Highlights of the new theater season

Saidah Arrika Ekulona performed in the West Coast premiere of “Motherhood Out Loud” (as “In Mother Words”) and stars in the Off-Broadway version this fall.

New York City is about to welcome its fall onslaught of new plays to kick off the season for 2011-2012. Although it’s always a crapshoot to guess which shows will make it big (“Good People”) while others swiftly retreat from the limelight (“Wonderland”), we do have some hunches. Here are our picks from what’s opening in the coming months.

Broadway

‘The Mountaintop’
Opens Oct. 13
Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre
242 W. 45th St.
www.themountaintopplay.com
Starring Angela Bassett and Samuel L. Jackson (need we say more?), this play takes on the juggernaut that is the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. This reimagining explores the more introspective moments of the civil rights leader’s life when a mysterious stranger brings to light his destiny.

‘Chinglish’

Opens Oct. 27
Longacre Theatre
220 W. 48th St.
www.chinglishbroadway.com
This play takes audiences along with a Midwestern businessman as he’s swept up in a communication-encumbered culture clash in Guiyang, China. Straying from the maudlin you might expect from “Lost In Translation,” humor and happenstance take center stage in “Chinglish.”

‘Godspell’
Opens Nov. 7
Circle in the Square Theatre
1633 Broadway
www.godspell.com
Touting Broadway classics like “Day By Day” and “Turn Back, O Man,” the return of Stephen Schwartz’s 1971 Christ-centric musical-turned-movie is a no-brainer as one of the most highly anticipated shows of the season — but no pressure, guys.

Off-Broadway

‘The Submission’
Opens Sept. 27
Lucille Lortel Theater
121 Christopher St.
www.mcctheater.org
Check your political correctness at the door and open yourself to the situational comedy that occurs when a young, white playwright gets his big break while hiding behind the nom de plume of Shaleeha G’ntamobi. “The Submission” stars Jonathan Groff (“Glee”) and Rutina Wesley (“True Blood”).

‘Motherhood Out Loud’
Opens Oct. 4
59E59 Theaters
59 E. 59th St.
www.motherhoodoutloud.com
Offering a series of snippets exploring the     inherent humor and heartache of childrearing, “Motherhood” is crafted by 14 playwrights offering their insight on maternity. It comes off as an     emotional roller coaster     — aka, an appropriate representation of  parenthood.

‘King Lear’
Opens Oct. 18
The Public Theater
425 Lafayette St.
www.publictheater.org
Sam Waterston (yes, his bio lists “Law & Order”) takes on the challenging role of “King Lear” as one of Shakespeare’s most notorious tragedies debuts at The Public Theater. “Love’s Labors Lost” and “Titus Andronicus” round out the Bard-based triumvirate through December.

New York Musical Theater Festival

What’s even newer than opening night? Musicals that have never been staged are meeting audiences for the first time during the New York Musical Theater Festival. Explore shows ranging from rock opera to romance; you might get to be among the first to say you saw the next big hit.

NYMF runs Sept. 26 through Oct. 16. Get more info or buy tickets at www.nymf.org.



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