Dahlia Azama and Heather Raffo in Raffo’s “Noura,” premiering at the Shakespeare Theatre Company. (Scott Suchman)

The weekly feature of what’s happening on Washington stages.

Notable this week: the Women’s Voices Theater Festival plays “Noura,” “Familiar” and Handbagged,” plus the LBJ play “The Great Society” and Michael Urie as Hamlet.

See the ETC. category for Kennedy Center concerts of “Chess” and “West Side Story.”

READ MORE: Women’s Voices 2.0 arrives during #MeToo

A pair of “In the Heights” stagings dominate the 2018 Helen Hayes Award nominations

Want DC Theater Friday delivered to your email inbox Thursday evening? Subscribe here.

PREVIEWING

“Becoming Dr. Ruth.” Holly Twyford directs Naomi Jacobson in this solo show about Dr. Ruth Westheimer by playwright Mark St. Germain, whose bio-dramas includes “Freud’s Last Session” at Theater J in 2014. Feb. 21-March 18 at Theater J, in the Edlavitch D.C. Jewish Community Center, 1529 16th St. NW. Tickets $37-$69. Call 202-777-3210 or visit theaterj.org.

“The Gospel at Colonus.” Avant Bard revives last year’s hit staging. “‘The Gospel at Colonus’ was a 1980s phenomenon engineered by Mabou Mines ringleader Lee Breuer, who brought his prestige hit from New York to Arena Stage in 1984 with a cast (hold your breath) of 57 that included Morgan Freeman. Director Jennifer Nelson’s production is big for its stage, too, but the grace of the show, though, is that it never feels swollen or pushy. It’s as dignified as church, even when it raises the roof.” (Nelson Pressley) Read the review Feb. 22-March 26 at the Gunston Arts Center Theater II, 2700 S. Lang St., Arlington. Tickets $30-$35. Call 703-998-4555 or visit wscavantbard.org.

“The Raid.” Frederick Douglass meets John Brown in Idris Goodwin’s drama, staged by Theater Alliance. Through March 18 at the Anacostia Playhouse, 2020 Shannon Pl. SE. Tickets $35. Visit theateralliance.com.

“The Veils.” The female-focused Nu Sass Productions premieres Hope Villanueva’s drama of a marine returning from Afghanistan to plan her wedding. Part of the Women’s Voices Theater Festival. Through March 4 at the Anacostia Arts Center, 1231 Good Hope Rd SE. Tickets $30. Visit nusass.com.


Autumn Hurlbert and Josh Grisetti in “Something Rotten!” at the National Theatre. (Jeremy Daniel)
CONTINUING

“All She Must Possess.” “Takes a local interest in Baltimore’s Etta and Claribel Cone, collectors during the early 20th century of pioneering modern art. Susan McCully’s 75-minute Women’s Voices Theater Festival drama is like watching paint dry as she creates a playwright character who frets about how to write the play. Technically, that’s an apt question when dealing with rule-breaking artists, and it lets McCully foreground a quest to uncover hidden sexuality in the works and in the biographies.” (Nelson Pressley) Read the review Through Feb. 25 at Rep Stage, Howard Community College, 10901 Little Patuxent Parkway, Columbia. Tickets $40. Call 443-518-1500 or visit repstage.org.

“For Baltimore in 1906, this was very radical”: The art-collecting Cone sisters

“Aubergine.” “An elegiac Women’s Voices Theater Festival affair. Julia Cho uses food as both the bridge and the gulf between a talented young Korean American chef named Ray and his father, a flinty immigrant who never got along with his child. Cho pens monologues, tableau images and realistic exchanges that don’t heat up as a single harmonious dish.” (Nelson Pressley) Read the review Through March 4 at the Olney Theatre Center, 2001 Olney-Sandy Spring Rd. Tickets $47-$74. Call 301-924-3400 or visit olneytheatre.org.

“Count Down.” As part of the Women’s Voices Theater Festival, Baltimore’s Strand Theater presents the regional premiere of Dominique Ciera’s drama of girls at risk in the welfare system. Through March 4 at The Strand Theater, 5426 Harford Rd. Baltimore. Tickets $20. Visit strand-theater.org.

