Memory, race and classic remakes take centerstage in Atlanta this fall

This season at the Fox Theatre, we’ll see Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella — or Ella, as she has been renamed for modern audiences — defy all odds and marry her handsome prince.

A nice fairy tale. But Ella won’t be the only regal presence to grace our stages this fall.

After trodding the boards at theaters all over town for many a moon, Atlanta actress Tess Malis Kincaid has earned the status once bestowed upon the likes of Mary Nell Santacroce, Muriel Moore and Brenda Bynum: theater royalty.

How magical is Kincaid? Watch her dig into the role of the vicious Nurse Ratched in the Alliance Theatre’s season opener, “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” (for details, see Top Fall Events on page 3) then vamp it up as a phony-baloney film goddess in “Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike” at Aurora Theatre.

Elsewhere at playhouses around town, playwrights Steve Yockey and Deborah Zoe Laufer will take on the topic of Alzheimer’s, in thoughtful new work at Actor’s Express and Horizon Theatre. Here, then, is a look at what promises to be a fascinating finale to the 2014-2015 season.

“Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike.” If the collaboration is the future of theater, Aurora Theatre may be leading the pack locally. Over the summer, the Lawrenceville playhouse partnered with downtown’s Theatrical Outfit to stage Broadway’s “Memphis” (which closes Aug. 30 at Aurora and moves to the Outfit, Sept. 10-20). For fall, Aurora brings back Christopher Durang’s Chehkov riff, “Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike,” directed by Justin Anderson and originally seen at Little Five Points’ Horizon Theatre in the spring. Reviewing the Durang howler in the AJC, writer Bert Osborne marveled that its last-minute tone change — from “madcap comedy” to trenchant commentary — “could bring a tear to your eye.” William S. Murphey, LaLa Cochran, Tess Malis Kincaid and Edward McCreary return, respectively, as Vanya, Sonia, Masha and Spike. Oct. 1-25. Aurora Theatre.

“Informed Consent.” Horizon’s previously scheduled “A+,” by playwright Sean Lewis, has been pushed back to next season. In its place is Deborah Zoe Laufer’s “Informed Consent,” which just opened in New York. Laufer’s new play, suggested by a landmark court case and directed here by Lisa Adler, is about a genetic anthropologist whose research on a Native American tribe is motivated by personal issues. Laufer, author of Horizon favorite “End Days,” is concerned here with matters of ethics, religion, truth, memory — and how our DNA can determine our destiny. Oct. 9-Nov. 8. Horizon Theatre.

“Fetch Clay, Make Man.” Muhammed Ali and Stepin Fetchit were buds? No way. That, apparently, was the reaction of playwright Will Power when he spotted an old photo of the boxing great meeting with the Hollywood comedian reviled by some for his stereotypical shtick. A pioneer of spoken-word and hip-hop theater (“Flow”), Power crafted a play that is loosely inspired by history and Fetchit’s claim that he taught Ali the punch that knocked out world heavyweight champ Sonny Liston in the 1960s. Jasmine Guy directs the play, which is less about boxing than how these emblems of black pride (Rob Demery as Ali) and prejudice (Brad Raymond as Fetchit) try to shape their legacy for future generations. Oct. 27-Nov. 22. True Colors Theatre.

“The Thrush + The Woodpecker,” “Blackberry Winter.” In “The Thrush+ The Woodpecker,” the first of two back-to-back plays by Atlanta native Steve Yockey, a woman (Kathleen Wattis) tries to reconcile with her college-age son, only to have a menacing stranger rush in with disturbing secrets and revenge. In “Blackberry Winter,” a woman (Carolyn Cook) describes the painful dance of watching her mother slowly disappear (Alzheimer’s). (The play’s development was featured in the AJC’s award-winning Personal Journeys story, “Forgotten Memories.”) It will be intriguing to see how Yockey’s ideas — by turns horrific and poignant — collide in these paired stories, which will be staged in rotating repertory. “The Thrush + The Woodpecker”; Oct. 31-Nov. 15. “Blackberry Winter”; Nov. 6-22. Actor’s Express.

“Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella.” Everyone loves a royal wedding. Think: carriages and horses, gossamer gowns, lugubrious relatives. Broadway heavyweights Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein began their glass-slippered telling of this fairy tale as a 1957 TV special. Thanks to a 1964 makeover, some of us grew up crooning “In My Own Little Corner, In My Own Little Chair” with Lesley Ann Warren’s Cinderella. Knowing that little girls and their mothers can bring box-office gold, Broadway producers two years ago decided to give the magic tale its Great White Way debut — replete with a new book by Douglas Carter Beane and costumes by William Ivey Long (who won a Tony for his stitch-witchery). Now Atlanta audiences can get in on the fun. Nov. 3-8. Fox Theatre.


17 must-see events this fall

Theater: Memory, race and classic remakes take center stage

Classical music: Mahler, Schubert and virtuoso pairings on tap

Dance: Athleticism, technology and intimacy meld

Visual arts: High fashion, samurais and Andy Warhol fill galleries this fall

Pop music: Festivals, Dave Grhol, Janet Jackson rule the fall music scene

Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.

Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.