Western theater and representative democracy were born in the same crucible — ancient Greece — and ever since, the stage has been a place to illuminate civic ideals and wrestle with moral quandaries. At a time when questions are being raised about the state of democracy in the United States, Twin Cities area theater companies are offering shows that examine questions large and small this fall, even as they engage and entertain us.


‘≈[Almost Equal To]’

The forces of economic dislocation have roiled workers worldwide. Jonas Hassen Khemiri captures some of that angst in a political comedy, as worker bees search for dream fulfillment by chasing bubbles and investing in pine nuts and perfumes while drowning in economic data. Actors Tracey Maloney, Sun Mee Chomet, Jay Eisenberg, Paul de Cordova and Randy Reyes bring the piece to life. (Sept. 15-Oct. 22. $5-$30. Pillsbury House, Mpls. 612-825-0459, pillsburyhouseandtheatre.org.)

‘How to Use a Knife’

Will Snider’s suspenseful, profane comedy is a layer cake of metaphors. Set in a Wall Street restaurant, the action revolves around a drug- and alcohol-addicted chef trying to bounce back after hitting rock bottom. He befriends an East African busboy with a back story that touches on the Rwandan genocide. Jesca Prudencio stages this knife-edge comedy whose cast includes Ansa Akyea and Raúl Ramos. (Sept. 29-Oct. 15. Free-$25. Mixed Blood Theatre, Mpls. 612-338-6131, mixedblood.com.)

‘Watch on the Rhine’

What is one’s moral obligation in the face of rising fascism? Timely questions about patriotism and sacrifice are raised in Lillian Hellman’s classic drama, set in 1940 — her first to be staged at the Guthrie (!). Lisa Peterson directs. (Sept. 30-Nov. 5. $15-$77. Guthrie Theater, Mpls. 612-377-2224, guthrietheater.org.)

‘All the Way’

Coming 100 years after the Civil War, the 1964 Civil Rights Act was a great leap forward for the nation, even as the issues it addressed remain current. Robert Schenkkan’s Tony-winning play looks at the principals of that moment, including President Lyndon B. Johnson, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., Coretta Scott King and J. Edgar Hoover. (Oct. 7-29. $15-$52. History Theatre, St. Paul, 651-292-4323, historytheatre.com.)

‘Wedding Band’

The summer of 1919 was called the Red Summer because of blood spilled in racial violence across the nation. Alice Childress set this 1962 play on the eve of that cataclysm. In South Carolina, a steamy affair between a black seamstress (Jasmine Hughes) and a white baker (Peter Christian Hansen) leads to an engagement at a time when interracial marriage was illegal. Penumbra founder Lou Bellamy directs. (Oct. 17-Nov. 12. $15-$40. Penumbra Theatre, St. Paul. 651-224-3180, penumbratheatre.org.)

‘Church & State’

This new play by Jason Odell Williams is not about a certain leader who shares his innermost thoughts on Twitter. But the lead character — a Republican senator from North Carolina up for re-election — does create controversy when he takes an unfiltered approach to social media. Michael Kissin directs this regional premiere of a work that was praised in its debut last summer in Los Angeles. (Oct. 21-Nov. 12. $23-$38. Minnesota Jewish Theatre Company, St. Paul. 651-647-4315 or mnjewishtheatre.org.)

‘Sister Act’

Before staging this musical in 2015, Chanhassen Dinner Theatres fretted over whether it would draw. But powerhouse singer/actor Regina Marie Williams made it one of the company’s biggest shows ever. Now Williams is putting on the habit again as a disco nun who brings a different kind of spirit. (Nov. 3-Feb. 24. $50-$89. 952-934-1525, ­chanhassendt.com.)

‘Leila’s Death’

In her native Lebanon, Ali Chahrour is a professional mourner. She summons beauty, dignity and pathos by singing at funerals, creating ethereal connections between life and the great beyond. And she’s in the Twin Cities for one night only in this co-presentation with Walker Art Center. (Nov. 11. $16-$45. Guthrie Theater. 612-377-2224, ­guthrietheater.org.)

‘Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley’

Jane Austen has inspired a cottage industry — witness “Bridget Jones’s Diary,” “Clueless” and now this comedy by Lauren Gunderson and Margot Melcon, set at Darcy’s country estate. Longtime stage star Christina Baldwin makes her directing debut. (Nov. 18-Dec. 30. $40-$45. Jungle Theater, Mpls. 612-822-7063, jungletheater.com.)


This musical, adapted from a 2007 indie film smash, was a breakthrough on Broadway. It featured an all-female creative team, folksy tunes by hitmaker Sara Bareilles (“Love Song”) and a winning story of a pregnant woman with magical pie-making skills who tries to break out of her oppressive marriage and small-town life. As Entertainment Weekly put it, this show is “a slice of heaven.” (Nov. 21-26. $39-$135. Orpheum Theatre, Mpls. 1-800-982-2787 or hennepintheatretrust.org.)