by Michael Bowen & r & You went to the lake; now go to the theater. Crisp air and autumnal leaves are reminders of how we all need to get some culture before we (and the year) die. Wait, that makes theatergoing sound like some kind of morbid obligation. Which it isn't -- not when you've got a lineup of entertainments at Inland Northwest theaters like the following.
The 800-pound gorilla in the region's theater auditorium this fall is actually a lion. Disney's The Lion King will run at the Opera House from Oct. 27-Dec. 4. Call 325-SEAT.
And on Oct. 7 at the Fox Theatre, Julia Sweeney (androgynous Pat from Saturday Night Live, a writer for Desperate Housewives and a Lewis and Clark grad) will perform her 70-minute, one-woman show, In the Family Way, about her struggle to adopt a child after a bout with cancer -- and about being the mother of a 6-year-old from China named Mulan. Call 624-1200.
And there's so much more....
INTERPLAYERS & r & The season opener at Interplayers, Someone Who'll Watch Over Me (through Oct. 1), highlights the endurance of three hostages imprisoned in the Middle East (see full review, p. 17).
In The Mystery of Irma Vep: A Penny Dreadful (Oct. 20-Nov. 12), two thespians play all the parts. The actor playing Lord Edgar switches back and forth between being an Egyptologist and the housekeeper; the second actor transforms himself from Edgar's wife Enid into the butler and back again. By the second act, there's a mummy involved -- making Charles Ludlam's 1984 farce into something like Greater Tuna with a 19th-century pulp fiction twist.
In The Fantasticks (Nov. 25-Dec. 17), after the two fathers fake a feud and stage a kidnapping just to get the two young lovers together, the narrator manipulates the action so that we'll all learn how awful life can sometimes be. Then he sings the famous "Try to remember / That kind of September" and this reverse Romeo and Juliet comes to its bittersweet close.
By the way, this season Interplayers will offer six shows (instead of seven, as in previous years), partly filling in the gap with three semi-staged readers' theater productions, each of them set to run for three performances. The first of those, Tuesdays With Morrie (Oct. 6-9) -- following in the footsteps of a New York Times bestseller and a Jack Lemmon movie -- recounts what sportswriter Mitch Albom learned during weekly visits to his old college professor, who's now dying of Lou Gehrig's Disease. Interplayers' two other reading stage shows, To Kill a Mockingbird and Love Letters, will arrive early next year.
Visit www.interplayers.com or call 455-PLAY.
ACTOR'S REPERTORY THEATRE & r & What if you drove an Escalade around the Yale campus and always wore Prada, only to discover that Mom's wealth came from exploiting poor people horribly for years? Translated into contemporary terms, that's more or less the premise of ARt's second production this year, Mrs. Warren's Profession (Sept. 23-Oct. 8). (Their first show, The Golden Age, recently concluded its run.) In Mrs. Warren, George Bernard Shaw created a comedy of ideas so controversial that it was banned from the British stage for 32 years. At least we live in more enlightened times. Don't we?
What do we associate with holiday dinner parties? Why, bickering and backstabbing, of course. That's the hilarious premise of ARt's third show at SFCC's Spartan Theatre, Absurd Person Singular (Nov. 25-Dec. 10). It's the Alan Ayckbourn comedy about a bank manager, an architect, a social climber and their wives in three different kitchens on three successive Christmas Eves. The entire show has an attitude of "Please pass the cranberries so I can fling them in your eye." Veddy British indeed.
Visit www.actorsreptheatre.com or call 838-4013.
CENTERSTAGE & r & CenterStage is bringing in five singers and four instrumentalists to recreate that "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy" vibe of a 1940s USO show in Sing, Sing, Sing! which will appear on Sept. 18 and Sept. 25 with dinner at 6 pm and a 7:30 showtime.
The First Avenue arts complex is also bringing back two of Spokane's favorite actresses in two of the roles they are most identified with: Jean Hardie as the Mother Superior and Kathie Doyle-Lipe as Sister Mary Hubert in Nunsense II: The Second Coming (Oct. 7-Nov. 18). This time the Little Sisters of Hoboken are fighting off Franciscans and dealing with would-be country music stars among them, all while singing tunes like "The Padre Polka" and "What Would Elvis Do?"
Visit www.spokanecenterstage.com or call 747-8243.
SPOKANE CIVIC THEATRE & r & In My Fair Lady at the Civic, (Sept. 30-Oct. 29), Prof. Henry Higgins tries to reshape a Cockney guttersnipe into a proper English lady (see story, page 40).
In Picasso at the Lapin Agile (Oct. 21-Nov. 12 in the Firth J. Chew Studio Theatre), playwright Steve Martin speculates (philosophically and hilariously) about what might have happened if Picasso and Einstein had met for a few drinks in 1904, just before the theory of relativity and the birth of cubism. As one reviewer noted, they've got "one eye on the future and the other eye on the beautiful woman at the end of the bar."
If you prefer your classics updated and your Scrooge with a twist, you'll enjoy the Civic's Main Stage holiday show, Charles Dickens Presents A Christmas Carol (Nov. 18-Dec. 18). This isn't just straightforward Dickens, however. Working from a story idea by the Civic's Artistic Director Yvonne A.K. Johnson, playwright LB Hamilton has refashioned the Scrooge/Marley/Cratchit tale into a play-within-a-play version.
On the Civic's Reading Stage this fall, you can watch Neil Simon grow up. (Finally.) In semi-staged, one-night-only productions, you'll witness his surrogate characters mature from adolescence to manhood in Brighton Beach Memoirs (Oct. 9), Biloxi Blues (Nov. 13) and Broadway Bound (Dec. 11). Call 325-2507.
