Marsha Mason headlines Lillian Hellman’s “Watch on the Rhine” at Arena Stage. (C. Stanley Photography)
The weekly feature of what’s happening on Washington stages.
Political crises grab the spotlight this week as Mike Bartlett’s “King Charles III” imagines a not-too-distant monarchy crisis in England and Lillian Hellman’s 1941 “Watch on the Rhine” prods Americans to take a stand.
Three to catch before they close: “Who’s Afraid of Virgina Woolf,” “Roe,” “Hooded.”
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“Brother Mario.” Super Mario Brothers meets Anton Chekhov? That’s the angle in the latest offbeat adventure from Flying V Theatre. Feb. 23-March 12 at The Writer’s Center, 4508 Walsh St., Bethesda. Tickets $20-$30. Visit flyingvtheatre.com.
“The Gospel at Colonus.” The Oedipus tragedy told gospel style. With William T. Newman, Jr.; Jennifer L. Nelson directs. Feb. 23-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.
“H2O.” The pseudonymous Jane Martin drama of an action movie star who takes to the stage to play Hamlet, and who approves of a Christian actress as his Ophelia. Through March 5 at Rep Stage, 10901 Little Patuxent Pkwy, Columbia, Md. Tickets $15-$40. Call 443-518-1500 or visit repstage.org.
“The How and the Why.” Sarah Treem’s play about two female biologists is “brainy and absorbing,” Celia Wren wrote when it ran at 1st Stage in 2011 after premiering at New Jersey’s McCarter Theatre, where Theater J’s new artistic director, Adam Immerwahr, worked at the time. Theater J’s new production features Katie deBuys and Valerie Leonard, directed by Shirley Serotsky. Through March 12 at Theater J, 1529 16th St. NW. Tickets $30-$64. Call 202-777-3210 or visit theaterj.org.
Holly Twyford as Martha with Gregory Linington as George in Edward Albee’s “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf,” at Ford’s Theatre to Feb. 19. (Scott Suchman)
“The Select (The Sun Also Rises).” Elevator Repair Service, the Manhattan experimentalists who made theater by reading all of “The Great Gastby” on stage and by adapting a Supreme Court argument (the 2014 “Arguendo” at Woolly Mammoth), brings its staging of the 1926 Ernest Hemingway novel to the Shakespeare Theatre Company. Feb. 18-April 2 at the Lansburgh Theatre, 450 Seventh St. NW. Tickets $44-$118. Call 202-547-1122 or visit shakespearetheatre.org .
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“The Taming of the Shrew.” Synetic Theater revives its 2012 Hollywood-themed staging of Shakespeare’s comedy, with lots of cast changes but still with Irina Tsikurishvili and Ryan Sellers as the battling couple. “Dudgeon achieves a sexy new high in the scenery-quaking workouts,” Peter Marks wrote in 2012. “The bare-midriffed tantrums of the ageless Irina Tsikurishvili send the actor-dancers flying — and an audience’s blood pressure rising — in this hyper-aerobicized 90 minutes of disciplined mayhem.” Through March 19 at Synetic Theater, 1800 S. Bell St., Crystal City. Tickets $35-$60. Call 866-811-4111 or visit synetictheater.org.
“The Trojan Women.” Taffety Punk Theatre Company’s all-female Riot Grrrls wing tackles Euripides’s howl of war. Through March 4 at the Capitol Hill Arts Workshop, 545 Seventh St. SE. Tickets $15. Call 202-547-6839 or visit taffetypunk.com.
“The Very Last Days of the First Colored Circus.” Restoration Stage presents a new play with music about African American circus performers in the 1920s. By Steven A. Butler, Jr., with songs by Courtney Baker-Oliver and Christopher John Burnett. Through March 5 at the Anacostia Playhouse, 2020 Shannon Place SE. Tickets $45-$55. Visit restorationstage.biz.
“As You Like It.” “The comedy with Rosalind and offbeat exiles fleeing a fascist court and bumbling through the forest of Arden. Gaye Taylor Upchurch’s modern dress production at Folger Theatre (in association with the Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival) sets its action against original blues tunes and hip-hop rhythms, with actors strumming guitars and hooting into kazoos like hippies in the woods. The strength of Upchurch’s vision, though, is the cast of romantic clowns. Love, the show says, is nuts.” (Nelson Pressley) Through March 5 at Folger Theatre, 201 East Capitol St. SE. Tickets $35-$75. Call 202-544-7077 or visit folger.edu.
