performing arts guide

Performing Arts Guide 2017

DC is one of the country’s top hubs for theatre, with more professional theaters and productions per year than most major cities save a few (not sure we can ever compete with NYC, but one can dream). Even still, our city strikes a near perfect balance between superb performances at iconic venues to edgier, more daring works at up-and-coming spots carving their own niche in local theatre. As the 2017-2018 theatre season heats up, we decided to not only pick out some of this fall’s most unique productions but also to expand our annual roundup to include other standout lineups in the performing arts – from standup and improv to dance and opera. Read our list of performances worth checking out between now and the end of the year, plus a few spots with ongoing programming in comedy, hip-hop and even burlesque.


An Act of God
In this sinfully hilarious comedy, God inhabits the body of David Javerbaum of The Daily Show – and boy, does he have a sh-t ton to say to us messed up mortals. Never without his loyal archangels, Michael and Gabriel, God delivers a new set of Ten Commandments so you can stop sweating so much in church. All jokes aside (for a moment anyway), Javerbaum is a 13-time Emmy Award winner. The New York Times calls An Act of God, “a gut-busting-funny riff on the never-ending folly of mankind.” There has never been a more pertinent time for humanity to be the butt of a skewering joke or two, so don’t miss the chance to die laughing at our sins. Tickets start at $40. Signature Theatre: 4200 Campbell Ave. Arlington, VA;


The Effect
You know the gut-wrenching, heart-pounding, mildly nauseous feeling you get when you know you’ve fallen for someone hard? What if you were told that feeling was only a side effect of a medication? Connie and Tristan are subjects in a medical trial for antidepressants. When they fall in love, differentiating between love and chemicals becomes increasingly difficult, especially in a situation that involves doctors, the tricky ground of acclimating to new medications and big pharma to boot. Showtimes vary. Tickets cost $20-$45. Studio Theatre: 1501 14th St. NW, DC;


Assassins Presented by Pallas Theatre Collective
It’s always a bit jarring to watch a production of this classic American musical in DC. Grounded in Stephen Sondheim’s genius lyrics and wrenching musical composition, the show tells the story of America’s four presidential assassins and five would-be assassins. The actors speak and sing directly to the audience, making the play captivating and holding you on the edge of your seat as you uncomfortably consider the “other side” of the story, and find comedy in unexpected moments. Capital Fringe’s production, directed by Clare Shaffer, is sure to be a rendition worth seeing. Tickets are $25. Logan Fringe Arts Space/Trinidad Theatre: 1358 Florida Ave NE;


Sam Morril at the Big Hunt
A nationally touring comic and former intern with The Colbert Report, Morril has performed on Inside Amy Schumer, Conan and The Tonight Show with Stephen Colbert. A frequent performer at New York City indie and underground shows, Morril is bringing his jokes to Underground Comedy, and there couldn’t be a more relevant time to go see him. His Comedy Central special, Class Act, became No. 1 on iTunes comedy specials, and a popular online comedy magazine describes his ability to make the “unfunny very funny.” So ignore your real problems and go see this rising comic while he’s in the area. Tickets are $15. The Big Hunt: 1345 Connecticut Ave NW, DC;


The Price
Often overshadowed by American playwright Arthur Miller’s other works like The Crucible and Death of a Salesman, The Price tells the story of Victor Franz, a man who returns home to settle his late father’s affairs. During the Great Depression, Victor gives up his chance to go to college in order to care for his father. Years later, in an attic of a soon-to-be-demolished home, overflowing with memories and dusty furniture, Franz must come to terms with the weight of the decision he made on behalf of his father. The Price premiered on Broadway in 1968 and has been produced there four times since. Various dates and showtimes. Tickets cost $91, but check Arena’s website for Pay Your Age/Under 30 Program and student deals. Arena Stage: 1101 Sixth St. SW, DC;


