You're not having deja vu — there's a lot that's familiar this month, from encore actor pairings to the return of a blockbuster tour to more than one show that uses vaudeville as its jumping-off point. It's also a strong 30 days for new work, especially from Dallas-area artists and playwrights.
Here are the 10 shows to see, in order by start date:
Second Thought Theatre, April 4-28
When Jenny Ledel and Drew Wall get together onstage, bad things — but good performances — tend to happen. The duo that starred in STT's 2015 hit Belleville is back with Ana Nogueira's Empathitrax, an unflinching play in which a couple tests out a new drug that prompts users to experience exactly what another person is feeling. Carson McCain, who assistant directed Belleville, here takes the reins.
Whither Goest Thou America: A Festival of New Play Readings
Undermain Theatre, April 12-May 6
"How did we get here and where are we going?" That's the question Undermain is having four playwrights answer over a period of four weeks, with the playwrights leading a discussion following their final staged reading. The lineup is: A Love Offering by Jonathan Norton (April 12-15), The Light Collectors by Blake Hackler (April 19-22), Visible From Four States by Barbara Hammond (April 26-29), Shakey Jake + Alice by Len Jenkin (May 3-6).
The Automobile Graveyard
Teatro Dallas, April 13-May 6
Fernando Arrabal's play tells of an immigrant musician and other artists who are under the watchful eye of an oppressive state. Panic and humor go hand in hand in the story, which takes place in a hotel-brothel junkyard of old cars. Former artistic director Cora Cardona returns to direct this intimate production, which caps its audience at 45 seats per performance.
WaterTower Theatre, April 13-May 6
Dallas-born actress and playwright Regina Taylor weaves a compelling family drama of hopes, fears, thwarted dreams, and dark secrets against a turbulent backdrop of racial tension and social upheaval. Just as in her Trinity River Plays, this one is set in Oak Cliff, but late 2016 instead of decades past. The south Dallas neighborhood is on the verge of gentrification, and middle-class couple James and Ruth are planning a bright future for their teenage son and his soon-to-be-born brother. But when James' brother Jeb returns home, buried family tensions resurface and the past casts a troubling shadow across an uncertain future.
Where Earth Meets the Sky
Cara Mía Theatre, April 14-29
Get ready for a new genre: Afro/indigenous sci-fi. This world premiere — written by poet Edyka Chilomé, Cara Mía’s managing director Ariana Cook, and resident ensemble member Vanessa Mercado Taylor — tells the story of Anghared262, who left the earth in the year 2050 on the Omnivessel. She is sent to the once-dying Earth with a mission of scouting for food samples. When she encounters Earthroot, a peaceful matriarchy, she enters her ancestral past and questions her allegiance to Omnivessel.
Kitchen Dog Theater, April 19-May 6
KDT artistic company members Cameron Cobb, Michael Federico, and Max Hartman are using the uniquely American art form of vaudeville as a metaphor for the cycles of moral and social decline of both ancient Rome and the Roaring '20s. Expect some modern-day social commentary too, through song, dance, skits, and puppetry performed by a company that includes Hartman, Jeff Swearingen, Steph Garrett, Parker Gray, Ian Ferguson, Marti Etheridge, Dennis Raveneau, and Thiago X Nascimento.
The Trials of Sam Houston
Dallas Theater Center, April 20-May 13
Artistic director Kevin Moriarty commissioned Aaron Loeb to write this play about Texas' former governor, who on the eve of the state's secession in 1861 is torn between loyalty to Texas and loyalty to the United States. Artistic company member Steven Michael Walters, who's been working in California recently, returns to play Houston, alongside Ace Anderson, Kieran Connolly, Liz Mikel, Alex Organ, Charlie Robinson, David Coffee, and Kate Wetherhead as some of America's most famous leaders.
Dallas Summer Musicals, April 24-May 6
The world's longest-running musical — it's been playing in London since 1985 — has been re-imagined by original director Cameron Mackintosh for this latest U.S. tour. If you haven't seen the international smash hit yet (or just want to experience it's grandeur and lush score), here's your chance.
The Last One Nighter on The Death Trail
Theatre Three, April 26-May 20
You haven't seen the last of vaudeville this month: T3 also has an original work that uses the performance style. A troupe of vaudevillians in the early '30s wait behind a theater in Dallas for their opportunity to go onstage. They're what's known as the "disappointment act," and only go on if someone else cancels. Christie Vela and David Goodwin's story, with songs by Endeavors Theater Collective, questions what is and isn't art and why it is necessary.
Imprint Theatreworks, April 27-May 12
Director Ashley H. White is transforming the Margo Jones Theatre in Fair Park into an immersive bar as the setting for this sexy musical about an illicit affair. Kyle Igneczi, Brett Warner, and Aaron C. White form the dangerous triangle, with Laura Lites serving as the narrator. In a cool bit of casting, Jamall Houston and Beth Lipton are not only covering both roles for their gender, but are also alternating pre-show rock performances where they'll get to show off their gritty vocal chops.