The weekly feature of what’s happening on Washington stages.
Fractured fairy tales rule at the Kennedy Center, where Broadway’s “Wicked” commands the Opera House and Fiasco Theater’s inventive 11-person “Into the Woods” capers through the Eisenhower. New entries in the ongoing “Carol” cavalcade include Keegan Theatre’s Irish pub iteration and a Second City lampoon, while a new in-the-round staging of “Titanic” steams into Signature Theatre.
“An Irish Carol.” The Keegan Theatre revives its holiday staple. “Sweet and cheerfully profane, a modest little 80-minute riff on Dickens set in a dingy, modern Dublin pub. This new play by Matthew J. Keenan is best when nothing much is happening, which is most of the time.” (Nelson Pressley) Dec. 16-31 at Keegan Theatre, 1742 Church St. NW. Tickets $45. Call 202-265-3767 or visit keegantheatre.com.
“Oy Vey in a Manger.” The Kinsey Sicks return their dragapella act to Theater J for 10 shows only. “Sending up everything that’s holy in a raunchily audacious declaration that nothing about the holidays is sacred.” (Peter Marks) Dec. 20-28 in the D.C. Jewish Community Center’s Goldman Theater, 1529 16th St. NW. Tickets $47. Call 202-777-3210 or visit theaterj.org.
“Titanic.” The epic musical with a score by Maury Yeston, staged in the round. Through Jan. 29 at Signature Theatre, 4200 Campbell Ave., Shirlington. Tickets $40-$119, subject to change. Call 703-820-9771 or visit sigtheatre.org.
“Black Nativity.” The return of Theater Alliance’s Helen Hayes Award-winning staging of the Langston Hughes classic. “A celebration in overdrive; the full-throttle music and ecstatic dancing almost overwhelm the 120-seat Anacostia Playhouse. . . . What drives this is the choir, 14 big-voiced performers who harmonize with dynamism and precision.” (Nelson Pressley) Through Dec. 31 at the Anacostia Playhouse, 2020 Shannon Pl. SE. Tickets $50. Call 202-241-2539 or visit theateralliance.com.
“Black Side of the Moon.” “In a measured, spot-on Barack Obama voice, the actor Felonious Munk soberly surveys the Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company audience and then asks: ‘[WTF], America?’ Plainly, the six African American performers of the Second City’s ‘Black Side of the Moon’ are keeping their salty material fresh. . . . The cast isn’t just ripping from the headlines; in up-to-the-minute sketches, songs and stand-up routines, jokes come from all sorts of angles. . . . Director Billy Bungeroth’s cast is perfectly willing to be blunt when it hits a red line and figures it’s not really funny anymore. This cast doesn’t flinch from tossing uncomfortable truths at the crowd with a gaze that says, ‘Deal with it.’ ” (Nelson Pressley) Through Jan. 1 at Woolly Mammoth Theatre, 641 D St. NW. Tickets $20-$69. Call 202-393-3939 or visit woollymammoth.net.
“Carousel.” The Rodgers and Hammerstein musical about carnival barker Billy Bigelow’s romance with the quiet Julie Jordan. “Director Molly Smith, in the most assured work of her decade and a half at Arena, delivers a physically, musically and rhetorically impressive production, one that allows us to judge Julie’s way of thinking, and everything else in the peculiar tale, for ourselves. And with its exquisite songbook — ‘If I Loved You,’ ‘Mister Snow,’ ‘A Real Nice Clambake’ and ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ among the glories — the musical is one heart-melting moment after another.” (Peter Marks) Through Dec. 24 at Arena Stage, 1101 Sixth St. SW. Tickets $50-$119. Call 202-488-3300 or visit arenastage.org.
“A Christmas Carol.” Craig Wallace’s grand scowl now anchors the holiday staple at Ford’s. The show’s accents don’t consistently send you to Dickens’s London, but the bustling ghost story is still writ large (a cast of roughly two dozen, with several big, spooky effects) in Michael Baron’s extravagant production. Through Dec. 31 at Ford’s Theatre, 511 10th St. NW. Tickets $22-$105. Call 888-616-0270 or visit www.fords.org.
“A Christmas Carol: A Ghost Story of Christmas.” The return of Paul Morella’s solo performance. “A friendly one-man show (Morella, in a Victorian suit, greets you at the door) that faithfully sticks to the Dickens novella over its swift two hours. What you hear is exactly what Dickens wrote, rich descriptions and all. This was originally a ghost story, and that’s how it feels as Morella stands alone on a shadowy stage, looking you in the eye as cranky old Ebenezer Scrooge begins his jittery night.” (Nelson Pressley) Through Dec. 31 at the Olney Theatre Center, 2001 Olney-Sandy Spring Rd., Olney, Md. Tickets $20-$40. Call 301-924-3400 or visit olneytheatre.org.
“Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas! The Musical.” Seriously? Tacky, gaudy and loud, overblown in its live-action rendering of Whos whizzing around in wacky, shape-distorting outfits and overbearing in its hot-dogging Grinch, who seems to be honing an obnoxious nightclub act in this non-Equity touring version of the Broadway expansion of the beloved TV special. The noise, noise, noise . . . Through Dec. 31 at the National Theatre, 1321 Pennsylvania Ave. Tickets $48-$108. Call 800-514-3849 or visit thenationaltheatre.org.
“Fully Committed.” “The comedy about the guy taking reservations at the restaurant you are dying to try but can’t get into. . . . Becky Mode’s 1999 comedy is also the show that piles a plate high for one actor taking on all 40 roles. At MetroStage this is the busy Tom Story. . . . What comes through loud and clear is the mean pileup of entitlement: Though Story’s polite, persevering Sam tries to remain chipper, you can feel him sinking as he keeps getting run over.” (Nelson Pressley) Through Jan. 8 at MetroStage, 1201 N. Royal St., Alexandria. Tickets $55-$60. Call 703-548-9044 or visit metrostage.org .
“Into the Woods.” “With a mere 11 actors, all of them doubling as musicians and one of them, Evan Rees, playing a piano that remains for much of the evening at center stage, the company offers as poignant a treatment of the 1987 musical as you’ll ever come across. It turns out that the overburdened exposition of ‘Into the Woods’ — the weaving together of four major plots and several subplots over the course of two hours and 45 minutes — gets some relief when the visual distractions are kept to a minimum. And in cases in which a production can place its focus squarely on the musical’s emotionality, rather than on its penchant for sardonic commentary, the show becomes child’s play in the optimal sense.” (Peter Marks). Through Jan. 8 at the Kennedy Center’s Eisenhower Theater. Tickets $45-$175. Call 202-467-4600 or visit kennedy-center.org.
“King Ubu.” “Who needs a transition team and Cabinet announcements? When political power changes hands in the world of ‘King Ubu,’ Pointless Theatre’s smart, playful new offering, the switch-over principally involves a commode. . . . The play originated as a lampoon of a teacher when Alfred Jarry was a schoolboy, debuting in an early version as a puppet play. So Pointless has sound authority not only for this production’s puppets (designed by Patti Kalil and Rachel Menyuk), but also for the overall schoolyard-clowning aesthetic.” (Celia Wren) Through Jan. 7 at Flashpoint’s Mead Theatre Lab, 916 G St. NW. Tickets $30. Call 202-733-6321 or visit pointlesstheatre.com.
“Mary Poppins.” The Disney musical flurry continues with this local staging of the 2006 Broadway hit. “In this busy, large-scaled ‘Mary Poppins’ it’s not the special effects but Mary’s quizzically weird demeanor that’s practically perfect. Patricia Hurley delivers a wonderfully enigmatic performance as Poppins: She’s full of tricks yet cool as can be.” (Nelson Pressley) Through Jan. 8 at Olney Theatre Center, 2001 Olney-Sandy Spring Rd., Olney. Tickets $43-$80. Call 301-924-3400 or visit olneytheatre.org.
“Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley.” The rolling world premiere from writers Lauren Gunderson and Margot Melcon imagines the holidays chez D’Arcy, two years after the events of Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice.” “Gunderson and Melcon throw some halfhearted plot twists in the way of immediate resolution, but the obstacles tend to fizzle, and the story’s comic and dramatic situations don’t always seem fully realized. . . . A degree of narrative diffuseness proceeds from the play’s sizable cast of characters, who admittedly allow audiences the fun of recognition and foible-spotting.” (Celia Wren) Through Dec. 23 at Round House Theatre, 4545 East-West Hwy., Bethesda. Tickets $36-$65. Call 240-644-1100 or visit roundhousetheatre.org .
“Moby Dick.” Chicago’s Lookingglass Theatre Company and Actors Gynmasium team up for a physical adaptation of Herman Melville’s 1851 novel. “Using only 10 actors, who are hoisted to the rafters and tossed through well-rendered tempests, the adventure is worked to a frothy high as the crew of the Pequod follows mad Captain Ahab’s orders across a sea that at one point seems to sweep over the audience. . . . The teamwork is consistently impressive as the actors operate the set’s dozens of rope lines to raise sails and hoist small hunting boats — and yes, the characters register clearly, too, in Catlin’s poetic distillation of Melville’s massive novel.” (Nelson Pressley) Through Dec. 24 at Arena Stage’s Kreeger Theater. Tickets $40-$118, subject to change. Call 202-488-3300 or visit arenastage.org.
