The Independent Recommends: The Five Best Plays

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Summerfolk (Olivier, National Theatre, London)

A seasoned company of 20-odd actors bring Gorky's anxious turn-of-the- century Russians to richly complex life. To 11 Nov

Life is a Dream (Barbican, London)

Austerely brilliant production in which lines between dream and reality, social conditioning and genetic inevitability are disturbingly blurred. In rep to 2 Oct

A Saint She Ain't (Apollo, Shaftesbury Ave, London)

Riotously funny pastiche of 1940s Hollywood musicals with book and lyrics by Dick Vosburgh and score by Denis King. Not just for buffs. Booking to 29 Jan

Timon of Athens (RSC, Stratford Upon Avon)

Michael Pennington shines as a violent but psychologically subtle Timon, in this witty and penetrating production (right), with inspired use of a Duke Ellington jazz suite. In rep to 9 Oct

Easy Virtue (Chichester Festival Theatre)

Greta Scacchi scintillates as the "woman with a past" in Maria Aitken's revival of this Coward play, which deals with issues of prejudice and sanctimony. To 2 Oct

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