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Originally published Friday, May 17, 2013 at 5:04 AM

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Music rivals, Esperanto and new works on Seattle stages

Seattle theatergoers can choose from “Bach at Leipzig,” “The Language Archive” and new works by female playwrights.

Seattle Times theater critic

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Arriving this week on Seattle stages: a play partly written in Esperanto, a romp with J.S. Bach and some of his musical rivals, and the latest Hedgebrook festival of new works by esteemed women dramatists.

‘Bach at Leipzig’

This Itamar Moses farce is the second spring play in Seattle to concern itself with a famous classical composer. But it is in a key completely different from that of “33 Variations” (a Ludwig van Beethoven-related drama, currently on at ArtsWest).

Set in 18th century Leipzig, Germany, the antic Moses comedy plays fast and loose with an actual incident by conjuring a ruthless audition for a coveted organmaster post — an audition that turns powdered, bewigged gentlemen into pratfalling backbiters prone to violence and flashy verbal cadenzas.

Structured in part like a theatrical fugue, “Bach at Leipzig“ made a big splash for Moses, who was encouraged to write it by no less than playwright Tom Stoppard. While most critics admired the remarkable erudition and musical knowledge of the young author, some (me included) grew weary of the Marx Brothers-meet-“Amadeus” shtick in the work’s 2005 Seattle debut at ACT Theatre.

Now Greenwood’s Taproot Theatre is taking a crack at it, in a new production staged by associate artistic director Karen Lund with a cast that includes Kevin McKeon and Matt Shimkus.

Through June 15 at Taproot Theatre, Seattle (206-781-9707 or www.taproottheatre.org).

‘The Language Archive’

In Julia Cho’s romantic comedy, honored with a prestigious Susan Smith Blackburn Prize, a linguist and the people in his life struggle to express their love and other feelings in a variety of languages — from English to Esperanto to an obscure, nearly extinct European dialect.

Cho’s whimsically humane playwriting style has been compared to that of Sarah Ruhl. We’ve seen an earlier example, her rewardingly offbeat coming-of-age play “BFE,” a few years ago as staged by SIS Productions.

The more recent “The Language Archive” is receiving its local premiere under the auspices of Seattle Public Theater. Shana Bestock, SPT artistic head, helms the play, and Candace Vance and Mike Dooly are among the actors.

Through June 9 at Seattle Public Theater at the Bathhouse (206-524-1300 or www.seattlepublictheater.org).

Hedgebrook Women Playwrights Festival

Julia Cho is among the four women dramatists whose 2013 residencies at Whidbey Island’s Hedgebrook writing retreat will be celebrated at a free ACT Theatre play-reading event on Sunday afternoon in the Bullitt Cabaret.

Actors are set to perform excerpts from new scripts by Cho, local writer Elizabeth Heffron, Catherine Trieschmann and actor-author Dael Orlandersmith (a New Yorker whose gritty, one-woman shows won kudos in Seattle).

4 p.m. Sunday at ACT Theatre, Seattle; free but RSVP required (206-292-7676 or www.acttheatre.org).

Misha Berson: mberson@seattletimes.com

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