Photo: Joan Marcus
Photo: Joan Marcus

Waitress: Serving Up Music and Pie

In 2006, an up-and-coming independent film writer and director by the name of Adrienne Shelly was tragically murdered at the age of 40, just three months prior to the acclaimed release of her movie Waitress.

A decade later, a musical inspired by the cult fave came to Broadway and wowed the theatre community, garnering four Tony nominations in the process. The play’s all-women creative team boasts a book by Jessie Nelson, original music and lyrics by the six-time Grammy-nominated Sara Bareilles, choreography by Lorin Latarro, and direction by Tony Award winner Diane Paulus (Pippin).

A touring version of Waitress will be staged at National Theatre for a three-week run starting May 15. In this production, actress Desi Oakley takes on the role of Jenna, the part that earned Jessie Mueller a Tony nod and brought Bareilles to Broadway for the first time.

“I’d be lying if I didn’t say that Sara Bareilles has been someone who I have looked up to and respected for her music career since she began, so knowing that she wrote a musical was kind of like my two worlds combined, as I’m a singer/songwriter myself,” Oakley says. “When I heard about the show, I thought it was a genius idea and I didn’t think something could be so magical.”

Waitress follows the journey of Jenna, an expert pie maker, who longs for a life away from her job as a waitress, small town and loveless marriage. The solutions to all her problems might be in a baking contest in a nearby county or the town’s new doctor, and her fellow waitresses are more than happy to butt in and provide their own recipes for Jenna’s happiness.

“The story is really important to be telling in this time, and the songs have a lot of purpose,” Oakley says. “This is a story about a woman from a small town who has forgotten her dreams because of her life circumstances. Through this journey of her eyes being open, she learns her true self and is reminded that her dreams are worth fighting for. It’s a story of friendship, love and self-acceptance.”

Oakley has appeared on Broadway in a trio of shows – WickedLes Misérables and Annie – and has toured with national tours of Evita and Wicked. She saw Waitress early in its run on Broadway, but never dreamed Jenna would be a part she would one day play.

“A lot of times when I see a show, I think, ‘I’d love to do that show,’ but it wasn’t even a glimmer in my eye. I just let the story affect me as an audience member. I think it makes a lot of sense now, but when I was watching it, I just let the story work its magic.”

Once cast in the part, Oakley stayed away from listening to the cast recording. She says her voice is prone to mimic, and she wanted to offer he own take on Jenna.

“I went back to the feel of what I heard and what I knew from listening to Sara. I read the script again and took a dive into the story to prepare.”

Another thing she did was rewatch the 2007 movie version of Waitress.

“I had seen it and loved Keri Russell in it, but hadn’t remembered a lot of it,” Oakley says. “We’re dramatizing the story onstage, so there are a lot of differences and a lot of heightened moments. I really like how Diane Paulus has staged it.”

The production’s changes in costumes, lights, sets and sound make it seem in many ways like a film. Oakley feels that’s a great nod to the movie, and fans of that version of Waitress will not be disappointed in the musical.

Oakley is enjoying the tour, as she loves traveling to different parts of the country and seeing and experiencing new places. She’s contracted for the tour through at least the fall, and is thrilled to be making the character her own.

“My favorite thing is how real Jenna is,” she says. “I hardly ever leave the stage, but if I’m a little tired or stressed or anxious, that’s okay because those feelings work in Jenna. The more real I get, the more she will continue to be real. I’m embracing that and accepting myself, just as Jenna is in the story.”

When not onstage, Oakley is pursuing a career in singing and songwriting.

“It’s hard to make time for both, and right now, my focus is on this tour. I’m writing when I can, but my second album is on hold. Nothing fuels me like sitting down at the piano, so my heart will eventually lead me back to it.”

Oakley’s original music can be found on Spotify and iTunes. Waitress runs at National Theatre from May 15 to June 3. Tickets start at $28. For more information, visit www.thenationaldc.org.

National Theatre: 1321 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, DC; 202-628-6161; www.thenationaldc.org

Photo: Courtesy of Shakespeare Theatre Company
Photo: Courtesy of Shakespeare Theatre Company

Lucky Steals Show in Waiting For Godot

Hope and despair, slapstick comedy and profound philosophical musings, each are abound in quick succession in Samuel Beckett’s iconic and mysterious play Waiting for Godot.