Samson and Delilah
Before you rule out seeing an opera just because it’s an opera, give this one a chance. This performance tells the biblical story of Samson, an Israelite warrior who meets his downfall in the form of a beautiful woman who seduces and then betrays him. The French opera was written by Camille Saint-Saëns and couldn’t be performed until 15 years after it was written due to its “sensual” subject matter. Still not sold? The final scene is infamous for portraying a bacchanal which consists of a dance by Delilah intended to seduce Samson. You don’t have to be old and a millionaire to enjoy a damn good story. Tickets start at $54. George Mason University’s Center for the Arts: 4400 University Dr. Fairfax, VA;


Matthew Bourne’s The Red Shoes
Based on the Hans Christian Andersen (The Little Mermaid – the sad one) fairytale, The Red Shoes is a popular fairytale that tells the story of a woman who wants to do nothing more than follow her dream: to dance. She finds herself torn between a man who brings her fame and a man she loves. Filled with swing, waltz, ballet and all the glitz and glamour of the 40s, this drama is premiering in DC and is sure to make its way into your heart. British director Matthew Bourne has won a Tony Award for Best Director with his rendition of Swan Lake, so you know you won’t be let down when it comes to an emotional story. Show runs from October 10-15. Tickets cost $29-$129. The Kennedy Center: 2700 F St. NW, DC;


Antony and Cleopatra
Easily one of the most intriguing plays ever written, Antony and Cleopatra is so chockfull of sexual symbolism, it’s hard to believe the Bard ever got a reputation as highbrow. Antony is torn between his passionate affair with Cleopatra and his sense of duty – familial and military – to those who depend on him in Rome (including a wife). As if the characters and the story aren’t captivating enough, Folger will transform into a round theater with the stage in the center, offering a unique experience and view no matter where you’re seated. Pro tip: keep an eye out for the subversion of gender roles and the symbolism of the snake. You’re welcome. Various dates and showtimes. Tickets cost $35-$79. Folger Theatre: 201 East Capitol St. SE, DC;


Whoopi Goldberg
This iconic actress and hilarious comedian doesn’t let herself be limited. Goldberg is a known humanitarian, author and television show host, in addition to being funny AF and the best part of every movie. This multifaceted actress is bringing her wit, charm and jokes to a night of standup at the Kennedy Center. The decorated performer is also one of the few winners of an EGOT (Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony Award), so don’t miss out on the chance to see Goldberg’s charming personality in person. Nun costumes optional. Tickets cost $49-$125. The Kennedy Center: 2700 F St. NW, DC;


Tango Buenos Aires: The Spirit of Argentina
The Andes Mountains and the Plaza de Mayo are two reasons to visit Argentina at some point in your life, but if you’re anything like me and a trip to South America is not in the foreseeable future, then mark your calendar for this. Take a trip through the evolution of tango with the dancers of Tango Buenos Aires. This isn’t a show to remind of your own two left feet, but an exploration of music and a historically and culturally iconic form of dance. And if just sitting on the sidelines isn’t your thing, join a free dance lesson before the show starting at 6:30 p.m. The lesson is free with a ticket to the show, and couples are encouraged. The show is at 8 p.m. Tickets start at $30. George Mason University’s Center for the Arts: 4400 University Dr. Fairfax, VA;


UrbanArias: Shining Brow
You are most definitely familiar with the crushing feeling when one of your artistic heroes says, does or is accused of doing something indefensible. Or even when someone famous you don’t like gets a pass on morally reprehensible behavior – looking at you, NFL fans – just because they’re good at what they do. People warn you against meeting heroes for a reason. But when it comes to art, we tend to make excuses for brilliant people who behave badly, as if genius is some sort of curse. This opera explores the life of iconic architect Frank Lloyd Wright, his affair and his “enormous self-regard.” Tickets cost $39-$42. The Paul Sprenger Theatre: 1333 H St. NE, DC;


The Adventures of Peter Pan/Synetic Theater’s Vampire’s Ball
The cast, crew and producers at Synetic Theater are masters at their craft, which is to say that year after year, they take traditional productions and make them magical by removing dialogue. That’s right – body movement, choreography, music, sound, lights and raw emotions set the stage and rule the show at Synetic, creating an audience experience that is unique to say the least. In keeping with its magical, mysterious vibe, the theater will hold its 11th annual Vampire’s Ball right before Halloween. Tickets to the ball include a performance of The Adventures of Peter Pan, plus a post-show party with dancing, an open bar, and, of course, a costume contest. Tickets are $25-$70. Synetic Theater: 1800 South Bell St. Arlington, VA;


