Stage

Critics' Choices

Sondheim. Shakespeare. Puffy. It's a season filled with theatrical, um, institutions.

THE STENDHAL SYNDROME Terrence McNally serves up a double bill: the Wagner fest ''Prelude & Liebestod'' and the Florence-set ''Full Frontal Nudity,'' with Isabella Rossellini. (Feb. 1)

THE LIGHT IN THE PIAZZA Speaking of Florence, the bella citta is the locale for Craig Lucas and Adam Guettel's mother-daughter musical. (Chicago's Goodman Theatre, to Feb. 15)

KING LEAR Dysfunctional-family dynamics and Christopher Plummer take center stage in Shakespeare's tragedy, which boasts one of the Bard's best alliterative rants: ''Why brand they us/With base? With baseness? Bastardy? Base, base?'' (Feb. 11)

A RAISIN IN THE SUN Can marathoner P. Diddy fill Sidney Poitier's shoes? One thing's certain: The opening party will rock. (March)

ASSASSINS Stephen Sondheim's topically sensitive 1991 musical (a man hijacks a plane, intending to crash it into the White House) gets a Broadway bow. (March 26)

SIGHT UNSEEN The 1992 drama by Pulitzer winner Donald Margulies (Dinner With Friends) gets another viewing: Laura Linney plays Patricia, the ''sacrificial shiksa'' ex-lover to Liev Schreiber's American artist. (May 6)

THE FROGS Ooh...an obscure Aristophanes-based Sondheim show directed by five-time Tony winner Susan Stroman starring Nathan Lane! Wait, no Matthew Broderick? (June 17)

HIS DARK MATERIALS In lieu of Lord of the Rings 4, we demand the theatrical equivalent: a six-hour, two-play adaptation of Philip Pullman's fantastical literary trilogy. The U.K. production is a sensation. Can Broadway be far behind? Please?

Originally posted Jan 23, 2004 Published in issue #747-748 Jan 23, 2004 Order article reprints