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On Theater: New SCR season blends classics, premieres

South Coast Repertory will begin its first season under new artistic director Marc Masterson with a trip back in time with Jane Austen followed by the world premiere of a modern drama set in the American Midwest.

The Costa Mesa professional theater’s 2011-12 season gets underway Sept. 9 with the stage version of Austen’s novel “Pride and Prejudice,” which already has entertained audiences at Golden West College and Vanguard University. It’s a story of five young sisters, all but one in pursuit of an eligible bachelor newcomer, and will be directed by Kyle Donnelly.

Come Sept. 25, the scene shifts to Plainview, Kan., the buckle on the Bible Belt, where a new high school biology teacher has a different notion of “How the World Began” than the townsfolk. Directed by Daniella Topol, it’s being staged in association with the Women’s Project Theater.

Horton Foote’s “The Trip to Bountiful,” opening Oct. 21, follows an aging widow trapped in a tiny Houston apartment who yearns to return to her Gulf Coast town.


“The journey is filled with frequent humor and a tenderness that’s both heartbreaking and life-affirming,” said director Martin Benson.

As it has since 1980, Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol,” adapted for SCR by Jerry Patch, will come to center stage for the holiday season, opening Nov. 26 and playing through Christmas Eve. Director John-David Keller and “Scrooge” Hal Landon Jr. will be back for their 32nd productions of the classic.

Two street-savvy black hustlers take the stage in the Pulitzer Prize-winning “Topdog/Underdog” by Suzan-Lori Parks, opening Jan. 8. Directed by Seret Scott, the play is described as a “darkly funny hit about family grievances, sounds — and healing.”

“I laughed out loud when I read it” is Masterson’s comment about “Elemeno Pea,” a new comedy by Molly Smith Metzler, which Masterson will direct. Two sisters with strikingly different lifestyles are featured in this show, opening Jan. 27.


“Sight Unseen,” which SCR premiered 20 years ago, returns March 11 under the direction of David Emmes. Donald Margulies’ drama focuses on a celebrated artist returning to find his first love and early inspiration. “Then it was Donald’s breakthrough,” Emmes said. “Today it’s a modern classic.”

A gritty comedy born in SCR’s 2011 Pacific Playwrights Festival, “The Prince of Atlantis” will be featured beginning March 30, with the director to be announced. The play’s imprisoned seafood importer is about to meet the son he never knew — after 30 years.

Octavio Solis, whose “La Posada Magica” was staged for many years during the holiday season, is the author of “Cloudlands,” a new production with music by Adam Gwon, ticketed for an April 15 opening. It’s centered on a young girl who takes pictures of clouds and keeps them in a book filled with unsolved mysteries. No director has been assigned yet.

Closing out the season will be August Wilson’s “Jitney,” a drama set at a storefront gypsy cab station in the 1970s. The play will open May 11 with a director not yet chosen.

SCR will offer three other productions in its “Theater for Young Audiences” series, all on the Julianne Argyros Stage. They are:

•"Junie B. in Jingle Bells, Batman Smells” by Allison Gregory from the books by Barbara Park, directed by Casey Stangl, opening Nov. 4.

•"The Borrowers” by Mary Norton, adapted by Charles Way, directed by Shelley Butler, opening Feb. 10.

•"Jane of the Jungle, “book and lyrics by Karen Zacarias, music by Deborah Wicks La Puma, directed by Juliette Carrillo, opening May 25.


Further information on the 2011-12 season and advance reservations may be obtained by contacting South Coast Repertory at (714) 708-5555.

TOM TITUS reviews local theater for the Daily Pilot.