“Familiar.” “Has Danai Gurira (‘The Walking Dead’) really written a gentle family farce? And is Woolly Mammoth, long branded for edgy theatrical disruptions, offering a feel-good comedy? Yes and yes. ‘Familiar’ is funny and warmhearted while remaining true to the serious turf she claimed in her earlier plays. Gurira is interested in African stories, and ‘Familiar’ sticks close to her roots as the Iowa-born daughter of Zimbabweans. Some of the dialogue on race and cultural friction was so on point that on opening night, the hippest pockets of the audience snapped their fingers in approval.” (Nelson Pressley) Read the review Through March 4 at Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company, 641 D St. NW. Tickets $49-$79. Call 202-393-3939 or visit woollymammoth.net.

Shannon Dorsey in Danai Gurira's “Familiar.” (Scott Suchman)

“The Farnsworth Invention.” The 2007 Broadway play about TV pioneer Philo T. Farnsworth by TV auteur Aaron Sorkin (“The West Wing,” “The Newsroom”). Through March 11 at 1st Stage, 1524 Spring Hill Rd., Tysons. Tickets $33. Call 703-854-1856 or visit 1ststagetysons.org.

“La Foto (The Photo).” “Former high school sweethearts reconnect online decades later, and one of the erstwhile lovers sends off a risqué selfie. Bad move! The snapshot upends lives and creates public scandal. The serviceable humor sometimes cedes to affecting seriousness, but Gustavo Ott, a Washington-based Venezuelan playwright, devotes too much fleeting attention to too many characters, most of whom are more circumstance than personality.” (Celia Wren) Read the review Through Feb. 25 at GALA Hispanic Theatre, 3333 14th St. NW. Tickets $45. Call 202-234-7174 or visit galatheatre.org.

“The Great Society.” “Lyndon Johnson wins the 1964 election but loses his soul and goes to hell. American cities burn and Vietnam drags him under by the lapels of his rumpled gray suit; in Kyle Donnelly’s enveloping production at Arena Stage the flames actually lick at LBJ from below. ‘The Great Society’ is Robert Schenkkan’s sequel to ‘All the Way,’ the Tony-winning drama that displayed Johnson in full wheeler-dealer mode, and the show is driven by Jack Willis’s performance as LBJ — a growling, full-throttle turn with the energy of a Mack truck roaring downhill.” (Nelson Pressley) Read the review Through March 11 at Arena Stage, 1101 Sixth St. SW. Tickets $40-$110, subject to change. Call 202-488-3300 or visit arenastage.org.

“Hamlet.” “A miscalculated performance by Michael Urie, whose idea of taking a fresh bite out of the title character involves chewing the scenery and then practically gorging on it. Set in a Denmark that’s run by the apparatus of the deep state — the something rotten is the surveillance network of the usurping King Claudius (Alan Cox) that even catches the ghost of Hamlet’s father (Keith Baxter) on its cameras — Michael Kahn’s ‘Hamlet’ suggests a royal court perched on a sterile, technocratic promontory. As a nesting ground for spies, it’s not a safe space for a voluble character such as the one Urie embodies.” (Peter Marks) Read the review Through March 4 at Shakespeare Theatre Company’s Sidney Harman Hall, 610 F St. NW. Tickets $44-$118. Call 202-547-1122 or visit shakespearetheatre.org.

READ MORE: Michael Urie on playing Hamlet

“Handbagged.” “If you’ve been feasting on ‘The Crown,’ Moira Buffini’s delectable ‘Handbagged’ will skip you ahead to the Thatcher years. The fast-paced British play freely imagines meetings between the prim queen and the steely Iron Lady, and they don’t agree on much — not even, in this comically self-aware show, whether there should be an intermission. Buffini’s London hit is getting a spiffy U.S. debut at the Round House Theatre courtesy of Indhu Rubasingham, the show’s original director and head of London’s influential Tricycle Theatre. The light of history glints differently depending on who’s telling it, and Rubasingham’s production is so sure-footed that the whole show shines.” (Nelson Pressley) Read the review Part of the Women’s Voices Theater Festival. Through March 3 at Round House Theatre, 4545 East-West Highway, Bethesda. Tickets $36-$65. Call 240-644-1100 or visit roundhousetheatre.org.

