Spring Arts Preview: Theater 

These plays are the thing.

Don’t miss…

Circle Mirror Transformation. Annie Baker’s Obie Award-winning play is about a group of performers and wannabes who join a workshop in a small Vermont town and reveal themselves to each other — and to us — as they participate in the sometimes absurd acting exercises recommended by Marty, their teacher. Characters include an ex-actress from New York, a confused female teenager, a lonely, divorced man, and Marty’s husband. Baker’s sense of flawed humanity is sharp, but she savors the small details that make each character unique, and eventually demands that we respect and sympathize with strivers who, finally, aren’t so different from those of us on the other side of the stage. March 7-24 at Stageworks, Tampa. stageworkstheatre.org, 813-727-2708.

When The World Was Green (A Chef’s Fable). A young woman in search of her runaway father interviews a convict, a former chef who murdered the wrong person after nursing a vendetta for years. As written by the great Sam Shepard and Joseph Chaikin, their eight conversations, interspersed with monologues about each character’s childhood, become a meditation on well-cooked food, regret, forgiveness, and redemption. Shepard has for many years been fascinated with the figure of an elderly man — think of Buried Child and Fool for Love — and Chaikin, who died eight years ago, was one of the most successful of American experimental directors and playwrights. March 22-April 21 at American Stage, St. Petersburg. americanstage.org, 727-823-PLAY.

American Idiot. This wildly energetic rock opera, created for and around the songs of Green Day, is cathartic, nihilistic, and just plain exciting. Taking as its subject a group of post-adolescents flailing about for meaning and direction in a chaotic world, the show features explosive choreography, lots of video and other projections, and as much angst as one stage can hold in a single evening. There’s even a semi-coherent plot: about two young men who head off to the big city, leaving behind a third and his pregnant girlfriend. The book is by Green Day’s Billy Joe Armstrong and director Michael Mayer, and the key word is “intense.” May 17-19 at the Straz Center for the Performing Arts, Tampa. strazcenter.org, 813-229-STAR.

Also on the radar…

The Piano Lesson. August Wilson’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play is about the value of memory — and whether the decision to hold on to the past is a life-obstructing mistake or the key to present endurance. Through March 3 at American Stage, St. Petersburg.

Marcus Garvey. Ron Bobb-Semple portrays the great activist of the Back to Africa and Pan-African movement, mixing biography and history with poetry. Garvey’s fame is worldwide: this one-man show explains why. Feb. 12-13 at The Studio@620, St. Petersburg. studio620.org, 727-895-6620.

Much Ado About Nothing. Jobsite Theater brings us the quarreling lovers, Beatrice and Benedick, who’d know that they’re perfect for each other if only they’d shut up for one single minute. March 13-April 7 at Jobsite Theater, Tampa. jobsitetheater.org, 813-229-STAR.

The Amish Project. American Stage had no idea when they scheduled this production — a meditation on the murder of five Amish children in a one-room schoolhouse in 2006 — of the tragic resonance it would carry in 2013. Katherine Michelle Tanner plays seven characters in the one-woman play. April 10-May 12, American Stage.

Hamlet. Jack Holloway is the Gerard Depardieu of the Tampa Bay area: a big hulking guy who can make magic when he acts. What splendid choices will he offer as drama’s most famous indecisive prince? April 25-May 12 at Tampa Repertory Theatre/Hat Trick Theatre, Tampa. tamparep.org.

Behind the Gates. A seemingly intractable young rebel is sent by her parents to Israel in the hopes that the life there will have a healing effect on her. She changes, all right: she joins an ultra-orthodox Jewish group, and offers her family a new type of challenge. May 1-26 at Jobsite Theater.

Of Mice and Men. John Steinbeck wrote the stage adaptation of his famous 1937 novel about ranch hands during the Depression. At the center of the story are the caring George and mentally damaged Lennie. And you know what happens to best-laid plans. May 2-19 at Stageworks.

John and Jen. Before he became famous for The Wild Party, Andrew Lippa composed this musical about a brother and sister and their lives from 1952 to 1990. She eventually becomes a hippie; he goes off to fight in Vietnam. Then everything changes. Kind of. May 3-26 at freeFall Theatre, St. Petersburg. freefalltheatre.com, 727-498-5205.

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