This time of year, the number of companies producing plays is pruned way back, but the choices are bolder, more varied, and more ambitious — just what we need to lure us out of cultural hibernation.
Honky Tonk Laundry
Penobscot Theatre Company
Playwright Roger Bean specializes in jukebox musicals — comedies like the Marvelous Wonderettes, built around can’t-help-but-sing-along songs. In Honky Tonk Laundry, small-town laundromat owner Lana Mae and her new hire, Katie Lane, exact revenge on the men what done them wrong as they perform the twangy tunes of Tammy Wynette, Loretta Lynn, the Dixie Chicks, and others. This is Honky Tonk Laundry’s Maine debut — bless Penobscot Theatre’s heart!
Jan. 31–Feb. 24. 131 Main St., Bangor. 207-942-3333.
Portland Stage Company
Novelist (and occasional Down East contributor) Monica Wood’s first play, 2015’s Papermaker, about a bitter strike at a Maine paper mill, was the best-selling show in Portland Stage Company’s 45-year history. No wonder they want her back. With The Half-Light, Wood explores new territory but similar themes of loss and redemption. It’s the story of a college secretary, who believes she might have a gift for seeing the dead, and her colleague, who is dealing with grief.
Feb. 26–March 24. 25 Forest Ave., Portland. 207-774-0465.
A Doll’s House, Part 2
What ever happened to Nora, who walked out on her husband and children at the end of A Doll’s House, Henrik Ibsen’s pioneering 1879 realist drama about social constraints on married women in a male-dominated world? In playwright Lucas Hnath’s witty and ambitious sequel, she walks back in, 15 years later. This play debuted on Broadway in 2017 and received eight Tony Award nominations.
March 15–24. 31 Maple St., Lewiston. 207-782-3200.