It’s summer in Maine, and there’s so much to do. Make sure one of those things on the to-do list is to not just eat but sit back and enjoy a good, fresh piece of locally grown theater fruit.
Here, hand-picked for you, are this summer’s ripest and freshest, juicy with passion and alive with color and light, direct from my to-do calendar to yours, starting right away, and moving through the season between the muds, with a different taste each time:
First, the starfruit — the top items of each month. If you can only manage a few theatrical antioxidants in your diet, don’t miss these.
• June is already here. If you only can make room for one production, get going early and whet your appetite — maybe you’ll crave more. The all-out gem of the summer, not to be missed, is " Hey, We’re Acting Over Here, " a festival of short plays hosted by the Cast, made up of Craig Bowden, J.P. Guimont, and David A. Currier. These three are theater geniuses we’ll hope to keep around Maine for a long, long time. They’ll be on stage performing David Mamet, David Ives, and Christopher Durang, alongside some of their most talented friends and colleagues, including Joshua Stamell. It’s at the St. Lawrence Arts Center, in Portland; curtain is at 8 p.m. June 19, at 3 p.m. and 8 p.m. June 21, and at 3 p.m. June 22. Tickets $10, available at the door.
• In late June and early July, Maine’s newest theater company, the Stage, will put on its first performance in a historic outdoor venue at Fort Preble. Macbeth will star the Stage’s founders, Seth Rigoletti and Miranda Hope, who view the play’s theme of violence begetting violence as cathartic and enlightening in these troubled times. Find them at Spring Point, in South Portland, June 25 to July 12 (except July 4). Curtain is at 8 p.m. on Wed. through Sat. Tickets are free, but call (207) 828-0128 for reservations and updates in case of bad weather.
• A late July highlight will be Winter Harbor Theatre speaking out again, with a reprise of their stunning production of Tony Kushner’s antiwar play Only We Who Guard The Mystery Shall Be Unhappy. If you missed this brilliantly written and powerfully performed show in April, now you get a second chance. Again the audience and actors will be under the gaze of Robert Shetterly’s portraits of Americans Who Tell The Truth. It’s at the St. Lawrence Arts Center, in Portland. Gallery opens at 7 p.m., curtain is at p.m., July 30 and 31. Tickets free, available at the door.
• August will see the fourth annual Deertrees Theatre Festival, a collaboration with New York City’s Greenlight Theatreworks to bring to Maine four plays from New York. This year we’ll get Ira Levin’s Dr. Cook’s Garden, a thriller about the happiest and healthiest small town in Vermont; Vanities, Jack Heifner’s 1960s and ’70s coming-of-age story; the Tony-winning Art, by Yazmina Reza, about male friendship, intellectual honesty, and what defines art; and Driving Miss Daisy, by Alford Uhry, the Pulitzer- and Oscar-winning drama set in the antebellum South. All shows are at Deertrees Theatre, in Harrison, start at 8 p.m. and cost $16. Call (207) 583-6747. Dr. Cook’s Garden shows Aug. 7 and 8; Vanities shows Aug. 14 and 15; Art shows Aug. 21 and 22; Driving Miss Daisy shows Aug. 28, 29, and 30.
And now for the rest of this summer’s luscious fruit salad, in chronological order by starting date:
• A sure-to-succeed play about a failing show is Light Up The Sky by Moss Hart at the Gaslight Theater. Theater insiders fear their show will flop and begin to self-destruct. Then they realize the play is a dark-horse success. Where is the line between commercialism and art? It’s at the Gaslight Theater, in Hallowell, June 19 to 21 and June 26 to 28. Call (207) 626-3698 for times and ticket prices.
• The Theater at Monmouth’s summer season will be alive with Shakespeare, comedy, and classics. Shakespeare lovers will adore Two Gentlemen of Verona, Julius Caesar, and The Compleat Wrks of Willm Shkspr, abridged by Singer, Long, and Borgeson. Also, TAM favorite Janis Stevens will have a one-night performance of the one-woman show written for her, Vivien, about actress Vivien Leigh. All shows are at The Theater at Monmouth, in Monmouth. Call (207) 933-9999 for show times. Tickets are $18 to $26. Two Gents shows July 5 through Aug. 23; Caesar shows July 25 through Aug. 22; Compleat Wrks shows Aug. 12 and 19; Vivien shows Aug. 5.
• Deertrees Theatre has several other productions, besides the festival listed above. They include Susan Poulin’s show Franco Fry or Pardon My French, a thoughtful exploration of her Franco-American heritage; and Exceptions to Gravity, by Avner Eisenberg, who, it is said, was once arrested in France for " buffoonery in public. " Both shows are at Deertrees Theater, in Harrison. Call (207) 583-6747. Franco Fry shows July 18. Tickets $14. Exceptions to Gravity shows Aug. 9. Tickets $16.
• The Maine Shakespeare Festival will move this year from the riverfront to the Bangor Opera House, but budget troubles have forced the cancellation of the two scheduled Shakespeare performances as well as one musical. Now, they will perform only The Fantasticks, and will offer matinees for the first time, as well as indoor plumbing. At the Bangor Opera House, in Bangor, July 24 through Aug. 9, on Thursday through Saturday. Tickets range from $17 to $25 (donate an extra buck to help keep them alive). Call (207) 942-3333 for prices and times.
• If it rains during the first two weeks of August, you can find an indoor seat at a play about that very predicament. Acadia Repertory Theater will put on Relatively Speaking: A Summer Comedy, by Alan Ayckbourn, a top English comic playwright. The play is described as what people do " when their seaside summer holidays were spoiled by the rain and they came to the theater before trudging back to their landladies. " It’s at Acadia Repertory Theater, on Mt. Desert Island. Curtain is at 8:15 p.m., Tues. through Sun., from July 29 through Aug. 10. Tickets $20. Call (207) 244-7260.
• Frank Wicks of the Theater Project will see another in a string of intermittent performances of his play Soldier, Come Home, a readers’ theater piece based on the letters to and from his great-grandparents, written between 1859 and 1865, as his great-grandfather served in the Union Army. At First Parish Church, in Brunswick. Curtain is at 7:30 p.m., Aug. 8. Tickets $10. Call (207) 729-6606.
• Two bickering sisters wait through the summer for the whales to migrate as they have for years in The Whales of August, at the Lakewood Theater. David Berry’s play takes a poignant look at family, dependency, and aging in the soft light of summer. At Lakewood Theater, in Skowhegan. Curtain is at 8 p.m. Aug. 14 and 21, at 8:15 p.m. Aug. 15 and 16, at 6:45 p.m. Aug. 17 and 19, and at 2 p.m. Aug. 20. Tickets $17 to $22. Call (207) 474-7176.
• And, all summer long, the Players’ Ring, in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, will keep things alive with their usual edgy, rough, bright, and unheralded style. Every weekend, July 4 through August 23, will see a new performance by a variety of local actors. Locally written one-acts are represented, as are well known plays and playwrights. Visit www.playersring.org for more details on the shows, and call (603) 436-8123 for times and ticket prices.