Irish acting company Druid is performing their rendition of the hard-to-interpret play at the Shakespeare Theatre Company through May 20. The metaphorical mystery in Beckett’s Waiting for Godot leaves an endless amount of room for interpretation, but Druid’s rendition is certain to keep audiences laughing as much as it will make them think.

The play tells the story of two tramps, seemingly stranded on a barren countryside road. Vladimir (nicknamed Didi, played by Marty Rea), a usually cheerful intellectual and Estragon (nicknamed Gogo, played by Aaron Monaghan), the wearier of the two. The pair bicker, play games and tell stories endlessly, while they wait for the arrival of someone named Godot. During the eager, sometimes hopeless, wait, the tone alternates between heartbreaking and hilarious.

“I think Beckett wants us to go through all the different emotions in this play. There are some very sad, emotional moments and kind of a despair at times but then he does the opposite, there’s great hope and great love and great laughs at times at ourselves and our existence,” actor Garrett Lombard says.

The two tramps, draped in shabby clothes and plagued with ill-fitting boots and itchy hats, encounter only three other characters: Pozzo (Rory Nolan), his slave named Lucky (Lombard) and an unnamed boy (Malcolm Fuller).

The tramps wonder about and at times judge Pozzo’s treatment of Lucky, who is constantly burdened with a stool, a basket, a suitcase full of sand and a rope around his neck.

“[Lucky is] a very subservient character, very low-status kind of guy, and he basically wants to please his master by doing his job of carrying his bags and giving him his coat and his stool and his whip and whatnot as best as he can,” Lombard says.

Perhaps the character most difficult to interpret in Waiting for Godot, Lucky stumbles around the stage, answering to Pozzo’s every beck and call, without saying a word – until his famous, breathtaking monologue that earned a raucous round of applause from the awestruck audience.

“He comes out with this incredible, mad, long, stream of consciousness speech, about the human existence and what we have ascertained about trying to explain this and trying to explain the universe and ends up, during the speech, almost losing his mind completely,” Lombard says.

The monologue nearly drives Pozzo, Didi and Gogo out of their minds as well.

This landmark moment makes preparing for the role of Lucky a colossally strenuous process. In addition to his monologue, the character spends most his time either hunched over or flopping down in exhaustion. According to Lombard, prepping for the character required a lot of stretching and staying in the best possible shape.

Apart from the physical aspects, the getting in the mind of the character was an isolating process, Lombard says. Lucky is constantly serving Pozzo and does deliver an enormous speech, but he never actually banters with other characters.

“It’s a bit of a lonely process. You don’t get to have the kind of fun that Didi and Gogo have in the rehearsal room. But it’s a really interesting one to work on as an actor, even if it was a little bit lonely at times,” Lombard says.

Critics have debated the symbolism of Lucky’s name, as well as his role. Some say Lucky is aptly named because unlike any other characters, he knows what his purpose is – to serve Pozzo. The name could also be sarcastic, which is in line with the play’s dark humor.

Catch the show until May 20 at the Lansburgh Threatre. Tickets start at $44 and can be purchased here. More information can be found at www.shakespearetheatre.org.

STC’s Lansburgh Theatre: 450 7th St. NW, DC; 202-547-1122; www.shakespearetheatre.org

Photo: www.olneytheatre.org
Photo: www.olneytheatre.org

The Crucible Is a Trip Worth Taking

“These are strange times,” notes a disheveled Reverend Hale in the semi-fictional town of Salem, Massachusetts. This is Arthur Miller’s The Crucible and it has had its share of the spotlight since its 1953 run on Broadway. The “strange times” of Salem have had a way of speaking to audiences, whether fifty years ago, twenty years ago or today.

Miller himself notes the following:

“The play seems to present the same primeval structure of human sacrifice to the furies of fanaticism and paranoia that goes on repeating itself forever as though imbedded in the brain of social man.”

This is to say that the “strange times” of Salem are the strange times of every age, including today. And it’s the reason why I could sit through a hundred more productions of Olney Theatre’s The Crucible. Don’t miss it. Under the clear direction of DC’s own Eleanor Holdridge, the three-hour play held court from start to finish and as I watched Rev. Parris enter, mystified by his unconscious daughter, I found myself a member of a befuddled jury.

That’s the hook of this play– it challenges the audience’s frame of reference. As every character questions reality, the audience is pulled in and also begins to question what can be known. That’s the devil’s greatest play– per Miller’s Salem– he conflates dream with reality.