OTHER COMMUNITY THEATERS & r & The Guys, a two-hander about a writer helping a fire chief write eulogies for his men's funerals after 9/11, continues through Saturday at Lake City Playhouse in Coeur d'Alene.
Lake City's second show is Beehive, a musical about big voices and big hair, peppered with songs of the '60s. It'll be one fine day ('cause their boyfriend's back) from Sept. 23-Oct. 8; then, in a special dinner-theater presentation, the same show will pop up from Oct. 14-16 at Brix restaurant, 317 Sherman Ave.
On Oct. 22 and Nov. 19, Lake City will offer its readers' theater productions for the fall. First up are two one-acts by Mark Twain, "Twain by the Tale" and "The Diary of Adam and Eve"; Tom Stoppard's philosophical comedy about two minor characters in Hamlet, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, follows. Both these events will take place at the Erlendson Coffeehouse, 116 Lakeside Ave., Coeur d'Alene.
For its children's theater offering this fall, Lake City will present The Legend of Sleepy Hollow (Oct. 27-Nov. 5). In 1799, can Ichabod Crane get past his fear of the Headless Horseman and win the hand of Katrina Van Tassel?
Finally, just in time for the holidays, comes the perennial classic, It's a Wonderful Life (Nov. 26-Dec. 17). Will George kill himself and let Bedford Falls fall into ruin? Of course not. There are angels out there who need to earn their wings.
Lake City Playhouse is located at 1320 E. Garden Ave. in Coeur d'Alene. Visit www.lakecityplayhouse.org or call (208) 667-1323.
Pullman Civic Theatre will present Enid Bagnold's The Chalk Garden (Oct.13-22). In it, a mysterious governess walks into a custody battle between the mother and grandmother of a troubled girl. Visit www.pullmancivictheatre.com or call (509) 332-8406.
Lisa Caryl and Rebecca Cook are spearheading a group that have started another storefront dramatic troupe, Ignite! Community Theatre. For their season opener, they've chosen that dependable warhorse of '40s farce, Arsenic and Old Lace (Oct. 7-15). Take a theater critic (please!), his fianc & eacute;e, a homicidal nephew, a mad scientist, two sweet old ladies and a guy who thinks he's Teddy Roosevelt, then mix in a little murder and watch the games begin.
From Dec. 1-4, Ignite! will present Little Women. Will Meg run the family in their parents' absence? Will Jo write novels? Will Amy conquer her vanity? And what about poor, sickly Beth?
Performances will be held in the Cajun Room of the Rendezvous Events Facility, 1003 E. Trent Ave. Visit www.ignitetheatre.org or call 993-6540.
Ignite! also has its own Readers' Theater series. On Oct. 28 at the Upper Glen, 309 W. Riverside, they'll present an evening of scary one-acts called "Tales of Terror" as a fund-raiser (just in time for Halloween!), and then, on Nov. 11 at Auntie's Bookstore, "An Evening of Short Plays by David Ives" -- semi-staged and free!
Up at the Panida in Sandpoint, a local group calling themselves the Looking Glass Theater Company will perform Tennessee Williams' The Glass Menagerie on Oct. 28-29 -- so rise and shine, because our Laura is about to receive a genuine gentleman caller!
And over in Coeur d'Alene, the Song Bird Players will offer a wacky mystery play, Murder Plays a Sour Note (Saturdays through Oct. 29). It's New Year's Eve, 1954, at a plush nightclub -- suddenly, shots ring out. Did Roxy Romano murder Lou Gumbardo, bandleader of the New Geraniums? Or did Giovanni Fishi call a hit on one of the boys in the band?
Yet another 80-people-investigating-eight-suspects mystery-dinner production, Murder on the Petulant Express, will be performed on Saturday nights in November. The Song Bird Christian Performing & amp; Fine Arts Center, which is located at 315 N. Fourth St. in Coeur d'Alene, is also offering a USO-style revue on Dec. 3. Call (208) 664-3672.
IMPROV COMEDY & r & The Blue Door Theater presents slightly risqu & eacute;, off-the-cuff comedy sketches every Friday night at 8 pm. "Odyssey" is the show title the next two Fridays, followed by "Free Refills" (Sept. 30-Oct. 7 and Nov. 25-Dec. 2), "Campfire" (Oct. 14-Nov. 18), "No Clue" (Dec. 9), "Coming Soon" (Dec. 16), "Group Therapy" (Dec. 23) and "A Fairy Tale?" (Dec. 30). Find the Blue Door at 815 W. Garland Ave. Visit www.bluedoortheatre.com or call 747-7045.
ComedySportz re-envisions improv as a team sport, complete with uniforms, an announcer, a referee in a striped shirt -- and bags placed over the heads of anyone who says anything off-color. (Really.) You get to vote on the best skits with red and blue fly swatters, and they even offer classes on how to become a member of their (decidedly odd) clan. The CSz funfests, housed at 227 W. Riverside Ave., fire up on Fridays and Saturdays at 8 pm. Visit www.spokanecomedy.com or call 363-1279.
For information on college theater and all the local theater news, pick up an Inlander every week -- or, if you need more than just a weekly theater fix, check out the new theater blog hosted by some guy named Bobo (that's me, Bobo) by pointing your Web browser to & lt;a href="http://stagethrust.blogspot.com" & Stage Thrust & lt;/a & . Whatever you do, support your local theater artists this fall.