A flurry of new productions have opened for the fall theater season, from revues and musicals to riveting dramas and intimate send-ups of society. Here's a survey of some critical favorites.

'Vinegar Tom'

On the surface, this Caryl Churchill drama is a period piece about witch-hunts in 17th-century England. But in director Wendy Knox's production, we get a vivid and brutally engaging show that sketches a society governed by a welter of superstitions, a place where self-righteous accusations are perceived as facts and where there's no escape from fear. (Ends Oct. 5.)

'Old Wicked Songs'

In a two-hander about a burned-out American pianist and an older Viennese voice teacher, Raye Birk is thoroughly remarkable as Josef Mashkan, the teacher. Birk's Mashkan visibly struggles to hold himself together as existence overwhelms him, emotion defeats mere vocabulary and music releases his pain. Birk attacks with a fervent honesty that ripples through every muscle, making this one of the transcendent performances of the year -- absolutely must-see. (Ends Oct. 5.)

'Fences'

James A. Williams blows through Penumbra Theatre's 300-seat auditorium like a hurricane. As combustible, if charming, baseball-player-turned-garbageman Troy, Williams fills the room in Lou Bellamy's riveting production of August Wilson's masterwork. The production also boasts standout performances by Elayn Taylor as Troy's wife, Rose, James Alfred as Troy's dreamy son and James Craven as Troy's brother, who was wounded in war. (Ends Oct. 19. )

'A View From the Bridge'

Gifted actor John Carroll Lynch plays Eddie Carbone, the problematic center of Ethan McSweeny's stunning operatic production of Arthur Miller's psychosexual classic. There is more than a touch of the ancient Greek in this tragedy about a longshoreman's growing obsession with his teenage niece. When two brothers, illegal immigrants from Italy, move into the Carbones' Brooklyn house, they end up on a collision course with Eddie. In this grand production, all of the elements -- set, music, lighting, acting and directing -- cohere powerfully. By the end, Miller has searched his characters, turning out their pockets to reveal all their longings, hurts and dreams. (Ends Nov. 8.)