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.
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.
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.