Lindsay Alexandra Carter (Rosalind) and Antoinette Robinson (Celia) in Folger Theatre’s “As You Like It.” (Teresa Wood)
“Baby Screams Miracle.” “Out in the woods of the Pacific Northwest, where ‘Baby Screams Miracle’ is set, five intrepid, God-fearing souls are tossed this way and that in a Category 5 challenge to their spiritual — and property — values. The atmospheric disturbance continues for most of the 105 minutes of Clare Barron’s disappointingly pale seriocomedy. It also proves to be the production’s only truly galvanizing component.” (Peter Marks) Through Feb. 26 at Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company, 641 D St. NW. Tickets $20-$74, subject to change. Call 202-393-3939 or visit woollymammoth.net .
“Blues in the Night.” The revue of vintage jazz and blues — Duke Ellington, Bessie Smith — was Tony nominated after its brief 1982 run. With a cast of four directed by Matt Conner at the intimate Creative Cauldron. Through March 5 at 410 S. Maple Ave., Falls Church. Tickets $20-$30. Call 703-436-9948 or visit creativecauldron.org
“Caroline, or Change.” “It’s the illustrious Nova Y. Payton who, in Round House Theatre’s vibrant revival, portrays Caroline — a role tailor-made for a golden-throated powerhouse. Wearing a starched white uniform and a permanent scowl, her Caroline is a storm cloud of pain; you wait with both alarm and excitement for the thunder to rumble and the lightning to strike.” (Peter Marks) Through Feb. 26 at Round House Theatre, 4545 East-West Hwy., Bethesda. Tickets $46-$90. Call 240-644-1100 or visit roundhousetheatre.org.
“The Gin Game.” A revival of the understated 1977 Pulitzer winner about two people fussing about aging and cards in an old folks’ home, by D.L. Coburn. “If the actors aren’t absolutely crystalline with the nuances, they’re still very good, and under the direction of Thomas W. Jones II, Doug Brown and Roz White look each other in the eye and create a competitive rapport. But as Fonsia wins every hand, it gets hard to take Weller’s hard-luck rants, and the brittle play doesn’t have any other moves.” (Nelson Pressley) Through March 12 at MetroStage, 1201 N. Royal St., Alexandria. Tickets $55-$60. Call 703-548-9044 or visit metrostage.org.
“The Hard Problem.” “The title of Tom Stoppard’s first new play since 2006’s ‘Rock ’n’ Roll’ refers to the thorny issue of consciousness. We have brains, but where — and what — exactly is the mind? Of course Stoppard can write a play about this, and not just because the wily writer opens his play with sexy, young intellectuals bantering half-nude in bed. . . . The actors get the ideas across but often seem like they’ve just picked up this second language steeped in probabilities and academic imperatives. The flaw in the performance seems to line up with the weakness in the script. Too often the talk feels brittle.” (Nelson Pressley) Through Feb. 26 at Studio Theatre, 1501 14th St. NW. Tickets $52-$85, subject to change. Call 202-332-3300 or visit studiotheatre.org.
“King Charles III.” Mike Bartlett’s play in Shakespearean language imagining the next transition in the British monarchy. “The confrontation between Parliament and Buckingham Palace plays out as an entertaining study of the challenge of maintaining a constitutional monarchy in the modern world. A figure like Charles, whom we all imagine to have been champing at the bit all these years as he waited for mum to depart the scene, seems the right sort of personality to upend a government’s expectations for royal docility. When Charles takes his principled stand and makes an enemy of the Prime Minister, the playwright has the opportunity to explore the question of what relevance there is today for a ruler who is not a ruler, who must make his mark not by command, but by intellectual stealth and the fine print in official texts.” (Peter Marks) Through March 12 at Shakespeare Theatre Company’s Sidney Harman Hall, 610 F St. NW. Call 202-547-1122 or visit shakespearetheatre.org.
Mike Bartlett’s “King Charles III,” with Harry Smith as Prince Harry, Robert Joy as King Charles and Michelle Beck as Jessica. (Kevin Berne)
“Last Train to Nibroc.” A “sneakily compelling love story, directed with delicacy by Bill Largess. Intimate, wise and surprising, with a delightful penultimate narrative twist, ‘Last Train’ (1998) follows the relationship between Raleigh (Wood Van Meter) and May (Lexi Langs), who meet on a train somewhere west of Chicago in 1940. . . . ‘Last Train’ is not a play that coasts on showy action: May and Raleigh principally talk, with conversation sometimes shading into teasing, bickering or reproach. Still, Largess’s staging never feels static or gabby: Each strand of conversation is gripping.” (Celia Wren) Through Feb. 26 at the Undercroft Theatre, Mount Vernon Place United Methodist Church, 900 Massachusetts Ave. NW. Tickets $50-$60. Call 202-582-0050 or visit stageguild.org.
