Winter arts guide

Demon counseling is the name of the game in “The Screwtape Letters.”

December

‘The Screwtape Letters’
Dec. 2-3
Cutler Majestic Theatre
219 Tremont St., Boston
$29-$89, 617-824-8000
www.aestages.org
This stage adaptation of C.S. Lewis’ epistolary novel stars Max McLean as the titular senior demon, who councils Wormwood, a junior demon, on how to encourage his human “patient” to become petty, selfish and pretentious. You don’t have to believe in demons or even in God to appreciate this witty and enlightening series of lessons on how to not be a jerk.

‘HIGH’
Dec. 6-8
Cutler Majestic Theatre
219 Tremont St., Boston
$35-$95, 617-824-8000
www.aestages.org
Kathleen Turner stars as a nun who volunteers to sponsor a 19-year-old drug addict in this new play by Matthew Lombardo, who based the play on his own experiences. Our heroine’s difficulty in reaching the boy, despite her counseling experience and deep faith, forces her to question her beliefs in miracles and the human ability to change.

‘La Cage aux Folles’
Dec. 5-18
Citi Shubert Theatre
265 Tremont St., Boston
$33-$93, 866-348-9738
www.citicenter.org
This musical, winner of the 2010 Tony for best musical revival, stars George Hamilton as the owner of a swanky club in Saint-Tropez where his gay lover (Christopher Sieber) often performs in drag as “Zaza.” When his son (from a previous orientation) brings home his fiancee and her conservative parents, hilarious awkwardness ensues.

‘Three Pianos’
Dec. 7 to Jan. 8
Loeb Drama Center
64 Brattle St., Cambridge
$35, 617-547-8300
www.americanrepertory theater.org
On a cold winter’s night, three friends discover a copy of Shubert’s song cycle “Winterreise.” Inspired, they throw what could be called a Shubertiad — a booze-soaked piano party like the ones the composer used to have back in the day. The American Repertory Theatre promises both humor and heartbreak in this unique piece of musical theater, with meditations on music, love and drunk-dialing.

January

Green Day’s ‘American Idiot’
Jan. 24-29
Boston Opera House
539 Washington St., Boston
$30-$110, 866-523-7469
www.boston.broadway.com
Remember Green Day’s 2004 comeback album “American Idiot”? Turns out there was a story weaved through the whole thing — something called a “rock opera.” Who’d have guessed, right? Fortunately, the album’s politically-charged bildungsroman narrative is made much clearer in this fully staged version, a Broadway hit directed by Michael Mayer (”Spring Awakening”) and orchestrated by Tom Kitt (”Next to Normal”).

‘Red’
Jan 6 to Feb. 4
Calderwood Pavilion, Boston Center for the Arts
527 Tremont St., Boston
$45-$55, 617-933-8600
www.speakeasystage.com
This play by John Logan, winner of the 2010 Tony award for best play, depicts painter Mark Roth-ko during the period when he was working on a massive commission for a series of large murals. After his assistant accuses him of selling out, Rothko shares his philosophy of art and life.

‘Superior Donuts’
Jan. 6 to Feb. 4
Lyric Stage Company
140 Clarendon St., Boston
$27-$60, 617-585-5678
www.lyricstage.com
This Tracy Letts play takes place in a Chicago doughnut shop. Its glum, aging owner was once a bona fide draft-dodging ’60s radical, but in his senior years he’s more resistant to change. His new assistant, Franco, aged 21, has lots more enthusiasm, and all sorts of ideas on improving the place. Can the boy rouse this old hippie out of his torpor?

‘ART’
Jan. 15 to Feb. 5
Arsenal Center for the Arts
321 Arsenal St., Watertown
$20-$58, 617-923-8487
www.newrep.org
In this comedy by Yasmina Reza, a neophyte art collector pur-chases a starkly contemporary piece he’s excited about. It’s very expensive and very, uh, blank. It’s pretty much a white canvas. His friend refuses to accept it as art and a mutual friend tries to mediate their conflict.

February

‘69° S.’
Feb. 7-12
Paramount Mainstage
559 Washington St., Boston
$25-$69, 617-824-8400
www.artsemerson.org
If the cold of Boston winter puts you in a sour mood, we recommend getting some perspective by seeing this play about Ernest Shackleton’s harrowing 1914 adventure to the Antarctic. It integrates theater, dance, puppetry, photography and film with music by the Kronos Quartet and a message about global warming — which, by the way, is still happening!

‘The Addams Family’
Feb. 7-19
Citi Shubert Theatre
265 Tremont St., Boston
$33-$103, 866-348-9738
www.citicenter.org
This new musical takes its stylistic inspiration not from the TV series or films, but from the original Charles Addams comic panel. The plot: Wednesday, now a teenager, has a new boyfriend, but he’s not normal at all — and by “normal” of course we mean the Addams’ idea of “normal,” which is very weird indeed. And he’s coming over for dinner!

‘Photograph 51’
Feb. 9 to March 4
Central Square Theater
450 Mass. Ave., Cambridge
$15-$45, 866-811-4111
www.centralsquaretheater.org
This play by Anna Ziegler tells the story of Rosalind Franklin, a rare female biophysicist in the male-dominated scientific community of the 1950s. Her experiments using X-ray imaging led to the discovery of the double-helix structure of DNA, but she was not included among the 1953 Nobel Prize awardees for that discovery until years later. Boooo, 1950s America, boooo!

‘Time Stands Still’
Feb. 17 to March 17
Lyric Stage Company
140 Clarendon St., Boston
$27-$60, 617-585-5678
www.lyricstage.com
James, a reporter, and his girlfriend Sarah, a photojournalist injured on assignment, are both home from Iraq. They have betrayed each other. It’s not quite the same old story. James fled, abandoning Sarah, who cheated on him afterward. A visit to their Brooklyn home by an old friend and his ditzy, much-younger girlfriend sets their own relationship, and their professional lives, in stark relief.



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