It’s a play with a McCarthy-era tinge, but more broadly speaks to what Miller called the lack of a moral reference.  This sentiment emerged after the war and in light of the rise of the Soviet Union, and claimed that there was nothing on which to base belief. “Nobody but a fanatic, it seemed, could really say all that they believed,” Miller says.

The play is packed with well-meaning individuals. Holdridge and her cast do justice to the good intentions of their characters and do not fall into stereotypes. At the helm is the perfectly-cast Chris Genebach as John Proctor. Genebach walks a moral high ground and provides an anchor to the ensuing frenzy and uncertainty.

Beside him, and equally as anchored, is Elizabeth Proctor (Rachel Zampelli). Zampelli brings an authenticity that makes her magnetic to watch. Holdridge’s staging of the goodbye scene between the Proctors is particularly striking. With only eyes for each other, Zampelli and Genebach perform a beautiful dance in which their whole marriage seems to come to its fulfillment.

The cast is fleshed out with a powerful performance from Paul Morella as Danforth. Waiting backstage for all of Act I, Morella emerges post-intermission like a cannon ball and holds court (quite literally) till the end. Scott Parkinson as Reverend Hale is excellent. The character’s arc from being the expert on demonic possession to lying crumpled up in a prison cell is heartbreaking in Parkinson’s able hands. A fabulous Brigid Cleary (as Rebecca Nurse) and Craig MacDonald (as Giles Corey) bring a comic depth which balances out an other wise serious storyline.

The Crucible is a trip worth taking. You will find yourself questioning whether the sky is indeed blue and whether the grass truly is green. A note of caution: uncertainty is Satan’s most powerful tool. He’s in the game of dashing certainty and crippling reason. But take the trip. These times are strange. See what is before your eyes— it’s there that you will find the truth. The Crucible runs until May 20 at Olney Theatre. For tickets and pricing vist: www.olneytheatre.org

Olney Theatre Center: 2001 Olney-Sandy Spring Rd. Olney, MD; 301-924-3400

Photo by Ryan Maxwell Photography
Photo by Ryan Maxwell Photography

Refreshing New Play Takes On The Reality of Commuting Through Life

Have you ever wondered, “Who’s voice is behind the loudspeakers on the WMATA Subway?” Well, wonder no more. The voice is Sherry (played by Lady Davonne), a grieving daughter of a recently deceased mother, who is forced to confront the tough situations life threw her way. At least that’s the story told in the fresh and invigorating play written and produced by Brittany Alyse Willis.

Use All Available Doors is an homage to the living culture and people residing in the DMV and depicts the events of a day’s journey along the notorious Red Line, starting at Glenmont Station and ending in Shady Grove.

Spontaneity is the technique leaned on throughout this production. Bursts of song, dance, and monologues lift this expressionist piece to extreme heights. Willis’ play juggles the many phenomena lived while commuting among the turbulent tracks coursing through this metropolitan area.

Sherry, the main and only named character, embarks on her regular route, as she has done for several years. The only difference today is that she’s writing the eulogy for her mother’s burial service. As she reminisces about her past and the fond memories shared with her mother, passengers board and unload the subway car replicated on stage in the dark tunnels of the DuPont Underground.

Personally connecting with the countless characters is easily done, as each actor seems spectacularly ordinary, as though you would know them from your own days of riding the rails. As the eight-member ensemble carries out each event, the audience is propelled by a degree of familiarity that releases nodes of anxiety, which permeate the theater. Each scene depicts a “real-life episode” hitting home from beginning to end, which immerses the audience in a desire to escape the seemingly inescapable characters.

As a spectator, you quickly question the intent of this play. Are we chastising WMATA for the unceasing technical difficulties, long commute time, and train accidents? Or are we praising the billion dollar entity for the opportunities it affords one to interact with diverse, often ghettoized, DC dwellers?

Use All Available Doors does not shy away from the harsh realities and critiques of WMATA. The play explicitly addresses train accidents, gun violence, and black outs. Yet, the play softens and shows the joys of riding the train and the chance encounters leading to love.

This creative expression even takes viewers through time to illustrate the role WMATA has played in the progression of this region including the creation of jobs, exposure to differing walks of life and the introduction of art and professional sporting teams. As shown in this almost two hour play, since WMATA’s inception, it has played a vital role in our immediate society. However, as fare prices rise and average daily metro commuters decrease, the question quickly becomes, “What’s next for the future of WMATA?”

