Early Curtain Risers of D.C.’s Theater Season
Sure still feels like summer out there, but curtains are about to go up on the 2016-17 theater season.
One of the biggest and most ambitious projects in our area is only a week away from opening. Bethesda’s Round House Theatre is co-producing with Olney Theatre Center, its Montgomery County neighbor, a 25th anniversary production of Tony Kushner’s groundbreaking two-part epic “Angels in America.” “Part 1: Millennium Approaches” will alternate with “Part II: Perestroika,” both directed by Round House Artistic Director Ryan Rilette and Olney Artistic Director Jason Loewith.
Kushner’s Pulitzer- and Tony-winning work deals with the AIDS epidemic, still raging at the time; politics, both national and international; sexuality, of course; and religion. It features as characters a young man afflicted with AIDS and his closeted Mormon lover (who has a valium-addicted wife), not to mention Roy Cohn, Ethel Rosenberg and, yes, a furious, prophecy-bearing angel. In the cast are Kimberly Gilbert, Dawn Ursula, Mitchell Hébert, Thomas Keegan, Sarah Marshall, Jon Hudson Odom, Jonathan Bock and Tom Story.
No less interesting is the first offering of Studio Theatre’s season, the classic “Cloud 9” by Caryl Churchill, a play about gender, desire and society still revolutionary 35 years after its premiere. Holly Twyford, one of Washington’s brightest stars, heads the cast of the play, which is being directed by Michael Kahn, artistic director of the Shakespeare Theatre Company. In “Cloud 9,” running Sept. 7 through Oct. 16, late-Victorian Africa intersects with late-1970s London.
Also at Studio, the theater has again extended its outrageous production of the black comedy “Hand to God,” through Sept. 18.
At Ford’s Theatre, the new folk-rock musical “Come From Away” begins Sept. 2. This unusual show, already a hit in San Diego and Seattle, is about 9/11, when 38 planes and 6,579 passengers were stranded in Gander, Newfoundland. Directed by Christopher Ashley, it runs through Oct. 9.
That Jane Austen is sure a popular woman. An adaptation by Kate Hamill of the Regency English novelist’s book “Sense and Sensibility” will open the Folger Theatre’s season on Sept. 13 and run through Oct. 30. The all-new production, directed by Eric Tucker, features the gifted Erin Weaver as Marianne Dashwood and Maggie McDowell as her sister Elinor.
After finishing a successful debut season under Artistic Director Ari Roth, Mosaic Theater Company of DC has already started its second season with Terry Teachout’s one-man show “Satchmo at the Waldorf.” The play, which looks at the life and times and career of Louis Armstrong, features local star Craig Wallace as not only Satchmo, but his Jewish manager Joe Glaser and his rival in genius, trumpeter Miles Davis. It runs through Sept. 25 at the Atlas Arts Center.
GALA Hispanic Theatre opens its season with something quintessentially Spanish, the world premiere of “Cervantes: El último Quijote” (“The Last Quixote”). The theater is entering its fifth decade by commemorating the 400th anniversary of the death of Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, author of “Don Quixote,” the jewel of the golden age of Spanish literature and drama. The play, commissioned by GALA, was written by Jordi Casanovas. Directed by 2016 Helen Hayes Award winner Jose Luis Arellano, it will be performed Sept. 8 through Oct. 2.
“Urinetown: The Musical” is being produced by Constellation Theatre at 1835 14th St. NW through Oct. 9. A hit on Broadway and at theaters around the country, the show is about a city in the midst of a dire water shortage, ready to rise up against an all-powerful corporation trying to ban private toilets. Directed by Allison Arkell Stockman, “Urinetown” won Tonys in 2002 for Best Musical, Best Book and Best Score.
Theater J is opening its season with “The Last Schwartz” by Deborah Zoe Laufer, which is described as an absurd and thoughtful comedy about a dysfunctional Jewish family. It begins Sept. 7 and runs through Oct. 2. Artistic Director Adam Immerwahr is directing.
Scena Theatre returns to the Atlas Performing Art Center with Artistic Director Robert McNamara starring in “Report to the Academy,” based on a short story by Franz Kafka, directed by Gabriele Jakobi. “Report” was a successful part of last year’s Fringe Festival.
Woolly Mammoth opens its season Sept. 12 with the hard-to-describe “Collective Rage: A Play in Five Boops” by Jen Silverman, directed by Mike Donahue, in which five different women named Betty collide at the intersection of anger, sex and the “thea-tah.” It runs through Oct. 9.
Finally, let’s not forget that local jazz star Mark Meadows is killing it at Signature Theatre as Jelly Roll Morton in “Jelly’s Last Jam,” through Sept. 11.