August: Osage County by Tracy Letts.

Steppenwolf Theatre Company / STC. Sydney Theatre. August 17 to September 25

EVERY so often an extraordinary theatre experience comes along; Steppenwolf Theatre Company’s original production of the Tony and Pulitzer winning August: Osage County ranks high among them.

Dr Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog

Book and lyrics by Joss Whedon, Zack Whedon, Maurissa Tancharoen, music by Jed Whedon. Hunter TAFE Performing Arts. The Playhouse, Newcastle (NSW). July 9 to 18.

As the title suggests, this is a musical of today. But it is also in the best traditions of musicals, reworking an old storyline (think The Phantom of the Opera) and offering a tongue-in-cheek look at staple literary figures (the masked super-hero, the evil scientist whose villainy is punctured by love, the cute girl-next-door).

Outlaw by Michael Healy.

Directed by James Adler. Eagle’s Neat Theatre. Northcote Town Hall until September 3.

There’s a really interesting play to be written about the complexities of ‘Green politics’, but this inert, one-dimensional drama by Mr Healy isn’t it. It doesn’t garner any favours, either, from Mr Adler’s almost perfunctory ‘walk-on during the blackout, stand and/or sit around, walk-off during the blackout staging’ which appeared determined to disengage with the play’s all too fleeting and momentary moments of imagined intrigue and reduce it to a banal, self-interested and self-reverential soap opera.

Pin Drop.

Created and performed by Tamara Saulwick. Arts House, North Melbourne Town Hall until Sunday August 29.

Sometimes, but only very occasionally, theatre-makers redefine what’s possible. Sometimes, the often fraught act of ‘collaboration’ evolves to result in a piece of theatre so hypnotic that you can’t actually believe what you are seeing. But rarely, in my experience, does a piece of theatre-making get so entirely under my skin that every single sense is startled into being in ways that I had never imagined possible.

Houdini: The Man from Beyond

Music: Russell Bauer. Book & Lyrics: Bruce Dawe AO. USQ Artsworx. Opened USQ Arts Theatre, Toowoomba, Qld, 20 Aug 2010. Director: Sue Rider. Musical Director: Russell Bauer.

A charismatic performance by Chris White as the title character, some terrific illusions, and a nice tight production by Sue Rider were the big pluses of the new Australian musical, Houdini, trying out at the University of Southern Queensland Arts Theatre, Toowoomba. In 1910 Houdini became the first man to fly in Australia. Historical film footage of this event was used as an overture to set the mood of the piece.

M. The Scottish Play

eagle’s nest ThEATER. Studio 2, Northcote Town Hall (VIC). August 21 – 25

Director Peita Collard chose to frame her production of M. The Scottish Play in a Japanese J-Horror style due to her extensive experience with and love of all things Japanese. Initially a surprising choice, it swiftly became clear that this was a very logical and entertaining lens through which to view this classic text.

The set was comprised of a number of large bamboo-painted panels on wheels that allowed them to be moved to obscure or reveal actions and to change of locations.

She’s Not Performing by Alison Mann.

La Mama Theatre, Melbourne until September 5.

There’s an important new voice in Australian Theatre – and it is the voice of young playwright Alison Mann, whose first full-length play She’s Not Performing is an absolute ripper. ‘Issue-based’ theatre always has the potential to be sabotaged by its own worthiness, but not in the hands of this adventurous and marvelously talented young playwright and her dramaturg – Melbourne’s Mistress of psychosexual invention and efficiency, Maude Davey.

Tusk Tusk

By Polly Stenham. Sydney Theatre Company. Wharf Theatre. 14 August - 4 September

Sitting in the front row allows one to see everything, every detail or lack thereof. Tusk Tusk opened with promise but then within minutes lost me. I was in a constant state of wondering. Why are the characters doing this? Who is this person? I don’t know, but for some reason, this play just didn’t work for me. I’m putting it down to the writing.

Jesus Christ Superstar

Music: Andrew Lloyd Webber. Lyrics: Tim Rice. Harvest Rain. Playhouse, QPAC. (Qld). Aug 20 to 29. Director: Tim O’Connor. Musical Director: Maitlohn John

Do Not Go Gentle…

By Patricia Cornelius. Director: Julian Meyrick. Produced and Presented by fortyfivedownstairs (Vic.)

Do Not Go Gentle... is a delicately wrought and simply staged work that, all at once, evolves and develops as it peels and unravels. It addresses the often overlooked depth of personality and richness of experience embodied by the aged. The text’s blurring realities, of dreams, experience, desires and heartaches, are managed skilfully by a masterful creative crew, through an amalgam of realism and magic realism.

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