Jack Willis and Susan Rome as LBJ and Lady Bird in “The Great Society.” (C. Stanley)

“It’s the Rest of the World that Looks So Small (A Theatrical Revue of Jonathan Coulton).” “There’s no denying Flying V’s affinity with Coulton, the singer-songwriter known for his witty, geekdom-informed songs, which include matter-of-fact sci-fi fantasias and portraits of yearning office drones. Both Coulton and Flying V explore off-the-beaten-track ideas with arch humor. But the singing in the show can be unpolished, and the performances suggest a precocious collegiate undertaking rather than a fine-tuned professional effort.” (Celia Wren) Read the review. Through Feb. 25 at the Silver Spring Black Box, 8641 Colesville Rd., Silver Spring. Tickets $20. Visit flyingvtheatre.com.

“Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill.” 2017 Helen Hayes Award winner Iyona Blake plays the troubled jazz-blues singer in the third area production of the cabaret show in less than a year (after the Anacostia Playhouse and Rep Stage versions). Through March 4 at Creative Cauldron, 410 S. Maple Ave., Falls Church. Tickets $30. Call 703-436-9948 or visit creativecauldron.org.

“Light Years.” A world premiere autobiographical musical from Robbie Schaefer, of the band Eddie from Ohio. Through March 4 at Signature Theatre, 4200 Campbell Ave., Shirlington. Tickets $40-$89. Call 703-820-9771 or visit sigtheatre.org.

“No Word in Guyanese for Me.” “Wendy Graf’s solo show (part of the Women’s Voices Theater festival) in which Ashley K. Nicholas plays Hanna, a Guyanese Muslim who is brought to New York City as a girl. The story flits back and forth and finds its tension as Hanna realizes she’s gay, which of course means she’s ostracized by her faith community. It’s an old story, but Graf gives Hanna a personable voice that Nicholas plays endearingly in the intimate District of Columbia Arts Center.” (Nelson Pressley) Read the review Through March 4 at DC Arts Center, 2438 18th St. NW. Tickets $35. Visit rainbowtheatreproject.org.

“Noura.” “Joanna Settle’s grand, simple staging and playwright Heather Raffo’s impassioned central performance command attention as an apparently successful family of three Christian Iraqi refugees — newly minted U.S. citizens, to boot — gear up for their New York City Christmas celebration. As Noura, Raffo wrings her hands, gazes at nothing and paces in long circles, then explodes in frustration over how her Iraqi homeland disintegrated. The drama’s slow crescendo and deep repercussions make it the Women’s Voices Theater Festival’s most ambitious and substantial premiere.” (Nelson Pressley) Read the review Through March 11 at Shakespeare Theatre Company’s Lansburgh Theatre, 450 7th St. NW. Tickets $44-$118. Call 202-547-1122 or visit shakespearetheatre.org.

Heather Raffo on making “Noura”

“Peepshow.” A devised project from the collective dog & pony dc on feminism and objectification. Part of the Women’s Voices Theater Festival. Through Feb. 25 at the Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company rehearsal hall, 641 D St. NW. Tickets $20-$25. Visit dog & ponydc.com.

“Skeleton Crew.” Dominique Morisseau’s blue collar Detroit drama, staged at Studio Theatre last fall, is produced by Baltimore Center Stage as part of the Women’s Voices Theater Festival. Through March 4 at Baltimore Center Stage, 700 North Calvert St., Baltimore. Tickets $20-$64. Call 410-332-0033 or visit centerstage.org.

“The Trojan Women Project.” “A rambling cry that’s slightly Greek and fully Trump-era. An ensemble of 13 women in solid colored sheath dresses winds among an audience that’s grouped in twos and threes; it’s a choreopoem, to use Ntzoke Shange’s ‘for colored girls’ term, riffing on the shock of the 2016 election and the fissures still dividing seemingly everything — country, neighbors, women.” (Nelson Pressley) Read the review Part of the Women’s Voices Theater Festival, and performed in rep with “Coriolanus.” Through Feb. 25 at The Lab at Convergence, 1819 N. Quaker Lane, Alexandria. Tickets $20. Visit bravespiritstheatre.com.

