The weekly feature of what’s happening on Washington stages.
Four shows from the Women’s Voices Theater Festival are highly recommended: “Noura,” “Handbagged,” “Familiar” and “The Wolves.” And Signature Theatre stretches its musical theater boundaries with Robbie Schaefer’s personable, guitar-driven “Light Years.”
In the ETC. category, see Savion Glover’s appearance this weekend at the National Theatre.
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“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. Through 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.
“Every Brilliant Thing.” British writer Duncan Macmillan’s solo play, a comedy on depression, features Alexander Strain. Feb. 28-March 25 at the Olney Theatre Center, 2001 Olney-Sandy Spring Rd. Tickets $47-$74. Call 301-924-3400 or visit olneytheatre.org.
“Godspell.” The oft-resurrected 1970s Stephen Schwartz musical. March 1-April 1 at Next Stop Theatre Company, 269 Sunset Park Dr., Herndon. Tickets $40-$55. Call 703-481-5930 or visit nextstoptheatre.org.
“Hold These Truths.” Jeanne Sakata’s drama of Gordon Hirabayashi, who refused to comply with the U.S. internment of Japanese Americans during World War II. Jessica Kuzansky directs. Through April 8 at Arena Stage’s Kogod Cradle, 1101 Sixth St. SW. Tickets $40-$101, subject to change. Call 202-488-3300 or visit arenastage.org.
“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.” “Dominique Cieri’s drama locks seven extremely unruly, at-risk high-school-age girls in a room with a playwright-teacher in a battle of wills. Cieri lived this experience, and you can feel it in the loud, wild performances from director Bari Hochwald’s young cast. You know where this ‘Dangerous Minds’-style drama is heading, and, at more than 2½ hours, it takes too long to get there, particularly in the unembellished production at Baltimore’s Strand Theater. What it gets right, though, is the abrasiveness of the girls. You can’t imagine how any teacher survives for 30 minutes.” (Nelson Pressley) Read the review Part of the Women’s Voices Theater Festival. 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.
“The Farnsworth Invention.” “Recalls two of the figures who vied to invent television in the 1920s and ’30s: David Sarnoff, a media mogul, and Philo Farnsworth, an Idaho farm boy turned cash-strapped inventor. Playwright Aaron Sorkin depicts the two as David-vs.-Goliath opponents who narrate each other’s stories, which bristle with Sorkin-brand snappy dialogue. Sam Ludwig makes an irresistible Farnsworth — brilliant yet socially bumbling — while Jonathan Lee Taylor aces the ruthless and fast-talking Sarnoff.” (Celia Wren) Read the review Through March 11 at 1st Stage, 1524 Spring Hill Rd., Tysons. Tickets $33. Call 703-854-1856 or visit 1ststagetysons.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 Through 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 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.
“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.
“The Lathe of Heaven.” “Director-adapter Natsu Onoda Power turns Spooky Action Theater’s church basement stage into an absorbing sci-fi playground. The late Ursula K. Le Guin’s 1971 novel about a dreamer whose dreams come true is a tall order for the stage. How do you show reality altering in a futuristic Portland? Power’s special effects are handmade: This isn’t a big-budget show. But she creates wonderful illusions as cameras project large images of small cutout scenes and cartoon panels. The visual vocabulary is a creative mash-up of stage techniques, early cinema and classic comics.” (Nelson Pressley) Read the review Through March 11 at Spooky Action Theater, 1810 16th St. NW. Tickets $30-$40. Call 202-248-0301 or visit spookyaction.org.
“Light Years.” “Closer in design to cabaret evening than book musical. With its folk-rock score, composed in the key of James Taylor by Robbie Schaefer and played by him and the other actors on guitars and a trio of onstage instrumentalists on violin, keyboard and drums, ‘Light Years’ reminds you of any number of nights of easy listenin’ you might have wiled away in a coffee house or bar. Schaefer, of the folk band Eddie From Ohio, plays grown-up Robbie, who narrates and, along with John Sygar and Luke Smith embodying Young Robbie and Middle Robbie, reveals what feels like a rather random selection of details from Robbie’s life with and without his father.” (Peter Marks) Read the review 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.
“The Raid.” “More diligent than inspired. Idris Goodwin’s play imagines an argument between Frederick Douglass and John Brown as Brown prepares to lead the 1859 raid on Harpers Ferry. Both men yearn for the abolition of slavery but disagree on how to achieve that goal. The production gains intensity from its spare look and in-the-round staging.” (Celia Wren) Read the review Through March 18 at the Anacostia Playhouse, 2020 Shannon Pl. SE. Tickets $35. Visit theateralliance.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. This week the show’s director, director Nicole A. Watson, was named associate artistic director at Round House Theatre. Through March 4 at Baltimore Center Stage, 700 North Calvert St., Baltimore. Tickets $20-$64. Call 410-332-0033 or visit centerstage.org.
“The Veils.” “A Women’s Voices Theater festival premiere from Nu Sass Productions about dual grief suffered by Melody, a woman translating for the U.S. military in Afghanistan. Back home, Mel’s father recently died. In the field, loss is bound to happen. Hope Villanueva’s play tries to tease out what her tough main character is suppressing, but it’s a static, talky project. Angela Kay Pirko’s production at the Anacostia Arts Center splits the tiny stage in two: Mel’s mother and sister on one side, and Mel’s military comrades — two male soldiers — on the other.” (Nelson Pressley) Read the review Through March 4 at the Anacostia Arts Center, 1231 Good Hope Rd SE. Tickets $30. Visit nusass.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 18 at Studio Theatre, 1501 14th St. NW. Tickets $52-$85, subject to change. Call 202-332-3300 or visit studiotheatre.org.
“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.
“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.
“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.
“Peepshow.” “The visually playful, raucous, collegiate-in-spirit ‘Peepshow,’ by the interactive company Dog & Pony DC, unfolds as a series of skits designed to remind you of the ways women have been objectified in popular culture and tacitly encouraged the bad acts now being exposed everywhere. The approach might lean heavily toward silliness, but there is an undercurrent of revolutionary fervor.” (Peter Marks) Read the review 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.
“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.
“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.
“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.
“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.
“Resist: A Revolutionary Cabaret.” Roz White sings songs from Alberta Hunter, Roberta Flack, Nina Simone and more. Feb. 24-25 at MetroStage, 1201 N. Royal St., Alexandria. Tickets $45. Call 703-548-9044 or visit metrostage.org.
“Savion Glover’s All FuNKD’ Up, The Concert.” The tap master with a six piece band and a troupe of dancers. Feb. 23-24 at the National Theatre, 1321 Pennsylvania Ave. NW. Tickets $45-$80. Call 800-514-3849 or visit thenationaldc.org.
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