What viewers will most appreciate about Use All Available Doors is that it’s a refreshing and fun look at the most normal activity of life – commuting. The spoken words and choreographed dance numbers, paired with eclectic songs and points of views, make this short running show worth the commute.

Use All Available Doors, showing at DuPont Underground, is currently sold out.

 

Photo: Daniel Schwartz
Photo: Daniel Schwartz

The Caucasian Chalk Circle, Small but Mighty

“Small but mighty” should be the thought that comes to mind after seeing the most recent production by the Constellation Theatre Company. Bertolt Brecht’s epic tale The Caucasian Chalk Circle dazzles in the hands of director Allison Arkell Stockman. She leads a small ensemble of 14 to victory as they confidently and passionately unveil the grand story of adventure, justice, power and love.

The Constellation Theatre Company transformed the black-box theatre into a 360 degrees, 88-seat configuration, which elicits an immersive experience where the partition separating drama and reality is lifted.

The circular design heightens the play’s mysteriousness, engrossing audience during the epic tale. Throughout the two and a half hour show, thespians enter and exit from every aperture, making it nearly impossible to declare one point of the stage as the main stage. Constant head turning, searching for the one speaking, along with unexpected audience participation maintains a high alertness for viewers within this insulated rousing environment.

 

A whirlwind of talent engulfs both the 14-person cast, who portray more than sixty characters between them, and the three-person band performing rock-inspired music for the period piece.

As the lights expose the all black stage, a multidimensional, multi-period story begins to unfold. Two farmer unions debate who should control the land abandoned by the Nazis after WWII, and in order to resolve the conflict, a play was produced and performed.

Carrying the bulk of the narrative initially is a character described as The Singer, played by Matthew Schleigh, who is also one of the three band members. Schleigh lightheartedly introduces the parable that would reveal the unexpected steps it precedes. His performance is exactly what one would hope for in a renaissance piece. He charms and flirts with the audience while singing modern folk songs to appeal to those present. His narration leaves more to be desired as he shifts gears altogether and assumes the role of the Judge in the latter half of the production.

Within another vein of the multi-dimensional story line, a war is taking place after a coup leads to the murder of the Governor played by Keith E. Irby. The murder takes place after the governor’s son and heir is born. In a panic, the mother of the child leaves her home and abandons her new born baby. Grusha, a handmaiden, played by Yesenia Iglesias, saves the baby from certain death.

Grusha’s journey in search of asylum is preempted by her own love story with the soldier Simon, played by Drew Kopas. The innocent love between characters Grusha and Simon is brought into sharp focus and is most evident as the couple sings their farewell song before Simon leaves to fight in a war against Iran.

At the onset, Iglesias’ vocal stylings are delicate, but eventually they ricochet throughout the intimate space. Her talents are perfectly supported by a diverse and powerful ensemble whose harmonies could be bottled and sold at an extremely high price. All musical components are exquisite.

The only unpleasant, albeit intentionally, element within the entire show is Sergeant, played by Scott Ward Abernethy. At first, Sergeant comes across as a comical, loving character, until his true intentions surface and his whole presence transforms. The demented performance could cause one to wince at his very sight. This is mostly due to the crude language, sexual gestures and unwarranted sexual advances, which echo the atrocities responsible for today’s #MeToo movement.

One thing the Constellation Theatre Company has certainly mastered is transformative theater. Each time I visit the intimate space, I’m lost in a new world, but I’m always guided by an ensemble that embodies its characters and navigates the set. Their knowledge of the space paired with the simple and appropriate choreography by Tony Thomas II makes this a spectacular hit.

The use of space was pleasant, as they create bridges out of humans and illustrate wind with dance. The play wows, making you want to sit in the theater for hours in reflection of the time spent in the Caucasus Mountains of Georgia.

The Causasian Chalk Circle is playing now through May 13 at the Constellation Theatre Company. Ticket prices are $25-$45. There is no late seating.

Consteallation Theatre Company: 1835 14th St. NW, DC; 202-204-7741; www.constellationtheatre.org

Potted Potter actors, screen writer and stage manager.
Potted Potter actors, screen writer and stage manager.

