On Theater: NTAC sticks with what works

The Newport Theatre Arts Center has chosen some blasts from the past for its 2013-14 season, lining up a few mostly familiar but inviting offerings. All but one of the five NTAC productions should ring a bell with audiences.

The onetime church on Newport Beach's Cliff Drive will delve into its new campaign Sept. 20 with Bernard Slade's "An Act of the Imagination." Michael Serna is directing this tale of a mystery novelist whose new work may unveil a personal romance.

This quirky play from the author of "Return Engagements" and "Same Time, Next Year" promises a bevy of surprises, culminating with the disappearance of a devious female blackmailer. The show will play weekends through Oct. 20.

The accent will be on laughter in NTAC's second project, "Boeing Boeing," scheduled from Nov. 15 through Dec. 15 under the direction of Gigi Fusco Meese, whose previous Newport credits include heavier fare such as "A Few Good Men" and "The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial."

"Boeing Boeing" centers on a businessman who has a trio of airline hostesses — American, French and German — tucked away in different cities, each with a ring on her finger. It all comes to a head with a two-day layover in Paris when all three show up for a visit. Should be a real kick.

It's revival time from Jan. 24 to Feb. 23 when Lillian Hellman's 1934 drama "The Children's Hour" takes the stage. It was Hellman's first play and it became a huge hit on Broadway. Kevin Slay will direct the local revival.

Also presented on the silver screen as "These Three," the play focuses on two young female teachers who face false accusations from their vindictive students. It's billed as "a gripping emotional tale about the abuse of power and its effects."

The lone unfamiliar entry in NTAC's upcoming season will be Horton Foote's "Dividing the Estate," which focuses on a Texas family of greedy children awaiting the death of their mother and envisioning financial independence.

This dramatic comedy — centering, as the New York Daily News commented, on "avarice, entitlement and carpetbagging karma" — will be presented from March 28 through April 27 under the direction of Frank Minano.

Finally, the Newport season will come to a close with a classic Stephen Sondheim musical — "Company" — in its second appearance on the NTAC stage. In this one, a young bachelor faces pressure from his married friends to settle down.

Featuring the hit songs "Getting Married Today" and "Ladies Who Lunch," the show — described as "an honest, witty, sophisticated look at relationships with a brilliant, energetic score" — will be directed by Michael Ross. Performances are scheduled from May 30 through June 29.

The Newport Theatre Arts Center is located at 2501 Cliff Drive in Newport Beach. Reservations for any or all of the 2013-14 productions may be obtained by calling (949) 631-0288.

TOM TITUS reviews local theater for the Daily Pilot.

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