From now until Christmas, area theaters are trotting out shows studded with interesting characters who may reside in your memory for quite a while. So here's a look at the shows coming at us, with an emphasis on the folks who will appear on the other side of the footlights.
Aphra, Martha, Tito and Willy
Aphra Behn was a 17th-century British female poet and playwright. In Or, an off-beat comedy by Liz Duffy Adams, Behn's life — including her excursions as a spy for Charles II — is explored (opens Sept. 4, Dobama Theatre).
Martha is one half of the disastrous couple that plays nasty games in Edward Albee's classic Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf (opens Sept. 18, Lakeland Community College).
Tito, the opera singer nicknamed "Il Stupendo," maybe for not-so-subtle reasons, is back in Ken Ludwig's A Comedy of Tenors, a revisiting of some of the comical folks from his popular play Lend Me a Tenor (opens Sept. 5, Cleveland Play House).
Willy carries the symbolically loaded surname of Loman in Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman. This enduring staple of American theater features many other indelible characters (opens Sept. 18, Ensemble Theatre).
Other memorable characters showing up in September are lead singer Effie in Dreamgirls (opens Sept. 18, Karamu House); Mary, the young orphan in The Secret Garden, a mystical, melodious musical based on the children's classic (opens Sept. 25, Great Lakes Theater); former political prisoner Paulina in Death and the Maiden (opens Sept. 17, Mamai Theatre); and female ex-con Percy in the musical The Spitfire Grill (opens Sept. 18, Beck Center).
Stan, Cheech, Edgar and The King
Stan is just one of a number of people who are tangled up in their romantic underwear in The Happy Sad, a play about gay and straight sexual confusion ... with songs! (Opens Oct. 2, convergence-continuum.)
Cheech isn't the other half of Chong, but a gangster with a savant-like ability to brilliantly revise play scripts in the backstage comedy Bullets Over Broadway (opens Oct. 6, Playhouse Square).
Edgar is the name given to the half-boy, half-bat in the wacky Bat Boy, the Musical, a tuneful romp that has a taste for blood and gore (opens Oct. 16, Blank Canvas Theatre).
The King is not Elvis, not Lebron, but the haunted regal presence in King Lear, the Shakespeare tragedy in which the head man in Britain tumbles into madness (opens Oct. 2, Great Lakes Theater).
Other notable roles (and one place) appearing in shows opening in October include Betty Parris, the girl afflicted by "witches" in The Crucible (Oct. 10, Cleveland Play House); Dece, the conflicted African-American cop in Force Continuum (opens Oct. 30, Karamu House); Brandy, the self-destructive clown in Tall Skinny Cruel Cruel Boys (opens Oct. 22, Theater Ninjas); Katharine Gerard, the mother of a young man who died of AIDS in Mothers and Sons (Oct. 9, Beck Center); and Auschwitz, the locus of the horrors in The Investigation by Peter Weiss (opens Oct. 16, Cesear's Forum).
Monty, Bob, Byron and the Loushes
Monty is a cuddly serial killer who bumps off relatives to secure his family fortune in A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder (opens Nov. 3, Playhouse Square).
Bob is the rags-to-riches title character in Bob: A Life in 5 Acts, which begins with his birth in a restroom stall in a White Castle restaurant (opens Nov. 20, convergence-continuum).
Byron and his pal Ames are the aging fellows who make up the adversarial core of Ages of the Moon (opens Nov. 13, Ensemble Theatre).
The Loushes, Holly and Jolly, are back with a new exploration of potent cocktails, holiday songs and dick jokes in The Loush Sisters Love Dick'ns: Great Expectations (opens Nov. 27, Cleveland Public Theatre)
Let's not forget Ralphie, the kid who's again trying to shoot his eye out in A Christmas Story (opens Nov. 27, Cleveland Play House). And then there's old Ebenezer Scrooge, who spews his bile once more in A Christmas Carol (opens Nov. 28, Great Lakes Theater).
Peter, Mary, Feefer and Reefer
Peter is none other than Peter Pan in Peter and the Starcatcher, a prequel to the famous story about the boy who won't grow up. This multiple Tony Award-winning play opens Dec. 4 at Dobama Theatre.
Mary is floating around again via her aerodynamic bumbershoot in Mary Poppins (opens Dec. 4, Beck Center).
Feefer is the single character in Feefer Rising, a play co-created and performed by Faye Hargate, telling a nuanced story of a girl's sexual coming of age (opens Dec. 3, Cleveland Public Theatre).
Reefer isn't a character at all, but it rhymes with Feefer, so don't harsh my mellow — which I've developed while thinking about Reefer Madness, a musical based on that infamous 1936 flick about the supposedly disastrous effects of puffing ganja (opens Dec. 4, Blank Canvas Theatre).
And Langston Hughes will be represented again in Black Nativity at Karamu House, starting Dec. 4.