Potted Potter at Shakespeare Theatre

Theatre-goers enjoyed Shakespeare Theatre’s production of Potted Potter, including a post-show reception Fantastic Beers and Where to Find Them, featuring specialty beers from Ommegang Brewery and Harry Potter trivia. Photos: Beauty by Photography

Photo: XMB Photography
Photo: XMB Photography

TRANSIT at Dupont Underground

After a three-day stint at Dupont Underground, Australian-born choreographer and dancer Sarah J. Ewing’s site-specific, original dance and technology performance of TRANSIT left observers with pensive expressions. The looks were not of confusion, but rather a contemplation of the progression of life and the various elements that contribute to our individual present or future state.

The performance began with white words cast upon stonewalls spelling “TRANSIT.” Then blinding lights lit up the tunnel as dancers stepped lightly into the space. Each dancer’s gray attire matched their facial expression, as well as the intended expressionless ambiance.

As the performers stood motionless, the sounds of commuting began to echo through the seats. In coordination with the music, the lights shifted from spots to ripples to darkness, illustrating the obstacles of traveling uncontrollably through life.

The interpretive showcase told the story of three generations of women experiencing similar hardships and joy at every turn in life through different time periods. During a brief interview with Ewing, she explained her vision as a “treasure map of life showing moments intertwined with linear time.”

This movement was a display of power and grace. The dancers’ modern choreography coupled with the music, which maintained a steady beat except for the occasional syncopation, kept viewers fixated on the stage and constantly wondering what would come next.

The audience witnessed solos, duets and a small ensemble, all of whom told the narrative of the linear timeline of life. In one ensemble scene, each performer moved in their own style, sometimes in a haphazard way that might not be considered dancing at all, followed by the rest of the ensemble mimicking the leader’s motions in sync. The scene spoke to the chaos of life and how we are often solely focused on our personal forward progress while others are stuck in peril.

The performance welcomed a plethora of themes, but it would be tough to argue against the significance of time in the piece. The transformative lighting and shifting sounds in each scene highlighted the evolution of characters. Time, illustrated by score, was constant. The volume rose and fell, but it was constantly there, declaring the inevitable continuation of time, no matter our individual circumstances.

The hour-long performance sustained a solemn tone throughout, however, the final scene marked a shift in rhythmic excitement and exaggerated dance that brought a sense of joy to the dark, underground tunnel. This conveyed that through life’s journey, one will always have reasons to celebrate even when it seems impossible.

TRANSIT is a collaboration between S. J. Ewing and Dancers, CulturalDC at Dupont Underground and CityDance. To see upcoming showcases at Dupont Underground or to learn more, visit here. Ticket prices vary from exhibit to exhibit but typically range from $10-$20, with an occasional free event happening.

Dupont Underground: 19 Dupont Circle NW, DC; 202-315-1321; www.dupontunderground.org

Illustration: Courtesy of Arena Stage
Illustration: Courtesy of Arena Stage

Arena Stage’s Snow Child Focuses On The Nature of Impermanence

Sometimes, the only way to go on is to dig deep, find resilience and push forward. But to get to that point, some healing often needs to take place first. Enter Jack and Mabel: a couple ridden with grief after they lose their first child and discover they can’t have any more. What ensues is a journey of healing and understanding that not everything is as it seems, and nothing is permanent, especially in the realm of the Alaskan wilderness.

The world premiere of the musical Snow Child, based on a novel by Eowyn Ivey, is coming to Arena Stage from April 13 to May 20. With a focus on Alaskan culture and environmentalism through the musical talents of Bob Banghart and Georgia Stitt, Snow Child comes to life on stage – quite literally – with the help of some gorgeous lighting techniques and masterful puppetry.

Matt Bogart as Jack contemplates the impermanence of nature, the true meaning behind Snow Child and what he hopes the audience will learn from it in this exclusive interview with On Tap Magazine.

On Tap: How would you describe the story of Snow Child?
Matt Bogart: Our musical focuses on Jack and Mabel, who are a childless couple. They decide to move from Pennsylvania out to Alaska to become homesteaders to change their life and get a new start for themselves. They end up understanding how difficult that can be, to try to build a new life out in the wilderness alone. And from the grief of being childless, they plunge into a kind of sadness together out in Alaska. At one point, they begin to build a snow child, and this child becomes real to them. She’s spiritual and mythological in a lot of ways, and she becomes their child, but a part of them knows that this cannot last with the arrival of the spring. We’re left to try and grasp that nothing is permanent, but this journey of having a child of their own hopefully has healed them in many ways.