Mean Girls
You can’t sit with us! But you can sit in National Theatre to see the new musical adaptation of the now classic teen movie about friendship, revenge and navigating the perils of high school life (let’s be real, life in general), that starred post-Parent Trap and pre-arrest LiLo. With a Tony-winning director, comedy from Tina Fey, original music from Jeff Richmond (30 Rock, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt) and lyrics by Nell Benjamin (Legally Blonde), this has got to be even better than the movie. Mean Girls comes to National for its world premiere before heading to Broadway next spring. Tickets are $48-$108. The National Theatre: 1321 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, DC;


Metro Tap Roots
There is nothing quite like the sound of taps clicking and shuffling lightly across the stage, or across the concrete, or anywhere, really, to set the rhythms in your soul to moving. Now in its third annual showing, Metro Tap Roots is a celebration of the DC area’s vibrant and rich history of the art of tap dancing. This year, Roots will be performed in collaboration with renowned African-American poet Nikki Giovanni. The show is inspired by Giovanni’s children’s book, The Grasshopper’s Song: An Aesop’s Fable Revisited. Tickets are $15-$30. Dance Place: 3225 8th St. NE, DC;


Top Girls
Keegan Theatre is a hidden gem among DC’s playhouses. Surrounded by brownstones and tucked away on a narrow, tree-lined street, the venue has a magical way of transporting you to another world even before a show begins. Keegan is known for its unique and challenging productions, and Top Girls should be top among them. Directed by Amber Paige McGinnis, Top Girls is as relevant now as it was when written in 1982. According to Keegan’s website, “the play presents complex questions about a feminism which mimics aggressive, oppressive behavior and success which can only be achieved by abandoning family ties to force a way to the top.” Tickets are $35-$45. Keegan Theatre: 1742 Church St. NW, DC;


Kevin Smith
Do we really have to write a lengthy litany of reasons for you to go see Kevin Smith? Probably not, but we’re going to pontificate anyway for the sake of gratuitous self-gratification, and because we really enjoy Mr. Smith. Basically, the man is a creative force of nature, stemming from his 90s hit Clerks, which sparked his celebrity and his film career. The homemade movie about dudes shooting the sh-t in a gas station kicked off his filmography and then sprawled into multiple movies set in his “View Askewniverse,” podcasts, television shows and of course, his live standup. Well, I guess it’s not technically standup, but it’s titled “An Evening With,” which is sort of misleading because it sounds like something you’d put in your calendar for a Tinder date. Yeah, yeah, I know that’s not the case (Smith is married, ladies), but hanging out at the Lincoln while Smith says cool sh-t sounds good enough for us. Doors at 6:30 p.m. Tickets are $35. The Lincoln Theatre: 1215 U St. NW, DC;


Dance Metro DC
Since 2005, Dance Metro DC has been committed to a mission of strengthening and supporting the field of dance in our region – advocating for artists, promoting exhibitions, and educating and providing a network for dancers from all disciplines. This fall presentation continues that mission, showcasing the work of dance artists that have been commissioned by the organization. Tickets are $15-$30. Dance Place: 3225 8th St. NE, DC;


The Second City’s Twist Your Dickens
Chicago’s legendary comedy troupe The Second City is bringing Christmas to the Kennedy Center like never before. Twist Your Dickens is the perfect show to wipe away any holiday blues that may come your way. You’ll meet new versions of the characters from Dickens’ classic A Christmas Carol, and won’t be able to think of Scrooge, Tiny Tim or the three spirits in the same way again. Audience participation will round out this parody, so be ready to join in and become a part of the satire. While all in good fun, the show is recommended for ages 16 and up. Tickets are $49-$69. The Kennedy Center: 2700 F St. NW, DC;


