The fall theater season is looking a little feisty this year: A play about a megachurch pastor who’s suddenly not so sure about that whole hell thing — performed in actual Seattle churches. Shining light into the dark corners of an Iraq War hero-turned-celebrity author who met his future wife in a house-to-house raid. A rumination on the still-shocking works of Robert Mapplethorpe. Here are a few of the most promising shows over the next few months:

“People of the Book”

Jason is an Iraq War veteran who met his wife, Madeeha, during a house-to-house raid in a combat zone. He came home, became a celebrity after writing a bestseller about his experiences and is now getting together with his old friends Amir and Lynn. “People of the Book” is a world premiere by Seattle treasure Yussef El Guindi — and if it’s anything like his other work (“Threesome,” “Pilgrims Musa and Sheri in the New World,” “Language Rooms”), expect nuanced, subtly psychological dialogue where people start by trying to smile and smooth over their differences, then hit stormy seas when one (or some) of them start to talk honestly about realities they refuse to euphemize. At its best, El Guindi’s dialogue can be as surprising and as thrilling as an action sequence in a summer blockbuster. Through Sept. 29; ACT Theatre, 700 Union St., Seattle; tickets from $27; 206-292-7676,

“Everything Is Illuminated”

Jonathan Safran Foer’s debut, semi-autobiographical novel — about going to Ukraine on a family-fact-finding mission to locate the woman who saved his grandfather’s life when the Nazis “liquidated” a ghetto — made him a lit star. “Everything Is Illuminated” was partly acclaimed for its deft handling of pathos and human helplessness, and partly for the linguistic comedy of Alex, an eager, sex-minded Ukrainian with an imperfect command of English. (Opening lines: “My legal name is Alexander Perchov. But all of my many friends dub me Alex, because that is a more flaccid-to-utter version of my legal name. Mother dubs me Alexi-stop-spleening-me!, because I am always spleening her.”) This production is adapted and directed by Josh Aaseng, who’s captained quality Book-It productions of “Welcome to Braggsville” and “Jesus’ Son.” Through Oct. 6; Book-It Repertory Theatre, 305 Harrison St., Seattle; tickets from $20; 206-216-0833;


In 2015, after 40 drafts in seven years, playwright Paula Vogel (“How I Learned to Drive”) finally finished “Indecent,” her telling of the story behind the 1906 play “God of Vengeance” by Yiddish writer Sholem Asch. Asch’s controversial play was about the daughter of a brothel owner and how she fell in love with a sex worker. Vogel’s award-winning play follows “Vengeance” from its first salon reading (not terribly well received) to a 1923 Broadway production with legal rockiness and a plot-perverting translation. Directed by local great Sheila Daniels, known for delving into a work to build nuanced symphonies of onstage emotion. Sept. 20-Oct. 26; Seattle Repertory Theatre, 155 Mercer St., Seattle; tickets from $17; 206-443-2222,

“Sunset Baby”

While working on “The Detroit Projects,” her three-play cycle about hard luck and explosive moments in late-20th-century Detroit, playwright, poet and MacArthur “Genius” fellow Dominique Morisseau turned her imagination toward a smaller, but no less fraught, situation: family. Kenyatta, a black-power leader who did time for robbing an armored truck tries to reunite with his drug-dealing daughter, Nina, who is dating Damon, her partner in crime. The New York Times called “Sunset Baby” a “smart and bracing new play about two generations of urban outlaws struggling to stay afloat in the lower depths.” Directed by Valerie Curtis-Newton. Sept. 26-Oct. 20; ArtsWest, 4711 California Ave. S.W., Seattle; tickets from $20; 206-938-0693,

“The Christians”

Lucas Hnath is a brainy playwright, whose intellectual fireworks are stimulating but sometimes fail to hit anywhere below the neck. (See his “A Doll’s House, Part 2” at Seattle Repertory Theatre earlier this year.) But “The Christians,” from 2014, cuts promisingly closer to his own bones — Hnath spent a good chunk of his childhood in a Florida megachurch and was giving sermons (with accompanying magic tricks for flair) by age 10. “The Christians” concerns a megachurch pastor who begins to question the existence of hell after seeing a nonbeliever die saving someone from a fire, and the fallout among his flock. Directed by Leah Adcock-Starr, this production will take place in churches around Seattle: Phinney Ridge Lutheran, Plymouth Congregational and St. Peter’s Episcopal. Oct. 3-26; Pony World Theatre at various churches, see website for details; tickets from $15 with pay-what-you-can the second weekend; 800-838-3006,

Bryce Dessner: “Triptych (Eyes of One on Another)”

Thirty years after his death, the photographs of Robert Mapplethorpe remain shocking — not so much in their blazing eroticism (though there’s that), but in their incredible study of polarities, and redrawing categorical boundaries: high/low, raw/mannered, sacred/profane. This rumination on Mapplethorpe involves a small army: music by composer Bryce Dessner (The National), performance by stunning vocal group Roomful of Teeth, libretto by Korde Arrington Tuttle (drawing on poetry by Essex Hemphill and Patti Smith), video design by Simon Harding and more. Oct. 9; On the Boards and Seattle Theatre Group at The Moore Theatre, 1932 Second Ave., Seattle; tickets from $42.50; 206-812-3284,

Autumn Knight: “M_ _ _ER”

Houston-raised, New York-based interdisciplinary artist Autumn Knight is known for not just breaking the fourth wall, but using it as material, working with whatever and whoever is present. A 2017 Art in America profile described the effect as “intense and disarming,” playing off “the social dynamics of her audiences, amplifying the race, gender, and power relationships in the room — often to absurd (even hilarious) effect.” Should it surprise you that Knight trained as a therapist, specifically in the psychodynamic model? No, it should not. “M_ _ _ER” concerns intimacy. Oct. 10-13; On the Boards, 100 W. Roy St., Seattle; tickets from $10; 206-217-9886,