“The Wolves.” “Sarah DeLappe’s 95 minute play manages to illuminate with unerring accuracy the psyches of the funny, inquisitive, garrulous, anxious, profane, passionate players in a ferociously competitive high school girls’ weekend soccer league. The characters come across as so authentically specific it’s as if DeLappe pinpointed each of them on the closest-in setting on Google Maps.” (Peter Marks) Read the review Part of the Women’s Voices Theater Festival. Through March 4 at Studio Theatre, 1501 14th St. NW. Tickets $52-$85, subject to change. Call 202-332-3300 or visit studiotheatre.org.


Lynette Rathnam in Annalisa Dias’s “4,380 Nights” at Signature Theatre.” (Colin Hovde)
CLOSING

“4,380 Nights.” “A serpentine affair by Annalisa Dias, mainly set in a Guantanamo Bay holding cell, stretching terrorism paranoia to include atrocities in 19th century Algeria, and even back to Roman times. It’s a lush historical buffet — and D.C.’s third show in the past year to focus on a prisoner in an orange jumpsuit, chained to the floor — but a lot to digest.” (Nelson Pressley) Part of the Women’s Voices Theater Festival. Read the review Through Feb. 18 at Signature Theatre, 4200 Campbell Ave., Shirlington. Tickets $40-$89. Call 703-820-9771 or visit sigtheatre.org.

Playwrights Mary Kathryn Nagle and Annalisa Dias take on U.S. history

“Love Is a Blue Tick Hound.” “Four short plays that confirm Audrey Cefaly’s knack for honest, quiet talk and American South reality. ‘Fin & Euba,’ the opener, eavesdrops on two young women unwinding one evening out back of the run-down boardinghouse they both hate. Cefaly does not sugarcoat the choices: Having even a little something can seem safer than risking it for something better. That’s echoed in ‘The Gulf,’ about two girlfriends in a fishing boat. The staging is modest by Baltimore’s Rapid Lemon Productions, but Cefaly’s deliberately crafted regional voice and unhurried cadence come through clearly.(Nelson Pressley) Read the review Part of the Women’s Voices Theater Festival. Through Feb. 17 at the Trinidad Theatre, Logan Fringe Arts Space, 1358 Florida Ave. NE. Tickets $25. Call 866-811-4111 or visit capitalfringe.org.

“Something Rotten!” “A musical spoofing musicals. ‘How do you solve a problem like Ophelia?’ someone asks as everything you know about theater gets pureed at high speed. A bitter rival of Shakespeare’s goes to a soothsayer to see what audiences will want in the future, so he can write a hit now. The answer is musicals — ‘Musicals!’ the poufy-pants characters gush with wonder, looking up and spreading their arms. This leads to anachronistic inside jokes about singing cats and fiddlers on roofs.” (Nelson Pressley) Read the review Through Feb. 18 at the National Theatre, 1321 Pennsylvania Ave. NW. Tickets $48-$203. Call 800-514-3849 or visit thenationaldc.com.

“Sovereignty.” “Mary Kathryn Nagle’s placid, teachable-moment brand of drama about the U.S. government’s contentious, centuries-long relationship with Indian tribal rights. ‘Sovereignty’ travels back and forth between the 1830s and the ‘near future,’ and Supreme Court battles going back two centuries. Those cases involve challenges to a tribe’s rights to prosecute non-Indians for crimes committed within Indian-governed territory. It’s not until the start of Act 2, unfortunately, that the modern-day story of a Yale-trained Cherokee lawyer who has come home to work for the tribe gains some emotional traction.” (Peter Marks) Read the review Part of the Women’s Voices Theater Festival. Through Feb. 18 at Arena Stage, 1101 Sixth St. SW. Tickets $40-$111, subject to change. Call 202-488-3300 or visit arenastage.org.