Hip Hop Nutcracker 
If you feel like getting into the holiday spirit, but are tired of seeing the same shows year after year, this one is for you. Hip Hop Nutcracker gives whole new meaning to “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy,” with a cast of a dozen all-star dancers spinning the turntable on this Christmas classic. Jaw-dropping hip-hop choreography, special guest MC Kurtis Blow, an onstage DJ, electric violinist and digital scenery bring Tchaikovsky’s score and the story of Clara and her nutcracker to new light in a contemporary urban setting. Tickets are $28-$58. The Music Center at Strathmore: 5301 Tuckerman Ln. North Bethesda, MD;


An Irish Carol
Opening your presents right after midnight or waiting until everyone is done with brunch, copious amounts of eggnog or a total lack thereof, buying ugly sweaters for the pup or detangling the cat from the Christmas tree – everyone has their own versions of holiday traditions. And this year, Keegan Theatre needs to be on the agenda. Set in modern times, An Irish Carol tells the familiar story of a man who puts material success ahead of everything else and must rethink his life when faced with voices from the past. So, ditch the crowded malls playing Mariah Carey on loop and add a new routine to your holiday season. Showtimes and dates vary. Tickets start at $35. Keegan Theatre: 1742 Church St. NW, DC;


Judah Friedlander at DC Improv
You may know him from 30 Rock or Wet Hot American Summer, but even if you don’t know who Judah Friedlander is, if you don’t even like comedy shows (who are you, anyway?) and even if – perhaps especially if – your soul is black and no humor penetrates it, don’t miss the opportunity to see this master comedian at work. He is the World Champion of comedy. He was a strong contender for the 2016 presidency. He wrote a book about how great he is. Basically, when he gets here, he’s going to out-DC the city in a hot minute, and will make you pee-laugh while doing it. Tickets are $20. DC Improv: 1140 Connecticut Ave. NW, DC;


Big Duo Improv Comedy Night
This monthly improv comedy show brought to you by comedy duo Big No No is the kind of lowkey laugh that even the staunchest of comedy haters can enjoy. In the chill atmosphere of everybody’s favorite coffeehouse/bar/hipster hang Colony Club, Big No No’s Sam and Michael (who have been working their own two-man routine since 2013) gather two new comedy duos each month for a themed show before rounding out the evening with their own skit. It’s a really nice reprieve from the real world. Go for the laughs. Stay for the friendship. Free. Colony Club: 3118 Georgia Ave. NW, DC;

Fantasie Fridays at SAX
Enter through reclaimed, gilded church doors into a world of decadence and debauchery (irony not to be missed), and find yourself in a tiny Versailles. The SAX is two floors of ornate adult wonderland catering to the art of cabaret where, “beginning with dinner, the evening slowly gathers energy as guests are treated to continuous live entertainment, where ballet meets burlesque meets Cirque de Soleil.” On Friday nights, a cast of aerialists, pole performers, belly dancers and more take the stage to create a phantasmagoric evening where the lines of the real and the imaginary blur. Fridays; inquire for more details. SAX DC: 734 11th St. NW, DC;

Hip-Hop at the Kennedy Center
One of the most iconic performing arts centers in the country is providing a space for hip-hop artists and lovers to celebrate everything hip-hop culture. On November 5, enjoy the Words, Beats and Life competition, an event dedicated to breakdance and graffiti. If breakdancing is going to end up with you breaking something, show up for In The Beginning, a silent dance party that is free and doesn’t require tickets. If Throwback Thursday is your favorite day of the week, then don’t miss the chance to hear music of hip-hop trailblazers who helped define the culture as we understand it today. Various dates and showtimes. Ticket prices vary. The Kennedy Center: 2700 F St. NW, DC;

Underground Comedy
The Big Hunt is one of DC’s oldest and most popular “dive bars.” And if you take a deep dive down into the establishment’s basement (affectionately known as “Hell’s Kitchen”) on a Wednesday through Saturday night of any given week, you’re guaranteed at least a laugh or two with your cheap beer and bottom shelf liquor when Underground Comedy, “DC’s premier independent comedy production company,” takes over the mic. Wednesdays and Thursdays are reserved for the best of DC’s standup comedy community, while Friday and Saturday shows feature comedians from around the country, including national headliners. Ongoing Wednesday through Saturday, tickets run from free to $15. The Big Hunt: 1345 Connecticut Ave. NW, DC;