On Theater: With a tip of the 'Hat,' the year begins

The new year is upon us, and three local theater companies will be getting it off to a rousing start this weekend.

South Coast Repertory is opening a play with the unprintable title of "The [Expletive] With the Hat." It's described as a comedy about the drug trade in New York's urban ghetto and will play through Jan. 27 on the theater's Julianne Argyros Stage, 655 Town Center Drive, Costa Mesa. It's recommended, no surprise, "for mature audiences only." For information, (714) 708-5555.

Andrew Barnicle, artistic director of the Laguna Playhouse for two decades, returns to his old stamping grounds to stage Neil Simon's autobiographical comedy, "Chapter Two," about a playwright finding love the second time around. The revival runs through Feb. 3 at the playhouse, 606 Laguna Canyon Road, Laguna Beach. For information, (949) 497-2787.

Also ringing in the new year this weekend is the Westminster Community Theatre, which is mounting "Southern Hospitality," the finale of a comic trilogy about goofy goings-on down South. The show plays through Jan. 26 and the theater is located at 7272 Maple St., Westminster. For information, (714) 893-8626.

The Segerstrom Center for the Arts has an ambitious offering planned for a Jan. 22 opening — "War Horse," the Broadway inspiration for Steven Spielberg's epic movie about a steed drafted to serve British soldiers in World War I. The show runs for two weeks, through Feb. 3, at the center, 600 Town Center Drive, Costa Mesa. For information, (714) 556-2787.

Playwright Ira Levin, who once delivered "Rosemary's Baby" to movie audiences, will be represented at the Newport Theatre Arts Center with "Dr. Cook's Garden," a vintage chiller opening Jan. 25. The drama plays through Feb. 24 at the theater, 2501 Cliff Drive, Newport Beach. For information, (949) 631-0288.

South Coast Repertory returns to the spotlight Feb. 1 with "Chinglish," a comedy about American-Asian relations, written by David Henry Hwang. The show runs through Feb. 24 on SCR's Segerstrom Stage. For information, (714) 708-5555.

"Lucky Stiff," an offbeat musical murder mystery farce, is the next offering at the Costa Mesa Playhouse, opening Feb. 8 and running through March 10 at the playhouse, 611 Hamilton St., Costa Mesa. For information, (949) 650-5269.

The back-story of the witches from "The Wizard of Oz" returns for a third staging at the Segerstrom Center on Feb. 20. It's the ever-popular "Wicked," and it'll be around for a longer-than-usual run through March 17. For information, (714) 556-2787.

Gilbert and Sullivan's comic opera, "The Mikado," is the opening production of a year devoted to musicals at the Huntington Beach Playhouse. The show opens Feb. 22 and will be on stage until March 17 at the theater, 7171 Talbert Ave., Huntington Beach. For information, (714) 375-0696.

That's the tip of the 2013 iceberg, covering the first two months of the new year. Ahead are such attractions as "Having It All" at the Laguna Playhouse, "The Whale" at South Coast Repertory, an original production of "Moby Dick" by director Tom Amen at Golden West College, and "Brooklyn Boy" at the Newport Theatre Arts Center, all scheduled to open in March. It'll be a busy year for local theatergoers.

TOM TITUS reviews local theater for the Daily Pilot.

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