Winter Theater Season Off to Lively Start
Washington’s 2014 theater scene offers an eclectic mix of entertainment. We’ve got Shakespeare, Moliere, Oscar Wilde. We’ve got new plays and old plays and new ways to put old plays on stage. We’ve got musicals and Peter Pan and Ella Fitzgerald. And of course we’ve got politics.
Shakespeare—he’s always here in one way or another. The accent right now is “another.” The redoubtable Georgian duo of Paata and Irina Tsikurishvili of Synetic Theatre star in and direct “Twelfth Night,” another in a series of the group’s “silent Shakespeare” productions. While there are no words there’s a lot of dancing and music, all set in the Roaring ‘20s, which seems almost perfect for the Bard’s story about disguised twins, mistaken gender identities, bad pranks and a sot named Toby Belch. Through Feb. 16 at Synetic Theatre.
Now is the (horrible) winter of our discontent, which kicks off a new production of “Richard III” at the Folger Library. It’s Elizabethan Theatre has been reconfigured into a theater-in-the-round seating plan, for the first time in the Folger’s history. Now through March 9.
The folks at Constellation Theatre are always fresh and new, even when they’re telling old tales. This time it’s a new adaptation of “Scapin” by Moliere—the Neil Simon of his day, which would be the time of Louis XIV. This production, adapted by Bill Irwin and Mark O’Donnell, nicely blends Irwin’s dry contemporary humor (and a song called “The Schener’s Boogie”) with Moliere’s irreverent, sardonic view of man in his times -- at the Source Theater on 14th Street through Feb. 16.
As for Peter Pan, he’s part of a new, musical re-telling of the story of how Peter became the boy who never grew up. well, you’ll have to see “Peter and the Starcatcher,” a musical tale that won five Tonys on Broadway, now on a national tour in the Kennedy Center’s Eisenhower Theater through Feb. 16. It’s called a grownups prequel to “Peter Pan”, based on a novel by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson. Speaking of music, there’s “Violet,” with a blend of gospel, country and rock, a talent-heavy show set in the 1960s about a scarred young girl in search of a miracle traveling to Oklahoma. It’s at the Ford’s Theatre, it features the Ton Award-nominated composer Jeanine Tesori (of “Caroline or Change” fame) and is directed by Jeff Calhoun (“Newsies,” “Big River”) -- through Feb. 23.
Drama-wise, you should catch the new play “Tribes” by English playwright Nina Raine, directed by David Muse at the Studio Theater. It’s presented in cooperation with Gallaudet University, a play about a deaf member of an academic family who wants to communicate in his own way. Through Feb. 23.
At Arena Stage, Daniel Beaty, playwright, actor and singer, gives a stirring one-man show performance as Paul Robeson—athlete, all- American, actor, singer, activist and civil rights leader—in “The Tallest Tree in the Forest” through Feb. 16.
At Metro Stage in Alexandria, Ella Fitzgerald is revived in “Ella, First Lady of Song,” conceived and directed by Maurice Hines, through March 16.
Oscar Wilde’s most popular play is being staged by the Washington Shakespeare Theatre Company. That would be “The Importance of Being Earnest,” which features one of the juiciest roles for men or women, Lady Bracknell. Keith Baxter—known for his genius for staging Wilde—returns to direct. Sian Philips is Lady Bracknell through March 2 at the Lansburgh Theater.
As for politics, “The Best Man,” arguably one of the best plays ever written about American politics (not counting “1776”) was penned by Gore Vidal—who could probably have matched wits with Wilde—and staged on Broadway in 1960. It’s a tale about principles and their loss during the course of a tough campaign for a presidential nomination. It’s been revived often and was made into a terrific film, starring Henry Fonda and Cliff Robertson. It’s at the Keegan Theatre, Jan. 30 through Feb. 22.