The new lineup for No Rules Theatre, the six-year-old company with the unique geographic identity–it presents work annually both in Arlington and in Winston-Salem, N.C.–is described today in our ongoing survey of what’s in store for Washington drama in 2014-15. The roster includes a world-premiere revue based on the music of Stephen Schwartz, and the revival of an August Wilson play, directed by one of the actors who appeared in it on Broadway. Previously in this space, we’ve explored the new seasons at Shakespeare Theatre Company, Woolly Mammoth Theatre, Arena Stage, the Kennedy Center, Round House Theatre, Synetic Theater, Signature Theatre, Ford’s Theatre, Studio Theatre, Folger Theatre, National Theatre, Theatre J and Forum Theatre.
Company signature: Eclectic assortment of 20th and 21st century plays, with a few original pieces tossed in.
– “Seven Guitars,” by August Wilson, directed by Michele Shay (Sept. 10-28)
– “In Love and Warcraft,” by Madhuri Shekar, directed by Joshua Morgan (Jan. 7-25, 2015)
– “Unlimited: The Music and Lyrics of Stephen Schwartz,” by Matt Cowart, Zak Sandler and Morgan, directed by Sally Boyett D’angelo (February 2015)
– “Who’s Your Baghdaddy or How I Started the Iraq War,” written and directed by Marshall Pailet (May 12-June 7, 2015)
Highlights: Michele Shay, a member of the original Broadway company of August Wilson’s “Seven Guitars” (and a Tony nominee for her performance), returns to the work, set in Pittsburgh in the late 1940s, this time as its director. Madhuri Shekar’s “In Love and Warcraft” follows the comic travails of a college student whose immersion in “World of Warcraft” is interrupted by real-life romance. “Unlimited” celebrates the songbook of Stephen Schwartz, who’s written the scores for such hit musicals as “Godspell,” “Pippin” and the blockbuster “Wicked.” The show will be co-produced with Catholic University, as part of No Rules’s expanded outreach program to academia. (The company has had a longstanding relationship with Winston-Salem-based North Carolina School of the Arts, of which No Rules’s artistic director, Joshua Morgan, is an alum.) “Who’s Your Baghdaddy…”, a revised version of a satirical musical produced in the 2011 edition of the Capital Fringe Festival, will be presented in Signature Theatre’s smaller space, as will both “Seven Guitars” and “In Love and Warcraft.” “Unlimited” will be staged on the Catholic University campus.
Analysis: Maintaining a healthy presence in the saturated D.C. theater market requires fortitude and ingenuity, so let’s hope one or more of No Rules’s projects catches fire. The recruitment of Shay makes “Seven Guitars” especially intriguing, and weaving the online “World of Warcraft” game into a live performance offers tantalizing possibilities. Speaking of potential, Schwartz’s melodies would seem a reasonable bet as the anchors of a crowd-pleasing evening. They were the basis of a prior revue that originated in Washington in 2008, MetroStage’s “The Stephen Schwartz Project,” directed by Michael Bobbitt. “Who’s Your Baghdaddy,” meanwhile, was in rough shape when it was unveiled a few years back at Capital Fringe; it’s said to have been substantially rewritten since then.