It’s been clear for some time that Western New York is in the midst of a golden age of theatrical variety.
No one can predict how long this era of seemingly endless options will last or how many new theater companies will join the pack before we arrive at critical mass. The only thing to do now is to gaze out with admiration at the constantly changing landscape and appreciate its dizzying variety:
We have Irish theater, Latino theater, gay theater, feminist theater, experimental theater, theater about theater, theater by Buffalonians and about Buffalonians. There are plays for kids, plays for Mormons and plays for Marxists running in closet-sized spaces, on ad hoc stages in former restaurants and repurposed cinemas.
It will all be on full display Sept. 20, when the Theater District hosts its 32nd Curtain Up! celebration a short walk north of its usual location on under-construction Main Street. It’s a three-act affair that sandwiches a few hours of drama between a gala dinner and a boisterous street party. What follows are short synopses for 21 productions theatergoers can choose to whet their appetites on Curtain Up! weekend for what is shaping up to be one of the busiest theater seasons in memory.
“La Cage aux Folles”
Through Oct. 13 in MusicalFare Theatre, 4380 Main St., Amherst. $42. 839-8540 or www.musicalfare.com.
If you’ve seen the film “The Birdcage,” you’re vaguely familiar with the plot of this poignant 1983 musical about a drag performer and his partner engaged in a strange battle between self-expression and hetero norms. (See review on Page 12.)
Today through Oct. 5 in Alleyway Theatre, 1 Curtain Up Alley. $13 to $25. 852-2600 or www.alleyway.com.
Alleyway Theatre founder Neal Radice is known for writing musicals, but has turned his attention to straight drama for his latest original piece about the struggles of working women in America.
“The Love Song of Robert J. Oppenheimer”
Today through Oct. 5 in the Subversive Theatre Collective’s Manny Fried Playhouse, 255 Great Arrow Ave. $20 to $25. 408-0499 or www.subversivetheatre.org.
New Phoenix Theatre founder Richard Lambert will venture away from his home territory to play the father of the atom bomb in this play by Carson Kreitzer that explores the terrors of the 20th century through stream-of-consciousness storytelling.
“Venus in Fur”
Today through Oct. 5 in New Phoenix Theatre, 95 Johnson Park. $15 to $25. 853-1334 or www.newphoenixtheatre.org.
A playwright and an actress engage in a kinky pas de deux in David Ives’ two-hander, which received excellent reviews after its off-Broadway debut in 2010 and subsequent transfer to Broadway.
“The Big Band Theory: When Swing Was King”
Friday through Oct. 6 in Kavinoky Theatre, 320 Porter Ave. $35 to $39. 829-7668 or www.kavinokytheatre.com.
Jim Runfola, who co-wrote the hit “Zooma Zooma” with Michael Walline, is presenting this original revue about the swing era, which features tunes by Benny Goodman, Glenn Miller, Duke Ellington and other pioneers of the swing sound.
Friday through Oct. 6 in the Road Less Traveled Theatre, 639 Main St. $17 to $35. 629-3069 or www.roadlesstraveledproductions.org.
In the rapidly evolving landscape and streetscape of Buffalo and Western New York, drama is never difficult to find. That was the idea behind this collection of new short plays by Buffalo writers, which aims to capture and amplify the zeitgeist of the current moment.
“School for Husbands”
Friday through Oct. 6 in the Irish Classical Theatre Company’s Andrews Theatre, 625 Main St. $39. 853-4282 or www.irishclassical.com.
Moliere’s classic comedy about the vagaries of marriage in cosmopolitan Paris, the precursor to his more popular “School for Wives,” is right in the Irish Classical’s wheelhouse. Expect a detail-oriented production from director Fortunato Pezzimenti, who in his comedies rarely leaves a “t” uncrossed or an “i” undotted.
“An Evening Out of Your Mind with Mentalist Marc Salem”
Wednesday through Sept. 22 in Shea’s Smith Theatre, 658 Main St. $35 to $40. 847-0850 or www.sheas.org.
If there’s something on your mind, chances are Salem has already figured it out. He’ll bring his brand of intuition to the Smith Theatre, a friendly spot for shows with lots of audience interaction.
“Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson”
Next Thursday through Oct. 12 in American Repertory Theatre’s space in the Church of the Ascension, 16 Linwood Ave. $18 to $25. 634-1102 or www.artofwny.org.
Any Broadway musical with the tagline “History just got all sexypants” is worth paying attention to, and thousands did when this show by Michael Friedman opened there after two years of development to ecstatic crowds eager for its unflinching take on America’s complex and violent past.
“I Love Lucy Live on Stage”
Next Thursday through Oct. 13 in 710 Main Theatre, 710 Main St. $42.50 to $57.50. 847-0850 or www.sheas.org. Previews on Tuesday and Wednesday.
This touring production, starring Sirena Irwin and Bill Mendieta as the “I Love Lucy” characters Lucy and Ricky Ricardo, is all about nostalgia for the classic television show starring one of Western New York’s proudest entertainment exports.
