By Michael O'Sullivan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, Sept. 11, 2009
Now in the final year of a massive upgrade to its longtime digs on Washington's Southwest waterfront, the gray lady of Washington theater has, at 59 years old, temporarily settled into a home-away-from-home in a converted, 460-seat movie theater in Crystal City. Arena also stages a couple of larger productions each season at the almost vaudeville-style Lincoln Theatre. Regardless of where the theater may be physically, its focus, according to artistic director Molly Smith, doesn't change. "We're about the broad mosaic of American theater: its past, present and future."
Where to eat? There's no shortage of dining options at either of Arena's temporary homes. In Crystal City, be one of the first to check out Kora (571-431-7090; http://www.korarestaurant.com), a new trattoria-style eatery in the old Bebo space. If you're at the Lincoln, visit Next Door, an upscale spinoff of Ben's Chili Bowl (202-667-8880; http://www.bensnextdoor.com).
Concession-stand fare: Limited at Crystal City: sweet and savory snacks; nonalcoholic drinks. Standard at the Lincoln: sweet and savory snacks; beer, wine and nonalcoholic drinks.
Tickets: $25 to $69.
Getting there: The Crystal City location is below ground, easily accessible from the Crystal City Metro. If you're driving, metered on-street parking is plentiful, not to mention free after 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday and all day Sunday. There are also several free garages nearby. The Lincoln Theatre is across the street from the U Street Metro station (13th Street exit). On-street parking in that neighborhood is scarce. Use the Reeves Municipal Center garage at 2000 14th St. NW (free after 6 p.m. on weekdays and all day Saturday and Sunday). The theater's valet parking is $18.
Season spotlight: Arena will present new twists on two familiar musicals: The long-running "The Fantasticks" (Nov. 20-Jan. 10 at the Lincoln), which will be set in an abandoned amusement park, and an intimate chamber version of the Tony-winning "The Light in the Piazza" (March 5-April 25 in Crystal City), which will be performed with a much smaller orchestra than when the musical played at the Kennedy Center.