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Critics’ picks: Theater

Michael Benz as the title character in “Hamlet” at ArtsEmerson.

Fiona Moorehead

Michael Benz as the title character in “Hamlet” at ArtsEmerson.

Opening

NOW OR LATER In Christopher Shinn’s 2008 drama, now receiving its US premiere, victory is within a presidential candidate’s grasp. But when photos of his son engaging in incendiary activities go viral, the politician has a major controversy on his hands. Through Nov. 10. Huntington Theatre Company. Wimberly Theatre, Boston Center for the Arts. 617-266-0800, www.huntingtontheatre.org

Now playing

WAR HORSE The sights and sounds of battle have seldom been rendered more vividly onstage than in this drama about a cavalry horse and the British youth who journeys through the trenches of World War I to find him. The National Theatre of Great Britain has put a lot of ingenious stagecraft to very powerful use, with image after blindingly sudden image of combat and its casualties — human and animal — that capture the chaos, futility, and waste of war. Through Oct. 21. National Theatre of Great Britain. Broadway in Boston. At Boston Opera House. 800-982-2787, www.broadwayinboston.com

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HAMLET While still abounding in corpses and weighty rumination, this production by Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre is a high-speed, highly accessible version of the classic revenge tragedy. As portrayed by the blond and boyish Michael Benz, Hamlet is less a melancholy Dane than an antic young rebel with a cause, chafing at the limits of his life and eager to make mischief. There’s an aspect of generational revolt in the prince’s efforts to subvert the hypocritical elders who hold sway at Elsinore. Through Oct. 21. ArtsEmerson. At Paramount Center Mainstage, Boston. 617-824-8400, www.artsemerson.org

THE HOW AND THE WHY You’ll have to wade through some scientific jargon in Sarah Treem’s play about a graduate student and a renowned evolutionary biologist, but under the direction of Daniel Gidron, this cerebral drama solidifies into a well-drawn and satisfyingly intense clash of ideas and personalities. Through
Oct. 21. Nora Theatre Company. At Central Square Theater, Cambridge. 866-811-4111, www.centralsquaretheater.org

THE LAST OF THE HAUSSMANS The National Theatre production of Stephen Beresford’s comic drama about a free-spirited former hippie portrayed by Julie Walters, who reunites with her two troubled adult children and her granddaughter after she has cancer surgery. Directed by Howard Davies. Broadcast as part of the National Theatre Live series. Oct. 15. Coolidge Corner Theatre, Brookline. 617-734-2501, www.coolidge.org

DON AUCOIN

MACBETH The virtues of this production include Jenna McFarland-Lord’s ghostly World War I-era set, director Paula Plum’s many imaginative conceits (like having the three witches double as nuns), and Allyn Burrows’s exuberant, man-against-fate depiction of the title character. Shakespeare done differently, and done very well. Through Nov. 4. Actors’ Shakespeare Project. At
Chevalier Theatre, Medford. 866-811-4111, www.actorsshakespeareproject.org

JEFFREY GANTZ

Last chance

GOOD PEOPLE South Boston native David Lindsay-Abaire’s brilliant look homeward may seem like it’s about class issues, but there’s much more going on in his layered narrative of choices and personal integrity, beautifully directed by Kate Whoriskey. Johanna Day is wonderfully war-weary as the heroine, Margie, one of a cast of achingly imperfect characters in this Boston-set drama. Through Oct. 14. Huntington Theatre Company. At Boston University Theatre. 617-266-0800, www.huntingtontheatre.org

TERRY BYRNE

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