“The Kathy and Mo Show: Parallel Lives/The Dark Side”
Next Thursday through Oct. 20 in O’Connell and Company’s theater in the Park School, 4625 Harlem Road. $14 to $25. 848-0800 or www.oconnellandcompany.com.
With their inventive act, performers Mo Gaffney and Kathy Najimy successfully melded comedy and social messages in such a way that one element elevated the other. Mary Kate O’Connell and Pamela Rose Mangus will bring this modern-day Abbott-and-Costello routine to life in the company’s new space in the Park School.
“A Clockwork Orange”
Next Thursday through Oct. 13 in Torn Space Theatre, 612 Fillmore Ave. $25. 812-5733 or www.tornspacetheater.com.
The manifold mysteries of human violence are the subject of this adaptation of Anthony Burgess’ disturbing dystopian novel, which stars Alan Trinca as the young hoodlum Alex, a character made infamous by Malcolm McDowell in Stanley Kubrick’s 1971 film.
Next Thursday through Sept. 21 presented by Red Thread Theatre in Marie Maday Theatre, Canisius College, 2001 Main St. $10 to $20. 867-3102, www.redthreadtheatre.info.
This classic two-hander by Buffalo’s A.R. Gurney, the honorary chair of this year’s Curtain Up! celebration, is an audience favorite about life and love presented through a series of heartfelt letters. Red Thread’s production stars Mike Randall and Eileen Dugan.
“The Three Sistahs”
Sept. 20 through Oct. 13 in the Paul Robeson Theatre, African American Cultural Center, 350 Masten Ave. $20 to $27.50. 884-2013 or www.africancultural.org.
This musical adaptation of Chekhov’s “Three Sisters” by Thomas W. Jones II, Janet Pryce and William F. Hubbard did well for the Paul Robeson Theatre when it opened there last spring, so the company is bringing it back.
Sept. 20 through Oct. 5 in Kaleidoscope Theatre Productions’ Lecture Hall Theatre, Medaille College, 18 Agassiz Circle. $15 to $20. 479-1587 or www.kaleidoscopebuffalo.com.
If it’s French farce you’re after, you can’t do a whole lot better than this piece of frenetic entertainment by Marc Camoletti, which drew huge crowds during its 2008 Broadway revival.
“Confessions of a Mormon Boy”
Sept. 20 through 22 in Buffalo United Artists Theatre, 119 Chippewa St. $15 to $25. 886-9239 or www.buffalobua.org.
Buffalo theatergoers whose appetites for Mormon-centric drama were not sated by “The Book of Mormon” earlier this year at Shea’s would do well to check out this confessional comedy by and starring Mormon-turned-gay-escort Steven Fales.
“Dead Man’s Cell Phone”
Sept. 20 through Oct. 5 in Buffalo Laboratory Theatre’s Swan Auditorium, Hilbert College, 5200 South Park Ave., Hamburg. $15 to $20. 202-9033 or www.buffalolabtheatre.org.
Sarah Ruhl’s comedy uses a cellphone ring as the basis for an increasingly complex exploration of “mortality, redemption and the need to connect in a technologically obsessed world.”
“The Gospel at Colonus”
Sept. 20 through Oct. 13 in Ujima Theatre Company’s TheatreLoft, 545 Elmwood Ave. $15 to $25. 883-4232 or www.ujimatheatre.org.
Take a little Sophocles, add a pinch of gospel music and you have this creative adaptation of the classic Greek drama “Oedipus at Colonus” in strikingly modern language.
“A Year With Frog and Toad”
Sept. 20 through Oct. 13 in Theatre of Youth’s Allendale Theatre, 203 Allen St. $26 to $28. 884-4400 or www.theatreofyouth.org.
The imaginative people at TOY specialize in, among other things, bringing the characters of illustrated children’s books to life. Their latest show will animate Arnold Lobel’s beloved Frog and Toad in a story that touches on the importance of appreciating difference.
“Love, Sex and the IRS”
Sept. 20 through 29 in the Lancaster Opera House, 21 Central Ave., Lancaster. $18 to $20. 683-1776 or www.lancopera.org.
For proof that the classic farce endures as a form, look no further than the Lancaster Opera House, where this 1979 tale of well-mannered infidelity by Billy Van Zandt and Jane Milmore is all but guaranteed to pack in the crowds.
“A Life in the Theatre”
Sept. 21 through Oct. 13 in the Jewish Repertory Theatre’s Maxine and Robert Seller Theatre, Jewish Community Center, 2640 North Forest Road, Getzville. $10 to $38. 718-4253 or www.jewishrepertorytheatre.com. (Note: There will be no performance on the evening of Curtain Up!)
In the apparently bottomless canon of plays about plays, David Mamet’s “A Life in the Theatre” floats somewhere near the top, owing to its sentimental portrayal of the rules and rituals of this ancient art given voice by two actors on opposite sides of their careers. JRT’s production, appropriately, stars Saul Elkin as the seasoned man of the theater while Adam Rath plays the eager newbie.