Nobel Prize-winning Caribbean playwright Derek Walcott goes back to the Greeks for The Odyssey , a striking take on the wanderings of Odysseus after the Trojan War. Blending island traditions and classical imagery, this version of the epic, directed by the creative Peter Hinton for the Stratford Festival, features Nigel Shawn Williams as Odysseus and Allegra Fulton as Penelope, the faithful wife who awaits his return. Previews begin July 27, opens August 8 and runs to September 28 at the Studio Theatre, Stratford. 1-800-567-1600.
Joan of Niagara
The Shaw Festival's anchor production this year is the exciting Saint Joan , Shaw's multi-faceted look at the 15th-century teenager who became a warrior and saved France from British invaders. Stressing the theme of nationalism, director Jackie Maxwell links Joan's period with the first world war, evoking issues just as vital today as they were six centuries ago. She couldn't have made a better choice for the lead role than the dynamic Tara Rosling , who shares the stage with Blair Williams , Peter Krantz , Patrick McManus and Harry Judge . Runs to October 27 at the Festival Theatre, Niagara-on-the-Lake. 1-800-511-7429.
Who doesn't have a soft spot for novelist Harper Lee 's masterpiece, To Kill A Mockingbird , about a lawyer and his family in Depression-era Alabama? You probably know the Gregory Peck movie; now try Christopher Sergel 's stage adaptation at the Stratford Festival, with Peter Donaldson as the high-principled Atticus Finch and young Abigail Winter-Culliford in the crucial role of his daughter, Scout, who learns a lesson about prejudice and the human spirit. Runs through October 27 at the Avon Theatre, Stratford. 1-800-567-1600.
Director David Ferry sets his version of The Merchant Of Venice in today's Middle East, which is sure to add a few more dramatic notches to the always controversial Shakespeare text. He'll get some real fire from his principals, too - Alex Poch-Goldin as Shylock and Irene Poole as Portia, who dons male disguise and uses her wits to save the life of Antonio ( Sam Kalileah ), friend of her beloved Bassanio ( Tim Campbell ). The Resurgence Theatre production opens August 2 and runs to August 19 at Newmarket's Fairy Lake Park. 1-905-953-2838.
The Shaw Festival revives one of George Bernard Shaw 's rarely done but most clever pieces, The Philanderer . Its central figure, Leonard Charteris ( Ben Carlson , superb in Shaw's Man And Superman) belongs to the Ibsen Club, whose members are required to be unwomanly females or unmanly males. Alisa Palmer directs this comic debate about love, feminism, marriage and multiple relationships, which also features Deborah Hay and Nicole Underhay as the two women who lay claim to the ever-loving Charters. Runs to October 7 at the Royal George Theatre, Niagara-on-the-Lake. 1-800-511-7429.
Othello is one of Shakespeare 's most tightly plotted works, with an inexorable drive toward its tragic conclusion. The Stratford Festival ups the stakes by casting Obsidian Theatre's Philip Akin in the title role, with the excellent Jonathan Goad as his wily adversary Iago and Claire Jullien as Othello's innocent wife, Desdemona. Look for sparks to fly between Akin and Goad. In previews, opens Saturday (June 2), and runs to September 22 at the Tom Patterson Theatre, Stratford. 1-800-567-1600.