On Theater: Looking forward to little-seen gems

When you've been reviewing theatrical productions for a few years (and in my case, quite a few), you develop a certain fondness for particular shows that only turn up once in a blue moon on a local stage.

Two of my personal favorites in that category are included in the 2013-14 lineup announced by the Costa Mesa Playhouse, and they're scheduled back to back — "Greater Tuna" and "Assassins."

"Greater Tuna" is a two-person exercise with the actors portraying more than 20 of the quirky residents of Tuna, Texas — the state's third-smallest town. When I was with the Irvine Community Theater, we prepared a cutting from that show, using several of our board members, for the entertainment at our annual meeting. It works with a large cast as well as a duo.

The Costa Mesa Playhouse has "Greater Tuna" slotted from Nov. 1 to 24 under the direction of Kyle Myers. It'll be the traditional two-man version as created by Jaston Williams, Joe Sears and Ed Howard. It should be a real hoot.

Following "Tuna" will be "Assassins," Stephen Sondheim's backhanded tribute to presidential assassins (and would-be killers like Squeaky Fromme and John Hinckley). It has only been presented twice locally, both times at Orange Coast College.

David Blair will be directing, with Stephen Hulsey providing musical direction. The Tony Award-winning darkly comic musical will hit the stage Feb. 7 and will run through March 9.

Opening the season from Sept. 13 to Oct. 6 will be "Dog Logic" by Thomas Strelich. The play, staged only once locally, by South Coast Repertory, focuses on the caretaker of a seedy pet cemetery.

Sharyn Case is scheduled to direct this dark comedy, which the playhouse describes as "a hilarious but disturbing study of devotion to ideals in the face of urban sprawl."

Another Tony winner, "God of Carnage," is scheduled from April 4 to 27. It's from playwright Yasmina Reza, whom you may remember as the author of "Art," a biting comedy about the meaning of a blank, white canvas.

"Carnage," in a translation from the French by Christopher Hampton, focuses on a pair of married couples who meet to discuss, in a civilized manner, a fight between their sons but fall prey to childlike anger themselves. Michael Serna will direct.

Finishing up the new season is a popular and highly familiar musical, "Little Shop of Horrors" by Alan Menken and Howard Ashman. If you haven't seen it (or the movie version), "Little Shop of Horrors" centers on a voracious man-eating plant that devours everyone in sight. Hulsey will handle the direction and musical staging, and the show runs from May 30 to June 29.

Setting the tone for the offbeat new season will be the playhouse's annual fundraiser special, a concert version of Sondheim's "Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street." This attraction arrives next month for three days only, Aug. 23 to 25.

The playhouse's 2013-14 season will unfold at 611 Hamilton St., Costa Mesa. Reservations currently are being taken at (949) 650-5269.

TOM TITUS reviews local theater for the Daily Pilot.

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