BEST THEATER BETS -- COMING SOON
In addition to current offerings as well as the O’Neill Festival with all of its main attractions and special events, the spring leading up to summer offers a treasure trove of new and old plays all over the region. Here’s a look at some of the more alluring and interesting, as well as entertaining, bets coming soon to a theater near you:
"Brother Russia" — How about a rock musical about Grigori Yefimovich Rasputin, the mad monk and evil influence on the Czar of all the Russias who helped fuel the Russian Revolution? Signature Theater artistic director Eric Schaeffer, never one to shy from a challenge, takes a show being put on by a rag-tag Russian troupe putting on rocking versions of classic works by Tolstoy and Dostoevsky. But this time they’re featuring their star, impresario and inspiration, Rasputin, the mad monk. With music by Dana Rowe and lyrics by John Dempsey — the creators of popular Signature hits “The Fix” and “The Witches of Eastwick” — Schaeffer is directing another world premiere. John Lescault will star as the infamous rocking monk. “Brother Russia” will be performed at Signature’s MAX Theatre March 6 through April 15.
“You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown” — I know, I know, sounds sappy, but we say it isn’t so. Who doesn’t like Charlie Brown and Peanuts and Lucy and the rest of the Peanuts gang? An enduring musical returns to the Olney Theatre Center this week and runs through March 18.
“1776” — A must-see, not only for all those conservative folks in the country who claim first-name friendship and knowledge of our founding fathers but for those of us who don’t. All factions are bound to be surprised to find that George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams and others were: human, very. This musical, a classic often done but always fresh, centers around the meeting of the delegates to the Second Continental Congress, as they decided whether to leave the British Empire, while Jefferson, missing his wife badly, writes the DOI. Great, adult, political and musical fun, this production, directed by Peter Flynn with an assist from Jennifer Nelson, opens at Ford’s Theater March 9 and runs through May 19.
“Crown of Shadows, the Wake of Odysseus” — a world premiere by Jason Gray Platt, fits nicely into the literary bent evident lately at the Round House Theater in Bethesda where Blake Robinson will be directing this play, a modern version of what happens to the family Ulysses left behind while on his long journey home from Troy. April 11-May 6.
“New Jerusalem: The Interrogation of Baruch de Spinoza at Talmud Torah Congregation: Amsterdam, July 27, 1656” —Despite the long title, this is a compelling piece of theater. Ask anyone who saw it at Theater J in 2010. The play, by the versatile and eclectic playwright-director David Ives (“Venus in Fur”), is directed by Jerry Skidmore and stars Alexander Strain as Spinoza, the ardent 16th-century proponent of rationalism and brilliant absolute philosopher who is facing excommunication from his Jewish community. The production is accompanied by discussion, a companion play-in-progress called “Spinoza’s Solitude.” It also features Michael Tolaydo repeating his Helen Hayes-nominated performance as Spinoza’s mentor. February 29-April 1
"Petrushka" and Basil Twist — World famous, stylish, edgy and outrageous puppeteer Basil Twist is having quite a time for himself in Washington. Twist, regarded by the Creative Capital Foundation as one of the most “ambitious and imaginative” puppeteers in the world, is re-imagining “Petrushka,” the Ballet Russe production about a clown, a Moor and a ballerina at the Shakespeare Theatre Company’s Lansburgh Theatre, March 16 through 25. Then, from April 4 through May 6, Twist teams up with cabaret star Joey Arias to tell the story of a drag queen in the Garden of Eden at the Woolly Mammoth Theatre -- "Arias With a Twist." Oh, and just for fun, Twist will perform in a 1,000-gallon water tank at the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center’s Kogod Theatre March 29-31.
"Sucker Punch" — This one could provide a knockout hit for Studio Theater. It’s a new play by Roy Williams, deemed one of Britain’s finest playwrights by the Guardian newspaper, and it’s a first production for one of Williams’s plays in the United States, directed by Leah C. Gardiner with fight choreography by Peter Pucci. This U.S. premiere is about two black brothers trying to box their way to world fame in the Margaret Thatcher era. February 29-April 8.
The Tamings of the Shrews — There are not one but two “Taming of the Shrews” on tap, one in which Katarina gets to yell, and one in which she does not. Synetic Theatre, the stars from Georgia will perform its wordless version at the Lansburgh Theatre, March 29-April 22, and the Folger Theatre concludes its season with the more traditional — words by William Shakespeare — version, May 1-June 10.
"Spamalot" — The nutty knights of Camelot return to Washington in their slightly altered (via Monty Python) forms in Monty Python’s “Spamalot” the 2005 Best Musical of 2005. March 13-18 at the Warner.
Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day”—Judith Viorst’s much beloved children’s and family book becomes a highlight of Adventure Theater’s 60th anniversary season, directed by Gail Humphries with music by Shelly Markham and starring Broadway’s Sandy Bainum. March 2-April 9.