“Peter & the Starcatcher.” Constellation Theatre Company brings its flair for mini-spectacle to the boisterous off-Broadway hit about Peter Pan. “Irresistible . . . Many of the show’s best moments feature actors meshing together in ensemble sequences, such as a shipboard battle or a line of warbling mermaids. Sometimes the performers animate, or transform into, physical objects, including island boulders and the shards of a shattered mirror. Impressively, the ensemble movement never looks busy or cluttered; it simply conjures up one clear, lively image after another.” (Celia Wren) Through March 12 at Constellation Theatre Company, 1835 14th St. NW. Call 202-204-7741 or visit constellationtheatre.org.
“The River.” The D.C. premiere of Jez Butterworth’s moody three-character drama (debuting 2012 in London, 2014 in New York) about an isolated fisherman and women who come and go. “Feels like a variation on the Luis Buñuel film ‘That Obscure Object of Desire,’ in which two actresses play one woman who keeps eluding the main character. . . . Buffs of subtle mind games may lean in to Butterworth’s intimate dialogue, which is full of feints and hesitations. Otherwise, not even the coolly understated acting (with mild British accents) will lure you.” (Nelson Pressley) Through Feb. 26 at Spooky Action Theater, 1810 16th St. NW. Call 202-248-0301 or visit spookyaction.org.
“Sweeney Todd.” “Stephen Sondheim’s musical is a lip-smacking banquet, and while Jason Loewith’s staging at the Olney has a lot going for it, a few too many of this juicy potboiler’s most savory moments go down in a hasty gulp. Loewith goes big, raising a cinematic curtain (featuring a blood-dripping ‘Sweeney’ logo) on an imposing Victorian set. Sonically, too, the show aims for grandeur. Musical director Christopher Youstra’s orchestra is only nine strong, yet it suggests the original symphonic feeling with its dark woodwinds, crashing percussion and creepy muted trumpet. . . . Then there’s David Benoit, a burly, edgy, golden-throated Sweeney, a formidable centerpiece for the epic show this nearly is.” (Nelson Pressley) Through March 5 at Olney Theatre Center, 2001 Olney-Sandy Spring Rd., Olney. Tickets $38-$80. Call 202-924-3400 or visit olneytheatre.org.
Doug Wilder as the title character — a chimpanzee — in Nick Jones’s "Trevor" at 1st Stage. (Teresa Castracane)
“Trevor.” “A tragicomedy by Nick Jones, who has written for ‘Orange Is the New Black.’ In the play’s central conceit, the eponymous chimp expresses himself in English, just as [the human] Sandra does; we can understand him, while she can’t. Throughout director Alex Levy’s solid staging, however, words do just part of the work: Portraying the title character without any chimp costume or makeup, Doug Wilder adopts a lolling, crouching, simian physicality that — in conjunction with the character’s chatter — drives home the acuteness of Trevor’s plight.” (Celia Wren) Through March 5 at 1st Stage, 1524 Spring Hill Rd., Tysons. Tickets $30. Call 703-854-1856 or visit 1ststagetysons.org.
“Watch on the Rhine.” “We live in unsubtle times, which proves to be a fitting atmosphere for the bare-knuckled, good-vs.-evil symmetry of Arena Stage’s sure-handed revival of Lillian Hellman’s anti-fascist melodrama . . . In the story of the return after 20 years to the suburban Washington mansion of Fanny Farrelly (Marsha Mason) by her daughter Sara (Lise Bruneau) and Sara’s Nazi-fighting husband Kurt Müller (Andrew Long), some creakiness manifests itself. But its unvarnished righteousness also comes across at this particular instant as kind of refreshing.” (Peter Marks) Through March 5 at Arena Stage, 1101 Sixth St. SW. Tickets $40-$110, subject to change. Call 202-488-3300 or visit arenastage.org .
"Yo También Hablo de la Rosa (I Too Speak of the Rose)." (Stan Weinstein)
“Yo También Hablo de la Rosa (I Too Speak of the Rose).” “An idiosyncratic work whose social commentary is buttressed by flights of poetry and quirkily expressed insights on how humans parse reality. The Medium (the compelling Julieta Egurrola, one of Mexico’s leading actors) and the Lecturer (Peter Pereyra) represent the more fanciful and philosophical reaches of the play, which was first staged in 1966. (The Gala production, performed in Spanish with English surtitles, is billed as the U.S. premiere.)” (Celia Wren) Through Feb. 26 at GALA Hispanic Theatre, 3333 14th St. NW. Tickets $40-$45. Call 202-234-7174 or visit galatheatre.org.
