Metro Atlanta theater companies ring in new year with range of shows

Don’t be fooled by the chilly winter temperatures. Theater companies across metro Atlanta are heating up with their first productions of 2016 — a fairly equal mix of musicals, comedies and dramas, nicely balanced between both well-known shows and regional or world premieres.

A couple of them are already off and running:

Now playing at Georgia Ensemble Theatre (through Jan. 24) is the Victorian-era farce “Charley’s Aunt,” directed by David Crowe and featuring Hugh Adams as a rambunctious Oxford student who poses as a wealthy dowager. Roswell Cultural Arts Center, 950 Forrest St., Roswell. 770-641-1260,

The Shakespeare Tavern’s romantic “As You Like It” also opened earlier in the month (continuing through Jan. 31). Up next, timed to coincide with Valentine’s Day, is its annual production of the tragic “Romeo and Juliet” (Feb. 4-28). New American Shakespeare Tavern, 499 Peachtree St. N.E., Atlanta. 404-874-5299,

Starting this week, Aurora Theatre presents the drama “Wit” (through Feb. 7). Decatur-based playwright Margaret Edson’s Pulitzer Prize winner involves a college professor battling cancer. Mary Lynn Owen stars, with Chris Kayser and Marianne Fraulo in supporting parts.

Later in Aurora’s studio space (Jan. 29-Feb. 21), “I and You” is the regional premiere of a new play by Atlanta native Lauren Gunderson (“Silent Sky”). Two disparate high-school students bond over a homework assignment about Walt Whitman. Aurora Theatre, 128 E. Pike St., Lawrenceville. 678-226-6222,

Actor’s Express artistic director Freddie Ashley stages the dark Stephen Sondheim musical “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street” (Jan. 20-Feb. 28). Kevin Harry has the title role, alongside Deborah Bowman as his pie-baking accomplice. King Plow Arts Center, 887 W. Marietta St., Atlanta. 404-607-7469,

Theatrical Outfit’s premiere production of “Moxie” (Jan. 28-Feb. 21) is billed as a globe-trotting adventure tale, co-starring Carolyn Cook and David de Vries, and co-written by two other notable Atlanta actors, Brian Kurlander and Lane Carlock. The play was developed under the auspices of the Alliance Theatre’s Reiser Artist Lab project. Balzer Theater at Herren’s, 84 Luckie St. N.W., Atlanta. 678-528-1500,

On the Alliance main stage, artistic director Susan Booth mounts the timely and provocative drama “Disgraced” (Jan. 27-Feb. 14), winner of the 2013 Pulitzer Prize for drama. A small dinner party, hosted by an upwardly mobile lawyer of Muslim descent and his American wife, turns inflammatory. The cast includes Andrew Benator and Courtney Patterson.

Downstairs in its Hertz studio space, this year’s winner of the Alliance/Kendeda National Graduate Playwriting Competition is “Start Down” (Feb. 13-March 6). It’s described as a smart and funny look at the education system and how one high-tech startup company threatens to change the game. Woodruff Arts Center, 1280 Peachtree St. N.E., Atlanta. 404-733-5000,

A comic book-inspired rock musical with an environmental twist, to boot, Horizon Theatre’s “The Toxic Avenger” (Jan. 29-March 13) is the recent off-Broadway hit about an activist-turned-superhero who takes on pollution, global warming and a corrupt politician. Nick Arapoglou and Julissa Sabino front the cast, under the direction of Heidi Cline McKerley. Horizon Theatre, 1083 Austin Ave., Atlanta. 404-584-7450,

Robin Bloodworth headlines the popular backstage comedy “I Hate Hamlet” (Jan. 29-Feb. 21) with Stage Door Players. He plays the ghost of John Barrymore, who materializes to offer (unwanted) advice to a young actor. North DeKalb Cultural Arts Center, 5339 Chamblee-Dunwoody Road, Dunwoody. 770-396-1726,

Director John Dillon and actor Neal Ghant, who previously collaborated on True Colors Theatre’s highly acclaimed 2014 production of David Mamet’s “Race,” reunite for another Mamet undertaking with the company. “American Buffalo” (Feb. 9-March 6) concerns three small-time crooks with plans to steal a valuable coin collection. Southwest Arts Center, 915 New Hope Road, Atlanta. 1-877-725-8849,

A group of unemployed Buffalo steelworkers become unlikely male strippers in Atlanta Lyric Theatre’s musical “The Full Monty” (Feb. 12-28). With associate artistic director Alan Kilpatrick at the helm, the cast features Jeff Juday, Eric Moore and Matt Lewis. Jennie T. Anderson Theater (at the Cobb Civic Center), 548 S. Marietta Parkway, Marietta. 404-377-9948,

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.