Kennedy Center's 2010-11 season includes Edinburgh Festival Fringe offerings

By Peter Marks
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, March 3, 2010; C10

Is the drought over? The arrival last fall at Shakespeare Theatre Company of Helen Mirren in the Royal National Theatre's "Phèdre" was a first sign that Washington's thirst for first-class British drama was finally being slaked again.

Now, with the unveiling of the Kennedy Center's 2010-11 season, a continuing replenishment is in the offing. One of the most encouraging facets of the center's schedule is the disclosure that the venerable Edinburgh Festival, in concert with the arts-promoting British Council, will this fall bring to the institution four productions from the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, a hotbed of theatrical invention.

The center has had no ongoing relationship with a British theater organization since the conclusion of its five-year agreement with the Royal Shakespeare Company in 2007. It's high time that the transatlantic conversation resumed in earnest. Perhaps the festival's visit will stimulate more ties between Washington and what is unarguably the most influential nation for drama in the English-speaking world. (And kudos to the British Council, a global nonprofit that stokes interest in the country's arts and educational initiatives.)

The enticing news from abroad extends beyond Edinburgh and augurs what may be the best lineup of international theater at the center in years. Ireland's Druid theater and Artistic Director Garry Hynes, last represented here by a pair of plays by John Millington Synge, returns with "The Cripple of Inishmaan," by Anglo-Irish playwright Martin McDonagh, whose new play, "A Behanding in Spokane," opens on Broadway this week.

The canny British director Declan Donnellan is coming to the center with the Moscow-based Chekhov International Theatre Festival and two classics performed in Russian, "Three Sisters" and "Twelfth Night." And speaking of the ending of scandalous droughts: Director Peter Brook, whose previous Kennedy Center outing was the visit by his landmark staging of "A Midsummer Night's Dream" in -- good gosh! -- 1973, finally returns, with "11 and 12," his adaptation with Marie Helene Estienne of a work by the Malian novelist Amadou Hampate Ba.

Although the fine New York revivals of "South Pacific" and "Hair" will steal most of the season's thunder, this quieter lineup is the more special music to many a theater lover's ears.

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