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Theater's 10 most-wanted

October 18, 2008 |  7:00 am

Perhaps it will help you, in these uncertain times, to know that although "Doubt" still prevails in theater circles, there's less than half as much of it as a year ago.Chris McGarry as Father Flynn and Cherry Jones as Sister Aloysius square off at the Ahmanson Theatre in a 2006 performance of

John Patrick Shanley's Pulitzer-winning drama, about a sleuthing nun on the heels of a priest who she (and she alone) is certain has molested a schoolboy, is scheduled to be staged by 14 theaters in 2008-09, topping American Theatre magazine's annual fall survey of the coming season. Last year, the magazine's canvass of more than 400 nonprofit theaters turned up 34 productions of "Doubt."

("Doubt" will proliferate exponentially in movie theaters come December, with Shanley adapting and directing a film version starring Meryl Streep and Philip Seymour Hoffman.)

Technically, "The Santaland Diaries" is tied with "Doubt" for '08-'09 most-scheduled-theater-productions honors, but Culture Monster would argue that more general works shouldn't have to compete with an established Christmas play -- such as "Santaland," Joe Mantello's 1996 theatricalization of David Sedaris' essay about his adventures as a department-store elf. Many theaters are hungry for popular Yuletide fare, and American Theatre sensibly does not include the 51 revivals of "A Christmas Carol" it turned up. Nor does Shakespeare figure in the standings (including 13 productions of "A Midsummer Night's Dream").

Next with 13 productions is another Pulitzer winner, David Lindsay-Abaire's somber "Rabbit Hole." "The Seafarer," Conor McPherson's tale of haunted, hard-drinking Irishmen, has 12; Sarah Ruhl's "Eurydice," 11; and "To Kill a Mockingbird," Christopher Sergel's 1970 adaptation of the novel by Harper Lee, comes in with 10. At nine each are "Souvenir," Stephen Temperley's biographical piece about a chanteuse with a terrible voice, Tennessee Williams' "The Glass Menagerie" and "Mauritius," Theresa Rebeck's play about scammers in pursuit of a prized stamp collection. Michael Frayn's 1982 farce, "Noises Off," has eight scheduled revivals, tying it with "Radio Golf," the final installment in August Wilson's 10-part account of black American life in each decade of the 20th century.

Of those titles, all have been staged previously in Southern California except "Mauritius," which is coming to the Pasadena Playhouse in March, and "The Seafarer," opening in April at the Geffen Playhouse. South Coast Repertory in Costa Mesa jumps on the "Noises Off" bandwagon in February, North Coast Repertory in Solana Beach offers "Rabbit Hole" in April and San Diego Repertory Theatre delves into "Doubt" in January. "Souvenir" recently closed at the La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts, although that production didn't register in the American Theatre survey, which only includes companies that are members of Theatre Communications Group, a national service organization for nonprofit theaters.

-- Mike Boehm

Photo: Chris McGarry as Father Flynn and Cherry Jones as Sister Aloysius square off at the Ahmanson Theatre in a 2006 performance of "Doubt." Credit: Gary Friedman / Los Angeles Times