Shel Silverstein's dramas, Dame Judi Dench, an ABBA musical, Dracula

The Play's the Thing
Beloved for his children's books (The Giving Tree, Where the Sidewalk Ends), which earned him comparisons to Dr. Seuss, Shel Silverstein turned to writing plays late in his career. It was a daring shift that paid off—The New York Times speculated that his dramas would come to be more revered than his stories. As if to prove the point, the Atlantic Theater Co. (co-founded by David Mamet and William H. Macy) has mounted a production of 10 of Silverstein's 12 short plays, just two years after his death from a heart attack at age 69. Director Karen Kohlhaas, who has won attention for her productions of Mamet and Harold Pinter, brings a keen, modern eye to Silverstein's droll one-acts; in the darkly poignant One Tennis Shoe, a man accuses his wife of being a bag lady, then slowly comes to realize that he has hit on something close to the truth. An Adult Evening of Shel Silverstein, Atlantic Theater, New York, opens Oct. 17; 212/239-6200.

Mahler's Conversion Aldwych Theatre, opens Oct. 2; 44-870/400-0805. The tormented composer's conversion from Judaism to Catholicism, his marriage to Alma Mahler and her numerous infidelities, and his meeting with Sigmund Freud are the focus of a new play by Ronald Harwood. In the lead role is Sir Antony Sher, who has portrayed such luminaries as British prime minister Benjamin Disraeli.

The Royal Family Haymarket Theatre, opens Nov. 1; 44-207/930-8800. Dame Judi Dench stars in a revival of the 1920's spoof on actors and acting based on the lives of America's first family of stage and screen—the Barrymores—who gave us Lionel, Ethel, John, and, of course, Drew.

The Little Foxes Donmar Warehouse, opens Oct. 10; 44-207/369-1732. Lillian Hellman's 1939 hothouse drama about a family that pulls no punches in its efforts to acquire a cotton mill. West End stage diva Penelope Wilton is the overbearing matriarch.

New York
Mamma Mia! Winter Garden Theatre, opens Oct. 18; 212/239-6200. Take a chance on this one. A smash in London, where it won an Olivier, the ABBA musical was written by two of the group's members. Their seventies hits animate a story about a woman who encounters shades from the past on the eve of her daughter's wedding.

Dance of Death Broadhurst Theatre, opens Oct. 11; 212/239-6200. In this adaptation of August Strindberg's classic, Sir Ian McKellen and Helen Mirren play a married couple who draw a hapless visitor into a twisted battle of wits. George and Martha, move over.

Assassins Music Box Theatre, opens Nov. 1; 212/239-6200. Making its Broadway debut, Stephen Sondheim and John Weidman's musical delves into the lives of nine legendary American assassins, including John Hinckley, Lee Harvey Oswald, and John Wilkes Booth.

Thou Shalt Not Plymouth Theater, opens Oct. 25; 212/239-6200. Émile Zola's novel Thérèse Raquin has been transplanted to postwar New Orleans, directed and choreographed by Tony Award winner Susan Stroman (Contact, The Producers) as a jazz musical. A young woman conspires with her lover (a musician, of course) to kill her husband; Harry Connick Jr. wrote the songs.

Big Love Goodman Theatre, opens Oct. 29; 312/443-5151. Based on the classical myth of the Danaides, this romantic farce follows 50 Greek sisters who steal a ship and sail to Italy to escape the 50 cousins to whom they've been betrothed, and then threaten to murder the men when they arrive on Roman shores. The hit of last year's Humana Festival of New Plays.

San Diego
Dracula, the Musical La Jolla Playhouse, opens Oct. 21; 858/550-1010. Composer Frank Wildhorn (Jekyll and Hyde) collaborates with the Tony-winning writing team of Christopher Hampton and Don Black (Sunset Boulevard) to produce a musical version of Bram Stoker's Gothic classic.