking forward to TheatreLab's take on Ibsen's "A Doll's House" (Dec. 6-22). It's a classic, set during the holiday season in 19th century Norway; it explores marriage, class and the ways in which societal expectations limited the lives of women. TheatreLab will have Katrinah Carol Lewis and Landon Nagel as Nora and Torvald, the married couple at the center of this drama. I'm so excited to see how these two actors, under Josh Chenard's direction, might transform and reinterpret this material for a modern audience.

Another socially significant drama, "The Laramie Project," will play at Richmond Triangle Players from Sept. 27-Oct. 20. It looks in on the townspeople of Laramie, Wyoming, in the aftermath of the hate-fueled murder of Matthew Shepard. It's heartbreaking and moving and I think the theater will bring something special to this production.

Speaking of something special, I hear there's some big event happening Oct. 7.

Griset: Why yes, there is! (Insert shameless self-promotion here) As happens every fall, the Richmond Theatre Critics Circle Awards is taking place at the November Theatre. With local actors Jessi Johnson and Alexander Sapp as hosts, the black-tie event will award theater artists for their contributions to the stage. Now in its 11th year, the Artsies are always a rollicking good time.

Boswell: Well I think that's about all the space that we have. Until next time, we'll see you in the theater.

Click her to return to the Fall Arts Preview

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