The winter theater season is full of mystery and intrigue, with ample doses of drama and humor mixed in.
Here are a few clues:
• The Public Theatre in Lewiston presents the Maine premiere of “The Hound of Baskervilles,” a Sherlock Holmes spoof that takes its cue from “The Compleat Wrks of Wllm Shksp (Abridged).” Imagine Monty Python meets the Marx Brothers, says director Janet Mitchko. “Theater doesn’t come much sillier than this,” she said in a press release.
The play stars Michael Frederic and Dan Matisa, both of whom appeared in “Around the World in 80 Days” at The Public Theatre last year. Each portrays multiple characters. Also appearing is J.T. O’Connor, who has appeared several times at the Public Theatre, as well.
The comedy opens Friday and runs through Feb. 3, with performances at 7:30 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays, 8 p.m. Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays, with an additional matinee at 2 p.m. Feb. 2. Tickets cost $18 for adults, $5 for ages 18 and younger. Call 782-3200 or visit thepublictheatre.org.
• Mad Horse Theatre Company also has a Maine premiere with Rajiv Joseph’s “Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo.” The show is up now at the theater’s new performance space at the former Hutchins School, 24 Mosher St., South Portland, with performances through Feb. 3.
A 2010 Pulitzer Prize finalist, this drama brings two American soldiers, an Iraqi translator, a brooding tiger and a bunch of spirits together in war-torn Iraq as they try to find meaning, forgiveness and redemption among the city’s ruins, said director Nathan Speckman.
“I immediately fell in love with the play when I first read it,” he said in a press release. “It is incredibly well-written, and I think the message it conveys is tragically beautiful.”
Mad Horse members Tootie Van Reenan and Brent Askari are joined by guest artists Mark Rubin, Jake Cote, Evan Dalzell, Reba Short and Allison McCall.
Show times are 7:30 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays, with a talk-back following the matinee performance Jan. 27. Tickets cost $20, $15 for seniors and students. Mad Horse also offers pay-what-you-can performances each Thursday; madhorse.com or 730-2389.
• Good Theater presents the East Coast premiere of a new play, “Death by Design,” described by playwright Rob Urbinati as a cross between Noel Coward and Agatha Christie. The play has been staged only once before, in Houston, and is headed to an Off-Broadway theater in New York next year.
It opens Jan. 30 and runs through Feb. 24 at the St. Lawrence Arts Center, 76 Congress St., Portland. Urbinati will be in residence for the opening and will offer two talk-back sessions, on Jan. 30 and Jan. 31 following each performance.
“Death by Design” stars Rob Cameron, Abigail Killeen, Matthew Delamater, Janice Gardner, Paul Haley, Kat Moraros, Susan Reilly and Benjamin Row. Good Theater artistic director Brian Allen directs.
The play is set in the English country home of Edward, a playwright, and Sorel, an actress. Several guests arrive, and when a murder is committed, the maid must solve the crime.
Performances are 7 p.m. Wednesdays and Thursdays, 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays, with an added performance at 3 p.m. Feb. 16. There is no performance Feb. 13. Tickets cost $15 to $25; 885-5883 or goodtheater.com.
Looking ahead to later this winter, Good Theater will host the New England premiere of Amy Herzon’s Obie Award-winning “4000 Miles,” starring Broadway veteran Alma Cuervo and Erik Moody. The show will run March 6-30 at St. Lawrence.
• The American Irish Repertory Theater offers up the comedy “A Couple of Blaguards,” written by brothers Frank and Malachy McCourt, March 21-April 7 at the Studio Theater at Portland Stage Company, 25A Forest Ave., Portland. The romp includes songs and a dance or two, as the authors Frank McCourt and his brother Malachy share memories of their childhood in Limerick and their experiences coming to America. Paul Haley and Tony Reilly play the brothers McCourt.
Show times are 7:30 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays, 8 p.m. Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays, with no matinee performance on March 31. Tickets cost $15 to $20; 799-5327 or airetheater.com.
