Racial tensions, economic setbacks and and an ’80s vibe

The spirit of 1980s Hollywood has blown into Atlanta’s fall theater season. No fewer than four plays coming our way were made into memorable films during that decade of dubious fashion and New Wave music. Here’s a look at some of the more interesting shows on the fall calendar listed in chronological order by opening dates.

"Chainz"/"Broken." Rising Sage Theatre's Paris Crayton III presents two one-act plays looking at the aftermath of gun violence in America today. "Chainz" listens in on four men locked up for protesting the killing of a black youth, while "Broken" focuses on five mothers of murdered children. Both are world premieres. Aug. 29-Sept. 14. risingsagetheatre.com

"Les Liaisons Dangereuses." In 1985, playwright Christopher Hampton adapted an 18th-century French novel of humiliation and seduction for the stage; by 1988, the material had been shaped into a titillating Hollywood vehicle for John Malkovich, Glenn Close and Michelle Pfeiffer. Now Actor's Express takes up the rococo tale of carnal manipulation, with Melissa Foulger staging the dangerous dance of ex-lovers and arch rivals Le Vicomte de Valmont (Paul Hester) and La Marquise de Merteuil (Park Krausen). Sept. 4-Oct. 5 at Actor's Express. www.actors-express.com

"Driving Miss Daisy." Among Atlanta actors of a certain age, Jill Jane Clements is at the very top of the list — that rare performer who can break your heart and make you laugh at the same time. As such, she should make a textbook Daisy Werthan, the steely Jewish matriarch who slowly opens her heart to the African-American chauffeur her son hires to drive her around Atlanta. Justin Anderson directs Alfred Uhry's beloved story, which won the hometown boy a Pulitzer Prize, a Tony Award and an Oscar for depicting a politically taut moment with a tender touch. Sept. 11-Oct. 19. Aurora Theatre. www.auroratheatre.com

"Detroit." First staged at Chicago's Steppenwolf Theatre Company four years ago, Lisa D'Amour's play looks at the unsettling chinks in the mirror that is American suburbia. When a middle-class couple invite their new neighbors over for a cookout, what passes for sunny normality is soon exposed as dark and menacing. Atlanta actress Carolyn Cook leads the cast; and Lisa Adler directs what promises to be a highlight of the Little Five Points ensemble's 30th season. Sept. 19-Oct. 19. Horizon Theatre. www.horizontheatre.com

"Native Guard." Alliance Theatre artistic director Susan V. Booth turns Atlanta poet Natasha Trethewey's meditation on memory into a performance piece. The Emory University professor's book of poems, which juxtaposes her personal experience with the tale of African-American soldiers charged with guarding Confederate prisoners, won a Pulitzer Prize in 2007; she was appointed America's poet laureate in 2012. The text of "Native Guard" will be presented in its entirety during the first act, while the second half will be a discussion moderated by Atlanta culture leaders (including Tretheway on Oct. 1). Sept. 26-Oct. 29. Alliance Theatre. www.alliancetheatre.com

"Clybourne Park." Picking up where Lorraine Hansberry's "A Raisin in the Sun" left off, Bruce Norris' Pulitzer Prize winner shapes a Chicago neighborhood's spiritual, political and racial transformation over the course of 50 years. In the first act, Hansberrry's characters move into their new home in a white neighborhood. The year is 1959. Act two starts over in 2009. Melissa Foulger directs a sterling cast: Robin Bloodworth, Tess Malis Kincaid, Danielle Deadwyler, Eric Little, Joe Sykes, Cara Mantella and Bobby Labartino. Oct. 2-26. Aurora Theatre. www.auroratheatre.com

"How I Learned What I Learned." Actor Eugene Lee will channel the voice of August Wilson, stepping in for the great playwright in Wilson's one-man autobiographical play. Todd Kreidler — who adapted "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner" for Kenny Leon's True Colors Theatre and wrote the book for Broadway's "Holler If Ya Hear Me" — directs. Oct. 7-Nov. 2. True Colors Theatre Company. www.truecolorstheatre.org

"The Sleepy Hollow Experience." Serenbe Playhouse excels in creating sight-specific work that responds to the natural environment of its sleepy, south Atlanta community. For fall, the smell of hay and horses will permeate Washington Irving's tale of the Headless Horseman, which will be performed in and around Serenbe's stables. Oct. 9-Nov. 1. Serenbe Playhouse. www.serenbeplayhouse.com

"Steel Magnolias." Robert Harling's saccharine tale of a Louisiana beauty-parlor klatch seems to have undying appeal to lovers of Southern camp. So when it was announced that Annie Potts of TV's "Designing Women" would play the role of matriarch M'Lynn, Atlanta lit up with Facebook updates. Texas-born Judith Ivey, who played B.J. Poteet on "Designing Women," directs. Oct. 22-Nov. 9. Alliance Theatre. www.alliancetheatre.org

"The Elephant Man." Discovered in a freak show, John Merrick goes on to become a witty favorite of London society, but he is never appreciated as a human being. Bernard Pomerance's play is based on the real-life story of Joseph Merrick (1862-1890) and was made into a 1980 film starring John Hurt. For the Georgia Ensemble production, Jonathan Horne plays Merrick, and David Crowe ("Equus," "Venus in Furs") directs. Oct. 30-Nov. 16. Georgia Ensemble Theatre. www.get.org