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Fall Guide: Upcoming performing arts events 

Ever see two mature adults engaging in sexual relations without either one being aware of it? You probably can't even imagine such a situation unless you've already seen the Broadway production of In the Next Room, or The Vibrator Play. Actor's Theatre opens Sarah Ruhl's electrifying comedy for previews this Friday night, and then the show officially runs from Sept. 14-Oct. 1. Directed by Anne Marie Costa, Vibrator launches Charlotte's 2011-12 performing arts season with a sexy jolt.

Ruhl's naughty piece takes us back to the dawning of the age of electricity in a prosperous spa town, "perhaps Saratoga Springs" in the 1880s. Adhering to the prevailing medical wisdom of the day, Dr. Givings applies a cunning little electrical device to the wombs of women patients suffering from hysteria in order to effect a cure. Inadvertently, the proper doctor detonates his patients' g-spots — enabling the women to discover they have one.

Sign me up, thinks the doctor's undersexed missus after hearing of the medical orgies happening in the next room. But of course, she must qualify by contracting the appropriate ailment. Or purloin the key that opens the door to her husband's office and his fabulous tool.

Christian Casper and Hanley Smith star as Dr. and Mrs. Givings, with Lauren Dortch Crozier as the patient who leads them to expanded consciousness and Tanya McClellan as the black wet nurse who explains what's what. Very stimulating, we assure you.

There are other good vibrations on the 2011-12 calendar, but let's zero in on fall '11.

DANCE: North Carolina Dance Theatre's most daring and intimate evening, Innovative Works (opening Nov. 3), gets more daring and intimate for the new season as the company unveils its studio space at 701 N. Tryon St. to the public. New works by Mark Diamond, David Ingram, and Sasha Janes are on the dance card — plus dessert and coffee with the dancers on the first two weekends. Caroline Calouche & Co. like the 701 well enough to bring their blend of aerial and contemporary dance to the space, opening their first full season with Misterioso (Oct. 1).

Other prime dance events for the fall — at two of the cushiest dance venues in town — are the North Carolina Dance Festival (Sept. 16) at UNC-Charlotte, and NCDT's Director's Choice (Oct. 13) at Knight Theater. Also at the Knight, Streb: Forces Live (Oct. 7) brings the Brooklyn-based company's special centrifugal action to the Queen City for their first visit.

OPERA: With Greensboro Opera delaying their season opener until sometime next spring, we can count our blessings that Opera Carolina's trimmed '11-12 season still begins in the fall with a new production of Verdi's Il Trovatore (Oct. 15) at Belk Theater, showcasing the sensual firepower of Denyce Graves as the Gypsy Azucena and the unforgettable "Anvil Chorus." If you missed it at Spoleto Festival USA back in the spring — or in numerous cineplex and Met TV broadcasts in recent years — CPCC Opera Theatre is bringing a fresh dose of Mozart's delectable Magic Flute (Nov. 18).

Meanwhile, Met in HD beams another exciting lineup to the Regal Stonecrest 22, beginning their sixth season with Anna Netrebko in the title role of Donizetti's Anna Bolena (Oct. 15) and, to the delight of hard-core opera buffs, resuming the Met's new Ring cycle with Wagner's Siegfried (Nov. 5). Wednesday replays happen 18 days later.

SYMPHONY AND CHAMBER: No doubt about it, maestro Christopher Warren-Green infused new excitement into Charlotte Symphony programming in his first season on the podium. Among the classics concerts at Belk Theater slated for the fall, Pictures at an Exhibition (Sept. 16), coupled with Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto #1, figures to be the most popular; Bolero! (Sept. 30), coupled with Sarasate's Gypsy Airs, figures to be the most sensual; and Mozart Requiem (Nov. 11), coupled with Wolfgang's Jupiter, figures to be the most impressive.

But do not overlook Symphony's audacious excursions to Knight Theater, kicking off their second season of KnightSounds with Bearden 100 (Oct. 21), featuring a symphonic collage by the likes of Ellington and Copland in concert with images by Charlotte's most acclaimed visual artist — after a preliminary cocktail hour in the lobby. Another musical celebration of Bearden breaks out at First Presbyterian Church as Charlotte Chamber Music begins their '11-12 season of free monthly concerts with Carolina Shout (Oct. 4), including music by Ellington, James P. Johnson, and — this is not a misprint — Romare Bearden.

MORE THEATER: Like Actor's Theatre, every company in town wants to seduce you into a season subscription by opening with their crowd-pleasingest fare. Best bets for deep-down pleasure and satisfaction are occasionally a different matter. Our picks to click this fall are all bankable titles, including Children's Theatre of Charlotte's Seussical (Sept. 23), CPCC Theatre's The Civil War (Sept. 23), Queen City Theatre Company's Xanadu (Oct. 6), CAST's Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (Oct. 13), and Theatre Charlotte's One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (Oct. 28).

The Blumenthal's Broadway Lights series doesn't have any insanely popular hits, so you should be able to snag great seats for the underrated The Addams Family (Oct. 11) at Ovens Auditorium and the overrated West Side Story (Nov. 1) at the Belk. Surer delights are scheduled at the more cozy Duke Energy Theater, where Die Roten Punkte (Sept. 21) return, and Knight Theater, where Million Dollar Quartet (Nov. 22) celebrates Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash, Elvis, and Jerry Lee.

Good, good, good, good vibrations!

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