Bill Gale

Mark Turek / Trinity Rep

The right of all Americans to be down-hearted once in a while is brought up -- and defended -- in a new musical comedy having its premiere at Trinity Rep. Bill Gale says it  can have you laughing out loud, and thinking, too.

Sarah Ruhl is a playwright known for her off-beat but well put together plays. “The Clean House,” has a Brazilian maid who cares only to find the perfect joke which then turns to a narrative about being joyful in the face of death and dying. Or in “Dead Man's Cell Phone” Ruhl looks at the societal disconnection brought about by the digital age.

Maggie Hall / Wilbury Theatre Group

Serious mental illness might well seem an unlikely jumping off point for musical theater. But with “Next to Normal,” now at the Wilbury Group in Providence, the subject becomes a powerful drama mostly well done. 

Brian Yorkey, who wrote the book and lyrics for the engrossing “Next to Normal” once opined that “musicals can be ridiculous.”

“You know, all those people breaking into song all the time,” he said. But the author also  pointed out that, somehow, a good musical can be “sublime.”

Richard W. Dionne, Jr. / 2nd Story Theatre

British playwright Joe Orton is probably best remembered for his loopy yet fiery comedy's “Loot” and “What the Butler Saw”. But his seminal piece was “Entertaining Mr. Sloane” a 1964 trouble-making work now being revived by 2nd Story Theatre in Warren.

When you enter 2nd Story's upstairs performing space these nights you'll be greeted by some real oldies. No, not the ushering staff. The recorded music being played: Petula Clark's “Downtown” The Seekers “Georgy Girl” and even “She's Not There” by the Zombies.

Mark Turek / Ocean State Theatre

“Into the Woods” won three Tony Awards on Broadway in 1988. But “Best Musical” wasn't one of them.  Bill Gale thinks that a strong production at the Ocean State Theatre tells you why.

Full disclosure, I have never cottoned to “Into the Woods” which brought so much fame and honor to its creators Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine.

Richard W. Dionne, Jr. / 2nd Story Theatre

2nd Story Theatre in Warren has always liked to do off-beat plays and its current work, “4000 miles,” is no exception. Bill Gale says it's a little loopy, a little lacking in plot, but that it's also one of those works you'll think about days after you see it.

It was, of course, the poet Robert Frost who wrote that “Home is the place where …they have to take you in.”  Well, “4000 Miles” is something of a recurrence of that idea.

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