“The Second Shepherd’s Play.” “The Folger Theatre’s revival of its unusual 2007 hit ‘The Second Shepherds’ Play,’ delivered with period music by three musicians of the Folger Consort, turns out to be perhaps the most original and most genuinely spirited show of the Christmas season. It’s a farce about a rascal named Mak (a gently mischievous Ryan Sellers) who steals a sheep and hustles it home, where he and his wife, Gill (Tonya Beckman, brassy and witty), try to hide it as a child in their manger. The three shepherds who track Mak down aren’t buying that little miracle. The telling is joyful, and a perfect project for the Folger.” (Nelson Pressley) Through Dec. 21 at the Folger Theatre, 201 E. Capitol St. SE. Tickets $40-$60. Call 202-544-7077 or visit folger.edu.
“The Secret Garden.” “What David Armstrong’s handsome, confident production offers is sturdiness: The performers are first-rate, and the gothic-pastoral design elegantly brings the mysterious Edwardian world to life. . . . A particular coup is bringing Daisy Eagan back to the show that earned her a Tony Award as an 11-year-old in 1991, the youngest female winner ever. In a show that’s all about rebirth and renewal, it’s appropriate that Eagan’s light maternal touch as Martha feels like the most natural performance of the night.” (Nelson Pressley) Through Jan. 8 at Sidney Harman Hall, 610 F St. NW. Tickets $44-$123. Call 202-547-1122 or visit shakespearetheatre.org.
“Silver Belles.” An original musical comedy about ladies trying to save the local holiday pageant after the longtime organizer dies, from playwright Allyson Currin, composer-lyricist Matt Conner and lyricist Stephen Gregory Smith. “The singer-actors playing these Tennesseans are just darlin’, with Donna Migliaccio as the ghost of Oralene (the ringleader), Nova Y. Payton as the vampy widow Gloria and Naomi Jacobson as a radio host (in bib overalls) named Bo Jack. Yet even as crisply performed and designed as director Eric Schaeffer’s 80-minute show is in Signature Theatre’s small Ark space, this premiere feels like the version that comes just before the version that works. Dramatically and musically, the colors aren’t quite filled in.” (Nelson Pressley) Through Dec. 31 at Signature Theatre, 4200 Campbell Ave., Arlington. Tickets $40-$103. Call 703-820-9771 or visit www.sigtheatre.org.
“Sleeping Beauty.” “When Irina Tsikurishvili slowly enters as the malevolent witch in Synetic Theater’s new wordless staging of ‘Sleeping Beauty, she moves like smoke. The mesmerizing Tsikurishvili is even dressed like smoke, in filmy black layers that practically float around her as the nameless witch — not called Maleficent — infiltrates and darkens this evergreen fairy tale. . . . It’s told with an enchanting sense of magic that should appeal to adults and kids, even though the only thing Disney-like about Paata Tsikurishvili’s production is an underlying faith that in fairy tales, everything can be alive.” (Nelson Pressley) Through Jan. 8 at Synetic Theatre, 1800 S. Bell St., Arlington. Tickets $35-$60. Call 866-811-4111 or visit synetictheater.org .
“Straight White Men.” The area premiere of the identity drama by Young Jean Lee (“Songs of the Dragons Flying to Heaven,” “Church,” “The Shipment”). “Lee’s play appeared in New York two years ago, but Studio could not have coordinated its Washington arrival any better by opening it this week. . . . Hilarious, depicting the three grown brothers and their father gathered for Christmas as happy roughnecks pummeling each other and swapping crude insults. And the performances in Shana Cooper’s expert 85-minute production riotously skewer the siblings’ primitive habits as food flies and the boys race through the den and make terrible sounds, demeaning each other and jostling among themselves for supremacy.” (Nelson Pressley) Through Dec. 31 at Studio Theatre, 1501 14th St. NW. Tickets $52-$90. Call 202-332-3300 or visit studiotheatre.org.
“Twist Your Dickens.” “A hilariously impudent spoof of the holiday season in general, and ‘A Christmas Carol’ in particular, the show journeys not only through Scrooge’s past and future, but also to the heyday of barbershop quartets, a nickel-and-diming gift-planning session by the Bethlehem-bound Three Kings, and the cutting-room floor where (we learn) an uncharacteristically pugnacious segment of ‘A Charlie Brown Christmas’ met its off-the-record end.” (Celia Wren) Through Dec. 31 at the Kennedy Center’s Theater Lab. Tickets $49-$79. Call 202-467-4600 or visit kennedy-center.org.
