On Theater: Starting year with Miller dramas

With the arrival of the new year comes another batch of local stage productions. A pair of Arthur Miller dramas will help get 2011 off and running.

The first of these, "The Crucible," bows in Friday at UC Irvine's Claire Trevor Theater. Directed by Beth Lopes, the 1950s treatise on the witch hunts of the 16th century, and their relevance to McCarthyism, plays two weekends through Jan. 22.

The second, "All My Sons," written during World War II, centers on a conscience-stricken defense plant owner whose defective airplane parts may have caused his son's combat death. The Newport Theater Arts Center will stage this production, which will run through Feb. 20.

In between, opening tonight and playing though Jan. 30 on South Coast Repertory's Julianne Argyros Stage, is "Circle Mirror Transformation," Annie Baker's Obie Award-winning comedy about an acting class in a small Vermont town. Sam Gold, who also won an Obie as best director, is at the helm of the SCR version.

Remember "Hair," the "tribal love-rock musical" of the late 1960s? It's back and coming to the Segerstrom Center for the Arts Jan. 25 through Feb. 6 in a new, critically applauded production.

South Coast Rep returns to the spotlight Jan. 28 with its third crack at Shakespeare's "A Midsummer Night's Dream." Mark Rucker, who directed SCR's "Much Ado About Nothing" and "The Taming of the Shrew," will stage this timeless comedy, which plays through Feb. 20 on the Segerstrom Stage.

The Costa Mesa Playhouse originally had "Doubt" as its February production, but it's being replaced by another play centering on a nun, "The Book of Liz" by David & Amy Sedaris. Michael Dale Brown directs this comedy about a sister who leaves the compound for the first time to discover the lunacy of the outside world. Performance dates are Feb. 4 through Feb. 27.

Orange County's Chance Theater had a big hit with its revival of "Tommy," and now that production is ticketed for the Segerstrom Center for the Arts, formerly known as the Orange County Performing Arts Center, or OCPAC. The show will be staged from Feb. 10 through Feb. 20 in the Center's smaller venue, Founder's Hall.

Shakespeare surfaces again Feb. 25 with Vanguard University's production of "Romeo and Juliet." Susan K. Berkompas directs the classic tragedy of young love and feuding families, which plays through March 6.

March will bring the musicals "Rock of Ages" and "Wicked" to the arts center, while April promises the musicals "The Mystery of Edwin Drood" and "Forever Plaid." Theater goers will have their hands full this new year.

TOM TITUS reviews local theater for the Daily Pilot.

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