New Takes on Old Tales
Ondine may be best known as the watery vehicle that steered Audrey Hepburn to stardom (in its 1954 Broadway production of the Jean Giraudoux play), but San Francisco’s Cutting Ball Theater has its own take on the mermaid-meets-mortal myth (Feb. 5–March 6). The theatre’s website (“come ashore and explore the elements”) makes this world premiere adaptation by Katharine Sherman sound positively immersive.
Meanwhile in Washington, D.C., fresh on the heels of Arena Stage’s Oliver! revival comes the nearby Kennedy Center’s new musical OLIVÉRio: A Brazilian Twist (Jan. 30–Feb. 21). With book and lyrics by Karen Zacarías, music by Deborah Wicks La Puma, and direction by Juliette Carrillo, the new show features a gender switch—Oli is now a girl who masquerades as a boy—as well as such un-Dickensian locales as beaches, Carnaval, and favelas (actually, on second thought, favelas are pretty Dickensian).
In Austin, two thorny classics get makeovers: Generic Ensemble Company mounts The Mikado: Reclaimed at VORTEX Repertory Company (Feb. 12–27), in a production conceived and directed by kt shorb, and Rude Mechs returns to the task of Fixing Timon of Athens (Feb. 4–27).
Finally, after a recent bow at San Francisco’s Cowell Theater, the Brooklyn–based Fictionvile Studio brings Feathers of Fire to Brooklyn Academy of Music (Feb. 5–7). This shadow-puppet/digital-animation version of the tale of star-crossed Zal and Rudabeh is adapted by Hamid Rahmanian from a portion of the tenth-century Persian epic poem Shahnameh (“The Epic of Kings”).
History Straight Up
If the past is foreign country, many theatres are making the trip this month. At Kansas City, Mo.’s Coterie Theatre, Wendy Lement and Bethany Dunakin’s And Justice for Some: The Freedom Trial of Anthony Burns  cross-examines the case of a runaway slave whose return to his Southern master helped create the momentum for Lincoln’s new Republican Party to take the White House (Jan. 26–Feb. 21). At St. Paul, Minn.’s History Theatre, Carlyle Brown’s George Bonga: Black Voyageur tells the story of a half-black/half-Ojibwe fur trader in pre–Civil War Minnesota, charged with hunting down an Ojibwe fugitive (Feb. 6–28).
At Pittsburgh’s City Theatre, Keith Reddin’s Some Brighter Distance (Jan. 23–Feb. 14) tackles the dilemma of German rocket scientist Arthur Rudolph, a key player in the American space program until revelations of his Nazi past drove him from the U.S. At South Carolina’s Charleston Stage, Julian Wiles’s The Seat of Justice (Feb. 19–March 6) recalls the 1947 desegregation case in rural Clarendon County, S.C., that led eventually to the landmark Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision. Finally, Chicago’s Silk Road Rising hosts Ronnie Malley’s Ziryab, the Songbird of Andalusia (Feb. 18–28), a musical portrait of a Leonardo da Vinci–like polymath of ninth-century Islamic Spain.
History Mashed Up
At Southwest Shakespeare Company in Mesa, Ariz., David Davalos’s Tom Stoppard–esque Wittenberg imagines college debates among Hamlet, John Faustus, and Martin Luther (Feb. 26–March 12), while Charise Castro Smith’s The Hunchback of Seville, at Providence, R.I.’s Trinity Repertory Company (Feb. 4–March 6), traces Christopher Columbus’s return to Spain, where he meets his match in Maxima Terriblé Segunda, the adopted sister, and fiercely unlikely successor, of Queen Isabella.
Found in Translation
New York City’s Repertorio Español isn’t the only theatre presenting Latin-American works in Spanish with live translation (Repertorio’s season includes pieces by Mariana Carreño King and Saulo García, plus adaptations of Mario Vargas Llosa and Jorge Amado). D.C.’s GALA Hispanic Theatre offers Señorita y Madame: The Secret War of Elizabeth Arden and Helena Rubinstein, Venezuelan playwright Gustavo Ott’s comedy about the selling of beauty, in Spanish with surtitles (Feb. 4–28). Meanwhile in Portland, Ore., Third Rail Repertory Theatre is eager to present the U.S. premiere of an English translation of German playwright David Gieselman’s dark comedy Mr. Kolpert, Feb. 5–27 (“A play we’ve been dying to produce since day one,” effuses the 12-year-old company’s website). Also in Portland, Miracle Theatre Group will stage Contigo Pan y Cebolla, a family comedy by the late Héctor Quintero set in pre-revolutionary Cuba (Feb. 11–March 5). And at Red Bank, N.J.’s Two River Theater, a new play about generations of tightrope walkers, Ropes, by the Mexican author Bárbara Colio, will play Feb. 20–March 20.
Correction: An earlier version of this story stated that Brooklyn Academy of Music’s staging of Feathers on Fire was presented by the Bay Area–based ShadowLight Productions. The piece, though created in collaboration with ShadwowLight, was a production of the Brooklyn-based Fictionville Studio.