12 Fall Shows We Hope Live Up to Their Promise

Every new theater season brims with hope and a sense of adventure. On what unforgettable journeys will these live stage presentations take us?

There are some plays on tap that have the potential for making their mark. Here are an even dozen that we're targeting from now till the end of the year.

Death and the Maiden by Ariel Dorfman at Mamai Theatre

In an unspecified Latin American country, a husband offers hospitality to a stranger and all is fine, until the wife recognizes the stranger's voice as that of her former torturer. It was turned into a Roman Polanski film. This one stars Cleveland acting luminaries Derdriu Ring, Jeffrey Grover and Terence Cranendonk. (Now through Oct. 4; Kennedy's Theatre, Playhouse Square, 216-241-6000.)

Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller at Ensemble Theatre

This classic is always a big challenge for any theater company, and this time Ensemble's color-blind casting puts the fine African-American actor Greg White in the role of Willy Loman. He plays opposite Mary Alice Beck as the indomitable Linda. (Now through Oct. 11; 2843 Washington Blvd., Cleveland Hts., 216-321-2930.)

King Lear by William Shakespeare at Great Lakes Theater

Is it Shakespeare's most negative play? Is it his best? You can decide when this story about an old man and a "thankless" daughter hits the boards. Treachery and moral conundrums abound in this classic work. (Oct. 1-Nov. 1; Hanna Theater, Playhouse Square, 216-241-6000.)

White Rabbit Red Rabbit by Nassim Soleimanpour at Cleveland Public Theatre

How can you not be fascinated by a play that breaks all the rules: No director, no set, no rehearsals and a different actor performing each night — having never read the play! Sounds like my recurring nightmare, but it could be amazing. (Oct. 8-25, 6415 Detroit Ave., 216-631-2727.)

Mothers and Sons by Terrence McNally at Beck Center

Nominated for the Best Play Tony Award last year, it's about a woman whose son died of AIDS. When she visits his ex-partner, who is now living with his new husband and their child, raw emotions are exposed. (Oct. 8-Nov. 15; 17801 Detroit Ave., 216-521-2540.)

The Crucible by Arthur Miller at Cleveland Play House

It's finger-pointing and name-calling time and, surprisingly, it's not a Donald Trump rally. Miller set this play at the time of the Salem witch trials, and it's loaded with false accusations that fire up the citizens. Hmm, maybe it is a Trump rally. (Oct. 19-Nov. 8, Allen Theatre, Playhouse Square, 216-241-6000.)

Force Continuum by Kia Corthron at Karamu House

A dramatic story of three generations of African-American police officers in New York City. Issues of police violence are brought up as the main characters ask the question: "Am I black, or am I a cop?" (Oct. 30-Nov. 22; 2355 East 89th St., 216-795-7077.)

A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder by Robert L. Freeman and Steven Lutvak at Playhouse Square

A frothy musical about a man with lots of relatives whom he's trying to kill so he can glom onto the whole inheritance. Meanwhile, he has to deal with his fiancée and his mistress and then show up for tea. (Nov. 3-15; Connor Palace, Playhouse Square, 216-241-6000.)

Bob: A Life in Five Acts by Peter Sinn Nachtrieb at convergence-continuum

Sure, Bob, being born and abandoned in the bathroom of a fast-food joint isn't a great beginning; but that doesn't mean you can't turn out great. Bob's epic cross-country journey brings us an exploration of American myths and values. (Nov. 20-Dec. 19; 2438 Scranton Rd., 216-687-0074.)

Peter and the Starcatcher by Rick Elice at Dobama Theatre

This prequel to Peter Pan takes us along on the ride as teenage Peter parlays his disgust with grownups into the ability to fly. In that sense, it's a play immersed in the magic of storytelling and appropriately adolescent humor. (Dec. 4-Jan. 3; 2340 Lee Rd., Cleveland Hts., 216-932-3396.)

Reefer Madness

by Kevin Murphy and Dan Studney at Blank Canvas Theatre

Based on the florid 1936 propaganda film, this musical observes clean-cut kids fall into sin and degradation because of that first puff of ganja. What better way to celebrate the holidays! (Dec. 4-19; 76th Street Studios, 1305 West 80th St., 440-941-0458.)

Will they all be winners? Let's hope so. If not, there are a whole lot of other shows from now till New Year's Eve that will nicely fill in any entertainment gaps.

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Christine Howey

Christine Howey has been reviewing theater since 1997, first at Cleveland Free Times and then for other publications including City Pages in Minneapolis, MN and The Plain Dealer. Her blog, Rave and Pan, also features her play reviews. Christine is a former stage actor and director, primarily at Dobama Theatre...
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