Arts preview: What’s springing up in D.C. theater


"Fanny and Alexander" (Soren Vilks)
January 25, 2013

Curious about which topics, people and offerings might achieve hotness in #DCTheater this spring? Here are my prognostications about what’s likely to be trending onstage in the coming months:

Patrick Page

Since he last played D.C., as a demonically poker-faced Iago in Shakespeare Theatre Company’s “Othello,” Page has gone on to more floridly villainous roles, first as Broadway’s Grinch and then as a cackling, ivory-tinkling Green Goblin in the notorious crowd-pleaser “Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark.” Now he returns to his classical roots, taking on one of Shakespeare’s complex war heroes: the title character in “Coriolanus,” under the direction of David Muse, beginning March 29.

Plays with unprintable titles

What the heck is up with all the F-bombs in theater programs these days? Starting this month at Studio Theatre: Stephen Adly Guirgis’s “The Mother[expletive] With the Hat.” Upcoming at Woolly Mammoth Theatre: Aaron Posner’s riff on “The Seagull,” called “Stupid [Expletive] Bird” (May 27). Mike Daisey, who’s bringing his new monologue “American Utopias” to Woolly (March 19), has developed another piece titled “[Expletive] [Expletive] [Expletive] Ayn Rand.” With all this titular vulgarity, one hopes the productions are [expletive] worth it.

Hello (again), Dolly!

Signature Theatre and Ford’s Theatre are joining forces in March for what shapes up as the most lavish musical offering of the spring: a revival of Jerry Herman and Michael Stewart’s high-strutting adaptation of “The Matchmaker.” As Dolly Gallagher Levi, comic actress Nancy Opel (“Urinetown”) will go where Carol Channing and Barbra Streisand went before, in pursuit of the miserly Horace Vandergelder, portrayed on Ford’s stage in director Eric Schaeffer’s production by Edward Gero (“Red”).

Scandinavian invasion

If your theater gullet is as starved for the drama of Iceland or Denmark as mine, then the Kennedy Center will be the place in February and March to slide your buffet tray. Among the entries in the Nordic Cool festival that I’m looking forward to: National Theatre of Norway’s “Hedda Gabler”; “Fanny and Alexander” from Sweden’s Royal Dramatic Theatre; and Finland’s “The Warmblooded” from Tampere Workers’ Theatre.

Amy Herzog

With “4000 Miles,” a play exploring the chasms in understanding between an old lefty in Greenwich Village and her drifting grandson, this bright young playwright makes her well-deserved Washington debut. Studio Theatre is host in March to an area premiere that reunites the splendid actress Tana Hicken and director Joy Zinoman, Studio’s founding artistic director.

A playwright laureate

Running as a companion piece to “Coriolanus” — and focusing, as that play does, on a singular warrior — Shakespeare Theatre Company’s new version of Friedrich Schiller’s “Wallenstein” (March 28) is an adaptation commissioned from Robert Pinsky, the nation’s former poet laureate. Chicago actor Steve Pickering — Kent in the company’s 2009 “King Lear”— has the title role in artistic director Michael Kahn’s production.

Danai Gurira

In 2006, this writer and performer appeared with Nikkole Salter at Woolly Mammoth in “In the Continuum,”a solidly assembled portrait of two women, one from Los Angeles and the other from Zimbabwe, whose lives remain distinct but whose fates are linked by HIV. Three years later came the world premiere of “Eclipsed,” Gurira’s study of women subjected to the horrors of captivity by a Liberian warlord. Now, in her third Woolly play, “The Convert” (Feb. 11), Gurira takes us on another African excursion, back to the 19th century and the tale of a young woman torn between the faith of her ancestors and a new religion imported by southern Africa’s colonial powers.

‘Trojan Barbie’

This one grabs me at the title (and without an expletive in sight!). Based fairly freely on a classic tragedy, “Trojan Barbie: A Car-Crash Encounter With Euripides’ Trojan Women” is on the docket for Georgetown University’s adventurous Theater and Performance Studies Program. The play by the program’s newest faculty member, Christine Evans, “re-envisions Euripides’s ancient classic as a vivid post-modern encounter across cultures, styles and genres,” the university says. Under Maya Roth’s direction, the April production seems destined to be a cornerstone this season of local avant garde performance.

‘Company’

Phone rings, door chimes, in comes one of my favorite musicals of all time, the show that back in 1970 assured my lifelong status as a Stephen Sondheim groupie. George Furth’s book — a collection of vignettes about coupling in the big city — is only middling, but Sondheim’s score (“Another Hundred People,” “Being Alive,” “The Ladies Who Lunch,” “Getting Married Today”) is perfection. Intriguingly, Signature Theatre (May 21) is surrounding Matthew Scott in the central role of Bobby with actors who are real-life husbands and wives, including Thomas Adrian Simpson and Sherri L. Edelen, Evan Casey and Tracy Lynn Olivera, and James Gardiner and Erin Driscoll.

Jon Robin Baitz

“Other Desert Cities” — Baitz’s finest play in years — happily brings his bracing wit back to Washington in an Arena Stage offering (April 26) directed by Kyle Donnelly. Set in the California desert home of an old political couple from the inner circle of Ronald and Nancy Reagan, the comedy-drama turns on the publication of a memoir by an embittered daughter and what its revelations mean for everyone in the household. The work is an auspicious return to the stage for Baitz after a stint in Hollywood as creator of TV’s “Brothers and Sisters.”

READ MORE:

Spring D.C. theater picks

The classical voices of spring

Peter Marks joined the Washington Post as its chief theater critic in 2002. Prior to that he worked for nine years at the New York Times, on the culture, metropolitan and national desks, and spent about four years as its off-Broadway drama critic.
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