Spring theater: Annie Baker’s micro-dramatic theater style can be experienced in the upcoming “The Flick” at Signature Theatre. (Ping Zhu/for The Washington Post )

“Drama’s vitallest expression is the common day / That arise and set about us,” wrote the 19th-century American poet Emily Dickinson — words that would suit as a preamble to many of Annie Baker’s plays. Not that Baker’s work itself is common. Rather, the playwright succeeds in isolating a kind of wild, often hilarious tension in situations that seem confoundingly unremarkable: a series of theater classes in a community center (“Circle Mirror Transformation”); a few social misfits gathering at a picnic table behind a coffee shop (“The Aliens”); a young couple’s visit to a Gettysburg bed-and-breakfast (“John”).

The apotheosis of Baker’s micro-dramatic style can be experienced in “The Flick,” which Signature Theatre is mounting March 1 through April 17 under the direction of Joe Calarco. Featuring Laura C. Harris, Evan Casey, Thaddeus McCants and William Vaughan, the play takes place entirely in the empty auditorium of a Massachusetts movie house, as its skeletal staff cleans up after a showing.

It is a play that takes its own sweet time, and that is all to the good, as it allows Baker to reveal all of the absorbing contours, wrinkles and secrets in the lives of its extraordinary, ordinary characters.

Wisely, the Pulitzer board awarded Baker and “The Flick” the 2014 prize for drama, an accolade that went the previous year to another stirring work receiving its Washington-area premiere this spring — Ayad Akhtar’s “Disgraced,” at Arena Stage April 22 through May 29.


Laura C. Harris stars in "The Flick" at Signature Theatre. (Christopher Mueller)

If the illuminating power of “The Flick” is refracted through an offbeat prism, “Disgraced” unfolds with a more laserlike focus. The play, to be directed by Timothy Douglas and with a cast that includes Nehal Joshi, Ivy Vahanian, Joe Isenberg, Felicia Curry and Samip Raval, revolves around the legal and marital troubles of Amir, an assimilated New York corporate lawyer of Pakistani Muslim descent. A cascade of work and domestic problems occurs for the lawyer, played by Joshi, after he is asked to consult on the case of a local imam accused of crimes against the state, after which he is misidentified in the media as the imam’s lawyer.

The play’s intricate plotting is framed by the timeliest of themes: the suspicions and fears being sown in some quarters over the motivations of American Muslims from every walk of life. As in the case of Baker’s work, Akhtar’s Pulitzer recognition betokens a voice wholly deserving of a wider audience.

Among the other intriguing offerings, these five are worth your special consideration:

Students of Washington society will get a special charge out of seeing a longtime staple of District life — the Georgetown dinner party — reenacted in the footlights in “The City of Conversation.” Anthony Giardina’s dramedy, directed by Doug Hughes, stars Margaret Colin as an influential hostess welcoming the powerful, martini-soaked Capitol Hill set into her soigne townhouse.

Jan. 29-March 6 at Arena Stage, 1101 Sixth St. SW. 202-488-3300. arenastage.org.


Caesar Samayoa as Camilo, Christina Sajous as Carmen, and Brandon Andrus as José in Olney Theatre Center's production of "Carmen: An Afro-Cuban Jazz Musical." (Stan Barouh)

Moises Kaufman, the playwright-director behind such works as “The Laramie Project” and “Gross Indecency: The Three Trials of Oscar Wilde,” brings to Montgomery County “Carmen: An Afro-Cuban Jazz Musical,” a world premiere, jazz-infused adaptation of the Georges Bizet opera. Sergio Trujillo choreographs, Eduardo Machado is co-writer and Christina Sajous stars as Carmen.

Feb. 10-March 6 at Olney Theatre Center, 2001 Olney-Sandy Spring Rd., Olney. 301-924-3400. olneytheatre.org.

Israeli playwright Motti Lerner, author of “The Murder of Isaac,” “Pangs of the Messiah” and the explosive “The Admission,” reunites with Mosaic Theater Artistic Director Ari Roth for his latest play “After the War.” Challenging our perceptions of his country, the play concerns a celebrated pianist who returns to Israel and his estranged family. Sinai Peter directs a cast that includes Michael Tolaydo and Paul Morella.

March 24-April 17 at Atlas Performing Arts Center, 1333 H St. NE. 202-399-7993, Ext. 2. mosaictheater.org.

“The Body of an American” is a moving story, based on a real one, by Dan O’Brien, that explores the relationship between a war photographer and the playwright obsessed by his prize-winning photo of a dead American soldier in the streets of Mogadishu, Somalia. Jose Carrasquillo directs; Eric Hissom and Thomas Keegan play the men who forge this intriguing bond.

April 27-May 29 at Theater J, 1529 16th St. NW. 202-777-3210. theaterj.org.

The prolific, trenchant Branden Jacobs-Jenkins returns to Woolly Mammoth, where he impressed audiences in 2013 with his ultra-smart Southern comedy “Appropriate.” He’s appropriating here again with “An Octoroon,” his take on an 1859 plantation melodrama, “The Octoroon,” and sparking another conversation, on race and identity.

May 30-June 26 at Woolly Mammoth Theatre, 641 D St. NW. 202-393-3939. woollymammoth.net.

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