“Hooded, or Being Black for Dummies.” “In the breathtakingly on-point new comedy ‘Hooded, or Being Black for Dummies,’ one of the two young black men sharing a jail cell was trespassing while ‘Trayvoning,’ the real-life meme of kids lying down like the slain teen Trayvon Martin. A ‘laugh’ sign hangs over the stage and lights up at inappropriate times. The edgy script seems like it might be all over the place, but playwright Tearrance Arvelle Chisholm has a firm hand on the steering wheel as he careens full speed into stereotypes and race-based crises. Even with its fusillade of the n-word, the bracingly timely show is as user-friendly as its sarcastic title promises.” (Nelson Pressley) Through Feb. 19 at the Atlas Performing Arts Center, 1333 H St. NE. Tickets $40-$60. Call 202-399-7993 or visit mosaictheater.org.
Lisa Loomer’s Roe v. Wade drama “Roe.” (Jenny Graham)
“I Wanna F-ing Tear You Apart.” A premiere on friendship and anger from Morgan Gould. “Gould, who wrote and directed this Studio Theatre world premiere, has some smart and funny things to say about obsessive friendship, in a story set in an Upper Manhattan apartment shared by a gay man and a straight woman who gossip and snuggle and chafe and dance around frantically to loud music in the wee hours of the morning. . . . And then into this impressive structure Gould swings a wrecking ball of uncanny illogic.” (Peter Marks) Through Feb. 19 at Studio Theatre, 1501 14th St. NW. Tickets $45-$55, subject to change. Call 202-332-3300 or visit studiotheatre.org .
“Roe.” Lisa Loomer’s Roe v. Wade drama gets its east coast premiere at Arena Stage. “Even if Loomer’s work is presented by director Bill Rauch in a sometimes prosaic, finger-wagging style — prompting memories of gratingly earnest high school assemblies — the topic is important enough and the production informative enough to merit the platform the company is providing. . . . With abundant care, the playwright refracts the complexity of abortion rights through the personal prisms of two emblematic real-life characters: Sarah Weddington (Sarah Jane Agnew), the Texas lawyer who brought the case, and Norma McCorvey (Sara Bruner), the Dallas woman forever known by the Everywoman sobriquet Jane Roe, and who, denied access to a medical abortion, was persuaded by Weddington to become the plaintiff.” (Peter Marks) Through Feb. 19 at Arena Stage, 1101 Sixth St. SW. Tickets $40-$110, subject to change. Call 202-488-3300 or visit arenastage.org .
“Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” “In the persons of Gregory Linington and Holly Twyford, the Ford’s Theatre revival, directed with sharpshooter’s acumen by Aaron Posner, Washington audiences are getting as good as this toxically funny masterwork gives. Enhanced smartly by Danny Gavigan and Maggie Wilder as the seemingly defenseless younger couple who stumble into George and Martha’s web, the three-act production glides by on a sizzlingly steady current of boozy accusation and twisted mind games. Rarely does so much malice spread so much glee.” (Peter Marks) Through Feb. 19 at Ford’s Theatre, 511 10th St. NW. Tickets $15-$62. Call 888-616-0270 or visit fords.org.
TYA (Theater for Young Audiences)
Malinda Kathleen Reese plays the title role in "Ella Enchanted" at Adventure Theatre. (Sarah Straub)
“The Freshest Snow Whyte.” A new hip-hop version of the fairy tale for kids 5 and older from local writer-director Psalmeyene 24, with music by Nick “tha 1 da” Hernandez. Through March 18 at Imagination Stage, 4908 Auburn Ave., Bethesda. Tickets $10-$35. Call 301-280-1660 or visit imaginationstage.org.
“Ella Enchanted.” A world premiere adaptation of the Gail Carson Levine book (also known as a rather popular movie), written by Karen Zacarías, music by Deborah Wicks LaPuma, directed by Mary Hall Surface. Through March 19 at Adventure Theatre MTC, 7300 MacArthur Blvd., Glen Echo. Tickets $19.50. 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.
“Shear Madness.” The indestructible interactive comedy whodunit, at 12,000-plus performances. Ongoing in the Kennedy Center’s Theater Lab. Tickets $50-$54. Call 202-467-4600 or visit kennedy-center.org.
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