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On Theater: Mesa Playhouse launches 54th season

On Theater: Mesa Playhouse launches 54th season
Michael Dale Brown, Costa Mesa Playhouse president, will stage his 1950s science fiction spoof “Vampire Queen of Mars,” from Oct. 19 to Nov. 11. (Scott Smeltzer / Daily Pilot)

The Costa Mesa Playhouse, now in its 54th season, has fashioned a reputation of blending in unfamiliar — sometimes original — plays into a lineup of time-honored scripts and challenging new works.

Take its current slate for example. There are a pair of Pulitzer Prize winners, two shows heretofore unseen locally, and a world premiere written and directed by the playhouse president, his second such effort.

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The season began in June with “The Christians,” a riveting view of megachurch operations staged by the theater's artistic director, Michael Serna, which this column promised “will engage your sensibilities in this thought-provoking production.”

Just ahead, opening Aug. 17, is “Next to Normal,” a musical drama about a suburban family struggling with the effects of mental illness. Director Jason Holland and musical director Stephen Hulsey are putting together this show, which won both a Tony and a Pulitzer.

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Then comes the brand-new one — “Vampire Queen of Mars,” written by playhouse President Michael Dale Brown, who also will direct. His first was called “Earthlings Beware.” Scheduled from Oct. 19 to Nov. 11, it’s a campy spoof of space-based movie thrillers from the 1950s.

Probably the only familiar item on the playhouse’s menu is “Crimes of the Heart,” Beth Henley’s Pulitzer Prize-winning seriocomedy centering on three Southern sisters, one of whom is a murderess. Performance dates are Jan. 25 through Feb. 17.

Wrapping up the Costa Mesa season from March 22 to April 28, will be “Avenue Q,” a Tony-winning raunchy comedy populated by humans and puppets. Its stated mission is “finding purpose in big-city life.”

Performances are given at 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and at 2 p.m. Sundays at the playhouse, 611 Hamilton St., Costa Mesa.

Tickets are priced from $20 to $25 and may be reserved by calling the theater box office at (949) 650-5269 or online at www.costamesaplayhouse.com.

Tom Titus reviews local theater.

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