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Theater

Theaters cast a vote for politics

Brooke Bloom as the queen and Steven Rattazzi as Louis XVI in “Marie Antoinette’’ at the American Repertory Theater.

JOAN MARCUS

Brooke Bloom as the queen and Steven Rattazzi as Louis XVI in “Marie Antoinette’’ at the American Repertory Theater.

If you’re heartily sick of politics, Boston theater will offer little refuge this fall.

But if you’re looking for a cracked-mirror perspective on the presidential campaign as it lurches toward the finish line, you just might find it in a host of area productions. Whether directly or obliquely, local theater companies will be trying to make an election connection.

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Christopher Shinn's 2008 drama “Now or Later,’’ to be staged by the Huntington Theatre Company in a US premiere, is a prime example. Directed by Michael Wilson and running Oct. 12-Nov. 10, the play unfolds on election night in a hotel where the Democratic presidential nominee is watching the returns with his wife and 20-year-old son.

Things look good. Victory is within the candidate’s grasp. And then suddenly he has a major controversy on his hands — call it a November surprise — after video and photos of his son engaging in incendiary activities go viral on the Web.

When it comes to making political statements, sometimes it’s best to say it with song. From Oct. 19 to Nov. 17, SpeakEasy Stage Company will present the rowdy musical “Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson,’’ in which our nation’s seventh president is reimagined as a populist rock star.

Written by Alex Timbers, with music and lyrics by Michael Friedman, “Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson’’ won critical plaudits but struggled at the box office during a Broadway run in 2010-11. The SpeakEasy production, to be directed by Paul Melone, will star Gus Curry (who played Paul in Gloucester Stage Company’s recent production of “Carnival’’) as Old Hickory.

Apparently not content to focus on just one occupant of the Oval Office when there are so many to choose from, the fringe theater company Bad Habit Productions will offer “44 Plays for 44 Presidents’’ from Oct. 27 to Nov. 11. Originally produced in 2002 by Chicago’s Neo-Futurists, “44 Plays’’ is a series of brief biographical sketches about every commander in chief from Washington to Obama. The local staging is part of a festival of dozens of election-year productions of the show across the country.

Since spoofing political leadership is a sport that knows no national boundaries and is confined to no particular era, there’s no reason political theater should be restricted to the domestic arena this fall, which brings us to Lyric Stage Company’s production of “The Mikado.’’

NERYS POWELL

Bob Jolly (left), Erica Spyres, and Davron S. Monroe appear in Lyric Stage Company’s “The Mikado.’’

Although “The Mikado’’ is set in Japan, the real satirical target of Gilbert and Sullivan’s comic opera was British law and politics, in all their inanity and illogic. But contemporary US politics and culture are the targets of the Lyric’s “Mikado’’ (Sept. 7-Oct. 13), which will contain updated lyrics that aim to supply some election-year bite. To be directed by Spiro Veloudos, it will feature Erica Spyres (the Lyric’s “Time Stands Still’’ and “Avenue Q’’) as Yum-Yum, Davron S. Monroe as Nanki-Poo, David Kravitz as Pooh-Bah, Leigh Barrett as Katisha, Bob Jolly as the Lord High Executioner, and Timothy John Smith as the Mikado.

There’s a decided let-’em-eat-cake flavor to our current era of rampant income inequality, so David Adjmi's “Marie Antoinette,’’ at the American Repertory Theater through Sept. 29, has timeliness on its side. A world-premiere coproduction with Yale Repertory Theatre, it’s directed by Rebecca Taichman. With Brooke Bloom in the title role, “Marie Antoinette’’ focuses on the queen who was a chief casualty of one of history’s bloodiest episodes of regime change: the French Revolution.

Political tumult in France is also the subject of “Paris Commune,’’ which will unfold Sept. 20-23 at the Paramount Center Mainstage, presented by Arts
Emerson.

CAROL ROSEGG

Jeanine Serrales in the Civilians’ “Paris Commune,’’ a musical play that will premiere at ArtsEmerson.

A world-premiere musical play about a 19th-century revolution in which workers overthrew the powers-that-were and ruled the City of Light for a time, “Paris Commune’’ is the handiwork of the Civilians, the New York-based troupe that created “You Better Sit Down: Tales From My Parents’ Divorce’’ and “In the Footprint: The Battle Over Atlantic Yards,’’ both seen at ArtsEmerson in 2011.

On Nov. 4-5, just before Election Day, SpeakEasy Stage Company will put on a benefit concert titled “All About Election Eve.’’ Starring Leigh Barrett, Kerry A. Dowling, Kathy St. George, and Mary Callanan, the concert will feature a mixture of nonpolitical and lightly political tunes, but is primarily designed as “a salute to America’s best song-creators.’’ Songwriters to be represented will range from Irving Berlin and George Gershwin to Randy Newman, John Mayer, and James Taylor.

As for the spate of productions that openly embrace political themes, here’s hoping they shed some light on the campaign and generate a little heat as well. For guidance, look no further than your nearest TV set, where a pair of intrepid comedian-commentators, Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert, invariably find a way to make the unbearable bearable, and even enjoyable.

MARIE ANTOINETTE

American Repertory Theater. Loeb Drama Center, Cambridge. Through Sept. 29.

617-547-8300, www.americanrepertorytheater.org

THE MIKADO

Lyric Stage Company, Boston. Through Oct. 13. 617-585-5678, www.lyricstage.com

PARIS COMMUNE

Presented by ArtsEmerson. At Paramount Center Mainstage, Boston.

Sept. 20-23. 617-824-8400, www.artsemerson.org

NOW OR LATER

Huntington Theatre Company. Wimberly Theatre, Boston Center for the Arts. Oct. 12-Nov. 10. 617-266-0800, www.huntingtontheatre.org

BLOODY BLOODY ANDREW JACKSON

SpeakEasy Stage Company. At Roberts Studio Theatre, Boston Center for the Arts. Oct. 19-Nov. 17. 617-933-8600, www.speakeasystage.com

44 PLAYS FOR 44 PRESIDENTS

Bad Habit Productions.

At Deane Hall, Calderwood Pavilion, Boston Center for the Arts. Oct. 27-Nov. 11. 617-933-8600, www.bostontheatrescene.com

ALL ABOUT ELECTION EVE

SpeakEasy Stage Company. At Roberts Studio Theatre, Boston Center for the Arts.

Nov. 4-5. 617-933-8600, www.speakeasystage.com

Don Aucoin can be reached at aucoin@globe.com.
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