“The Trial.” “The artistically serious, ­movement-based Synetic Theater takes one of its more unfortunate detours with a grotesquely expressionistic, barely coherent adaptation of ‘The Trial,’ Franz Kafka’s early-20th-century dystopian novel. Save for Josef K, everyone in this ‘Trial’ is a bug. While the notion gives the capable costume designer Erik Teague the keys to Synetic’s fancifully creative treasure chest, it propels Nathan Weinberger’s adaptation into the realm of overanxious cartoon.” (Peter Marks) Read the review Through Feb. 18 at Synetic Theater, 1800 S. Bell St., Arlington. Tickets $35-$60. Call 866-811-4111 or visit synetictheater.org.

TYA (Theater for Young Audiences

“Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.” An adaptation of the Judith Viorst book. Through March 31 at Adventure Theatre, 7300 MacArthur Blvd., Glen Echo. Tickets $19.50. Call 301-634-2270 or visit adventuretheatre-mtc.org.

Alina Collins Maldonado as Dessa visits “The Last American Dinosaurs” at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History; “Digging Up Dessa” closes this weekend. (Yassine El Mansouri)

“Digging Up Dessa.” “For kids who can follow along with dialogue about ‘toppling the patriarchy’ and lessons discriminating between fact and hyperbole. Laura Schellhardt’s hour-long story deals with a schoolgirl coping with the loss of her father. In her grief, the science-minded kid (played by the entirely likable Alina Collins Maldonado) is visited by the ghost of 19th century paleontologist Mary Anning (Jackie Reneé Robinson, in a formidable Mary Poppins mode).” (Nelson Pressley) Part of the Women’s Voices Theater Festival. Read the review Through Feb. 18 at the Kennedy Center. Tickets $20. Call 202-467-4600 or visit kennedy-center.org.

“The Prince and the Pauper: A Bollywood Tale.” Anu Yadav adapts the Mark Twain story, with songs by Aks. Through March 18 at Imagination Stage, 4908 Auburn Avenue, Bethesda. Tickets $10-$30. Call 301-280-1660 or visit imaginationstage.org.

Upcoming shows for young audiences

ETC.

“Cabaret Rising: One Nation Underground.” TBD (Tradition Be Damned) Immersive presents a carnivalesque immersive experience with multiple acts and story tracks, organized around the idea of political resistance. Through March 11 at Dupont Underground, 19 Dupont Circle NW. Tickets $45-$75. Visit tbdimmersive.com.

The Capitol Steps. The longtime political satirists, tearing laughs from the headlines. Fridays and Saturdays in the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center Amphitheater, 1300 Pennsylvania Ave. NW. Tickets $40.50. Call 202-397-7328 or visit www.capsteps.com.

“Character Building.” Talks by Booker T. Washington adapted as an hour-long musical by Martin Blank. Presented by the American Ensemble Theater Saturdays at 1 p.m. through Feb. 24 at the Capitol Hill Arts Workshop, 545 7th St. SE. Call 202-547-6839 or visit americanensemble.com.

“Chess.” The first of the Center’s new “Encores!”-style Broadway Center Stage series — concert stagings of musicals — this revives the 1980s show by ABBA’s Bjorn Ulvaes and Benny Andersson. Through Feb 18 at the Kennedy Center. Tickets $35-$120. Call 202-467-4600 or visit kennedy-center.org.

NSO Pops: “West Side Story in Concert.” Francesca Zambello directs. Feb. 16-17 at the Kennedy Center’s Concert Hall. Tickets $24-$125. Call 202-467-4600 or visit kennedy-center.org.

READ MORE:

Michael Kahn’s final STC season will include a rare “Oresteia” and Daldry’s “Inspector Calls”

John Doyle will direct new “August Rush” musical at Signature

Through critics’ eyes: WashPost critics on how they look at art

Peter Marks on how to be a bad theatergoer

New musical “Dave” will debut at Arena Stage this summer

The NFL season’s best End Zone dramas

Washington’s Best of 2017

2017 Favorites from Peter Marks

The SpongeBobbing of Broadway, where plays are Frozen out

‘Not In Our House’ fights abuse in theaters and takes root in D.C.

A dozen actors to watch

NEW YORK NOTES:

D.C. kids make good on Broadway

The $20 million “SpongeBob” musical

“The Band’s Visit” is Broadway’s best new musical

Springsteen on Broadway

Want DC Theater Friday delivered to your email inbox Thursday evening? Subscribe here.