“Wicked.” “No one in ‘Wicked’ is truly good: certainly not the simpering politician of a Wizard and not sequin-saturated Glinda, who for the longest time believes the most important attribute she could bestow on Elphaba would be soul-withering popularity. No one, for that matter, is really bad, either, not even the much maligned flying monkeys (which have scared the dickens out of watchers of the 1939 MGM movie for generations). Here, they’re ill-treated prisoners of the Wizard, freed by Elphaba. Following along as the emotional ties deepen between two young women coming into their own, you realize that no other major modern musical conjures the power of this dynamic with anything like ‘Wicked’s’ care. And maybe that is a facet of its peculiar magnetism.” (Peter Marks) Through Jan. 8 at the Kennedy Center’s Opera House. Tickets $99-$359. Call 202-467-4600 or visit kennedy-center.org.
“Broadway Bound.” Neil Simon’s autobiographical comedy “still holds up. It takes less than a minute for the laughs to begin in Shirley Serotsky’s sturdy production for 1st Stage in Tysons as young Eugene Jerome — Simon’s stand-in — begins to crack wise about his colorful Jewish family in 1949 Brighton Beach. . . . The wrinkle is how to keep it zipping, and it doesn’t add up that the show eventually stretches to two hours and 45 minutes. But Simon’s writing remains delightful.” (Nelson Pressley) Through Dec. 18 at 1st Stage, 1524 Spring Hill Rd., Tysons Corner. Tickets $30. Call 703-854-1856 or visit 1ststagetysons.org.
“A Christmas Carol Memory.” “Oddly sour. . . . A recently orphaned girl’s discordant relatives head to the attic to perform the Charles Dickens tale with long-neglected family puppets. Margie Jervis creates some entertaining puppets for Scrooge’s ghosts, but Jennifer Clements’s script, following a concept by director Laura Connors Hull, is far too talky and bluntly unhappy in its family dynamics. The youngest viewers aren’t the only ones squirming before this laboring ‘Carol’ concludes and leaves you thinking blah. Humbug.” (Nelson Pressley) Through Dec. 20 at Creative Cauldron, 410 S. Maple Ave., Falls Church. Tickets $30. Call 703-436-9948 or visit creativecauldron.org .
“It’s a Wonderful Life: A Radio Play.” The Washington Stage Guild revives last year’s production of the Frank Capra flick as rendered via radio. “An onstage sound-effects nook is the chief attraction of the show, set inside a 1940s radio station that is broadcasting the tale of the self-sacrificing everyman George Bailey and his rescuing angel, Clarence. . . . Set designer Carl F. Gudenius has conjured up an atmospheric mid-20th-century radio studio, complete with old-fashioned microphones, light-up ‘Applause’ signs and fading World War II posters tacked to a bulletin board.” (Celia Wren) Through Dec. 18 at the Undercroft Theatre, 900 Massachusetts Ave. NW. Tickets $50-$60. Call 240-582-0050 or visit stageguild.org.
“The Magi.” “A great concept: two musicians on a dive-bar stage and in love, but unsure about where they’re headed. Nix and Jude call their group the Magi, and Rex Daugherty (guitar and keyboard) and Daven Ralston (fiddle and guitar) are cute as doves as they sing and play teenage songwriter Eli Pafumi’s bouncy, pensive folk-pop love songs. The script by Helen Murray Pafumi — Eli’s mom and Hub’s artistic director — snags on its ultra-granular nagging and moody soliloquies, with one truly splendid showdown. It’s an appealingly fresh approach, though, and you can imagine ‘The Magi’ tuned up down the road and nailing its next gig.” (Nelson Pressley) Through Dec. 18 at the Hub Theatre, 9431 Silver King Ct., Fairfax. Tickets $32. Call 703-999-9999 or visit thehubtheatre.org.
“Soft Revolution: Shafana and Aunt Sarrinah.” “A smart, character-rich two-hander by Australian dramatist Alana Valentine. . . . As aunt and niece banter and argue — over a traditional Afghan dinner, which appears to be cooked onstage and is shared with the audience in the lobby afterward — they broach nuanced yet passionately held beliefs about identity, Islam, tolerance, self-determination and life in a multicultural society.” (Celia Wren) Through Dec. 18 at Venus Theatre, 21 C St., Laurel. Tickets $40. Call 866-811-4111 or visit venustheatre.org.
“Disney’s Beauty and the Beast.” Jessica Ball plays Belle in the musical with “Be Our Guest” and the title tune, for audiences age 4 and older. Through Jan. 15 at Imagination stage, 4908 Auburn Ave., Bethesda. Tickets $10-$30. Call 301-280-1660 or visit imaginationstage.org.
“The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.” A two-character version with Chris Dinolfo and Audrey Berteaux, directed by Tom Story. All ages. Through Dec. 31 at Adventure Theatre MTC, 7300 MacArthur Blvd., Glen Echo. Tickets $20. Call 301-634-2270 or visit adventuretheatre-mtc.org.
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.
DC Theater Friday: Fiasco’s ‘Into the Woods’ warms up KenCen