• University of Southern Maine brings a duo of Edward Albee one-act plays to the Studio Theater at Portland Stage Feb. 1-10. William Steele will direct Albee’s “The Zoo Story” and “The American Dream.” These one-acts offer a singular vision of a world spinning off its axis, the director said.
” ‘The Zoo Story’ and ‘The American Dream’ are powerful short plays (that) examine American culture through Albee’s distinctive critical lens,” he said in a press release. “Both comic and deadly serious, these plays still resonate today and provide actors with unique challenges and audiences with fun, thought-provoking entertainment.”
The cast for “The Zoo Story” features Nathan Lapointe and Dalton Kimball. The cast for “The American Dream” includes Kirk Boettcher, Kimberley Stacy, Madelyn James, S. Anna Irving and Dalton Kimball.
Performances are 7:30 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays and 5 p.m. Sundays and Feb. 6. Tickets cost $15 adult, $11 for seniors, USM faculty, staff and alumni and $8 for students; 780-5151 or usm.maine.edu/theatre.
• Snowlion Repertory Company will present Vincent Sessa’s “A Child’s Guide to Innocence” at the Ludcke Auditorium on the University of New England’s Portland Campus, 719 Stevens Ave. It opens March 15 and runs weekends through March 24; 518-9305 or snowlionrep.org.
• Midcoast Maine’s Heatwood Regional Theater Company continues its one-act play “Ghost-Writer” by Michael Hollinger through Jan. 27. Director Griff Braley describes “Ghost-Writer” as an old-fashioned drama. It won the 2011 Barrymore Award, which recognizes excellence in the Philadelphia theater scene. It stars Millie Santiago of West Boothbay, Dixie Weisman of Newcastle and Dwight Burtis of Thomaston.
It’s on stage at Poe Theater at Lincoln Academy in Newcastle through Jan. 27, with performances at 3 p.m. today, 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 3 p.m. Jan. 27. Tickets cost $20 for adults, $12 for students; 563-1373 or heartwoodtheater.org.
• In Brunswick, the Theater Project Professional Ensemble presents its “Winter Cabaret” Friday through Feb. 10. The cabaret is sketch comedy, with funny, frantic, slightly bawdy material. Think of a 1990s boy band, all grown up and aiming for a reunion concert. “Imagine what our male ensemble looks like dressed like Justin Timberlake,” executive director Wendy Poole said in a press release. “Now add choreography. It’s pretty great. We’ve also been working on some multi-media material to add to this production that’s turning out to be so much fun.”
Performance times are 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays. All tickets are pay what you want, with a suggested price of $18; 729-8584 or theaterproject.com. The Theater Project is at 14 School St., Brunswick.
• In Bangor, Penobscot Theatre stages the Maine premiere of “The Sugar Bean Sisters” by Nathan Sanders. A Southern comedy, this play is about romance, murder and alien abduction. It features three sisters who live by a Florida swamp determined to escape their spinsterhood by hopping the next spaceship out of town. It opens Jan. 30 and runs through Feb. 17, with performances at 7 p.m. Wednesdays and Thursdays, 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 3 p.m. Sundays at the Bangor Opera House, 131 Main St. Tickets range from $22 to $36; 942-3333 or penobscottheatre.org.
• In South Portland, the Portland Players community theater, 420 Cottage Road, stages Joseph Kesselring’s “Arsenic and Old Lace,” directed by Paul Bell, Friday through Feb. 10. The dark comedy is one of the most popular plays on the community-theater circuit. Show times are 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 2:30 p.m. Sundays; 799-7337 or portlandplayers.org.
• And finally, also in South Portland, Lyric Music Theater, 176 Sawyer St., opens “Once Upon a Mattress: The True Story of the Princess and the Pea” on Feb. 15. Show times are 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 2:30 p.m. Sundays through March 2; 799-1421 or lyricmusictheater.org
Staff Writer Bob Keyes can be contacted at 791-6457 or: