Cabaret This exceptional musical by Kansas City native John Kander and Fred Ebb, who died last year, will certainly take on a darker patina as staged by the Cultural Arts department of the Jewish Community Center of Greater Kansas City. The gloriously decadent Berlin nightlife of the early 1930s -- relished to a fault by Sally Bowles (Julie Shaw) and her co-workers and bisexual playmates at the Kit Kat Club -- becomes an ominous sign of things to come as the city becomes swept up in the rantings of a certain dangerously charismatic demagogue. A JCC production of Cabaret a few years ago gave the already frightening show a chilling immediacy. Jan. 15-23 at the Jewish Community Center, 5801 W. 115th St. in Leawood, 913-327-8040.
Flaming Idiots Despite a notorious, between-courses murder a couple of years ago, the New York City restaurant where it happened still boasts a nearly impenetrable waiting list. With due sympathy to the unlucky diner, it's a great premise for a play. Tom Rooney's door-slamming farce shifts the story to Miami, where an upscale new health-food eatery is floundering while a competitor across town -- where a mobster was slain -- can't turn its tables fast enough. What if, Rooney proposes in his New American Comedy Festival Award-winning play, the former owners staged a similar shootout? Jan. 21-Feb. 6 at Lawrence Community Theatre, 1501 New Hampshire, 785-843-7469
Frederick Douglass: Deliverance From Chains Gene Mackey's memory play is about the title character's journey from slave to statesman. The drama is set in a re-creation of Douglass' final home in Washington, D.C., where the civil rights pioneer (Danny Cox) reminisces with Helen Pitts (Sheryl Bryant), his second wife, and a group of young history buffs. Among the themes he addresses are abolition, black employment obstacles and the controversy surrounding his marriage to Pitts, who happened to be white. Jan. 25-Feb. 20 at Theatre for Young America, 5909 Johnson Drive in Mission, 913-831-2131.
Glengarry Glen Ross Any theater company kicking off the new year with a Pulitzer Prize-winning David Mamet play deserves attention. The Olathe Community Theater continues its 31st season in bed with a predatory pack of salesmen whose well-being pivots on how well they lie, cheat and steal. It's as dark and twisted as a Francis Bacon painting. The dialogue is mellifluous, with a style of bruising verbiage and profanity that former New York Times critic Frank Rich called "hot jazz and wounding blues." See it before the high-profile Broadway revival this spring with Alan Alda and Liev Schreiber. Jan. 14-29 at the Olathe Community Theater, 500 East Loula, 913-782-2990.
The Molire One Acts Sganarelle is the hottest name on the street -- well, at least the streets around the University of Missouri-Kansas City Theater Department and Union Station, where the latter's City Stage Theatre hosts the former's celebration of Moliere's most lovable rogues. In "The School for Husbands," Sganarelle is a 17th-century bourgeois prig and misogynist whose interest in a young lady isn't returned. The same name is given to a loutish and paranoid married man of the provinces in "The Imaginary Cuckold." Though both were written between 1660 and 1662, the pieces confirm why Moliere's romantic entanglements could be outtakes from Jen Chen's Night Ranger column. Jan. 28-Feb. 12 at the UMKC Theater Department at Union Station's H&R Block City Stage Theatre, 816-460-2020 or 816-235-6222.
Strong Girls and Big Teeth An old-school take on girl power finds puppeteer Anitra Steele adapting three folk tales that have one thing in common: The young female characters have little patience for sniveling. One turns the tables on a wolf -- it's like a protofeminist spin on "Little Red Riding Hood" -- and another proves that you can outfox a fox. Steele utilizes her own voices and hand puppets for the show at the intriguing Puppetry Arts Institute, which houses a virtual museum of Kansas City puppet history. Jan. 22, 11:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. at Puppetry Arts Institute, 11025 Winner Rd., 816-833-9777.
Two Trains Running Playwright August Wilson is just one decade shy of his century-spanning 10-pack of plays about the African-American experience between 1900 and 2000. His newest effort, Gem of the Ocean, covers 1900-10 and is running on Broadway, and his take on the 1960s, Two Trains Running, opens this week at the Kansas City Repertory Theatre. Some feel that the play, set around the razing of a restaurant to make way for gentrification, is Wilson's most soulful and personal. Directed by Lou Bellamy of St. Paul, Minnesota's Penumbra Theatre, the show will follow its Rep run with performances at the historic Gem Theatre on 18th Street. Jan. 21-Feb. 13 at the Kansas City Rep, 4949 Cherry, and Feb. 17-20 at the Gem, 1601 E. 18th St.; 816-235-2700 for both venues.