A Not-So-Holiday Theater Roundup
Just because it’s the Christmas season, not everyone wants to be entertained by all things Christmas.
That’s true for theatergoers, who have more than enough Scrooges, Nutcrackers, Santa Clauses and elves than they probably need.
But take heart and beware of what you wish for. There’s plenty of theater fare that isn’t in the spirit of the holiday season, and which sheds a light on how we live today or how we used to live. Here’s a sampling.
The Studio Theater has a play by Traci Letts, the Pulitzer Prize-winning super-charged new writer who gave us the generational and family drama “August: Osage County.” The scale is smaller this time but no less human and acerbically funny. In the wonderfully titled “Superior Donuts,” Letts focuses on the fortunes and friendship between a grouchy, cantankerous white shop owner and a very ambitious black teenager in a changing Chicago neighborhood. The new friends bond over literature, of all things, and American economic values. And there are secrets. Aren’t there always.
This show has already been extended through January 2.
Also at the Studio, in its Stage 4 space, is “Mojo,” by Jez Butterworth. It’s all about London criminals, underground rock and roll and, of course, music and revenge in 1958. It runs through December 26.
“A Wrinkle in Time” is at once a fantasy of wish fulfillment and a quest that goes as far as it can possibly go (another planet). This whimsical theatrical adaptation by John Glare comes to life at the Round House Theater.
And if you’re really not in the mood for Joyous Noel at all, you can welcome back Cherry Red Productions, once Washington’s most outrageous theater group which returns after a number of years with “Wife Swappers,” by Justin Tanner of “Coyote Woman” fame. Despite its subject and some (all right, plenty of) nudity, this comic play about the doings of conservative types trying to get some sexual variety, is surprisingly operatic (think soap) and even sympathetic to its self-justifying characters who talk dirty, but see themselves as otherwise clean.
It’s nice (or dangerous) to have Cherry Red, Ian Allen, Chris Griffin and the gang back. After all, they gave us such plays as “Dingleberries” and “Zombie Attack,” to name a few. In the very intimate space of the DC Arts Center on 18th Street in Adams Morgan, through December 18.
There’s more than “Oklahoma” at Arena Stage and the Mead Center for American Theater. Now through January 8, in the smaller Kogod Cradle Space—meant to nurture new American playwrights—there’s “Every Tongue Confesses,” in which writer Marcus Gardley mixes jukebox blues with church gospel blues and television news to tell a blazing story.
And speaking of news, opening in January at the Kreeger is “Let Me Down Easy,” which marks the return of one-woman dynamo Anna Deavere Smith. Smith wrote and will perform the play in which she lets varied voices speak out and “explores the power of the body, the price of health and the resilience of the spirit.” Beginning December 31 and running through February 13. At the Kreeger in the Mead Center.
Only a few more days left to see Synetic Theater’s dynamic, loud silent style at work in Washington, where a theater piece on the Russian classic “The Master and Margarita” is being performed through December 12 at the Lansburgh Theater.
If you like musicals, but still aren’t interested in the holidays, there’s “Candide,” the Leonard Bernstein cerebral, but very entertaining musical, directed by the magical Mary Zimmerman, based on a novel by Voltaire, with some of the words by Lillian Hellman, and some of the lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and poet Richard Wilbur. With Lauren Molina and Geoff Packard in the leads. At the Shakespeare Theatre Companyn through January 9.
If “Oklahoma” at Arena doesn’t satisfy your Rodgers and Hammerstein jones, there’s the road company of “South Pacific” at the Kennedy Center, which will run December 14 through January 16.
A well-received production of “Annie”, the most optimistic little redheaded girl in the world, with her friend Daddy Warbucks and her dog Sandy, has already been extended to January 7. At the Olney Theater in Maryland. Be prepared to have faith in “Tomorrow.”
A Theater Note
Actor James MacArthur, son of legendary American actress Helen Hayes and playwright Charles MacArthur, passed away recently at the age of 72.
Best known for his series role on the original “Hawaii Five O”, MacArthur is fondly remembered in Washington for carrying on the role played by his late mother, annually presiding over the Helen Hayes Theater Awards, named after her.