OT: How does the musical differ from the novel written by Eowyn Ivey?
MB: Our story in the musical ends about two-thirds through the book because putting a novel on stage, you’d be there for a couple days and no body wants that. I think that the authors have taken the part of the story that they want to tell and have solidified it. We call it an Alaskan musical folktale because it follows some of the rules and style of musical theater but it also incorporates a sense of mysticism and environmental music as well as sound effects and puppetry and other elements that you don’t always see in your typical musical.

OT: What do you hope audiences will take away from Snow Child?
MB: I hope that they will see some of their own life experiences reflected in this piece and that we are successful in reiterating what is taught in these old folk tales. This folk tale has to do with the impermanence of nature – how nature can sweep in and change your life, how losing a child can change your life, and how gaining a child, whether it’s born into this world or if you create it in your mind, becomes [a form of] healing. Through that experience, you learn something and you’re brought to a different place.

OT: Why do you think Snow Child is an important story to tell?
MB: I think that we try to control everything in our culture, all over the world. Jack and Mabel think they can have a child and grow their family, but they lost the first child as a stillborn, and they couldn’t get over it. The doctor told Mabel that she couldn’t have another. To believe one thing about your life and then understand that’s not going to happen can change a person’s view about whether they feel like they want to go on or not. This is a story about the unexpected, whether its nature, whether its understanding that we can’t control fate sometimes or whether its understand that we need to dig deep and be resilient.

Opening night of Snow Child is Friday, April 13 at 8 p.m. Tickets are $41-$90.

Arena Stage: 1101 Sixth St. SW, DC; 202-488-3300; www.arenastage.org

Photo: Courtesy of Arena Stage
Photo: Courtesy of Arena Stage

Lights, Camera, Eco-Friendly Action: Arena Stage’s Solar Rooftop

For almost 70 years, Arena Stage at the Mead Center for American Theater has impacted countless lives with diverse and groundbreaking work from great artists around the country. They’ve held programs, classes and events to inspire creativity and expression, reaching over 10,000 students every year through community engagement. And in February, they decided to show their love for the community by installing 1,145 solar panels on their expansive rooftop.

To Arena Stage Executive Director Edgar Dobie, being eco-friendly is one of the best ways the theater can serve their network of artists and theatergoers.

“We feel that we need to respect our relationship with our community and our environment,” says Dobie, who has been with Arena Stage for nine years. “We tell stories on our stage, and as an institution, we have stories to tell as well. One of those stories is that we want to be as efficient and respectful as possible to the resources – whether they’re environmental or financial – that are given to us.”

As part of Arena’s renovations from 2007 to 2010, the Southwest Waterfront-based space hired the late Vancouver architect Bing Thom to design a massive glass enclosure that would surround both historical theaters. He even fit a new, third theater in the enormous 200,000-square-foot design. Thom’s idea for using glass came from his environmentally conscious roots. A huge glass wall means lots of sunlight entering the space, and a natural thermal system to save energy. Dobie is certain that Thom would be thrilled with the solar panel design if he were alive today.

With their new 452.3 kW solar system, Arena Stage’s move toward a renewable energy resource is the equivalent to saving 45,231 gallons of gas annually, or taking 85 cars off the road. And to achieve their goal of producing 20 percent of their power supply purely from solar energy, Arena Stage teamed up with EnterSolar, a leading provider of commercial marketplace solar energy options in New York. Dobie says their reputable portfolio isn’t the only reason he’s thrilled to work with them.

“EnterSolar is doing great things, and we are proud to partner with them on this project,” he says. “On top of it all, I love their name. It’s like a stage direction!”

Dobie says that because they’re eventually going to save money with this new energy source, Arena Stage will most likely hire more actors and teachers in the future. Thanks to their initiative and forward thinking, this theater will not only help to save the environment but also step up their mission to bring people together through the arts.

Learn more about Arena Stage at www.arenastage.org.

Arena Stage: 1101 6th St. SW, DC; 202-488-3300; www.arenastage.org

The Mystery of Edwin Drood

Stage and Screen: April 2018

THURSDAY, MARCH 29 – SUNDAY, APRIL 22

Paper Dolls
This quirky and provocative karaoke musical follows the experiences of five gay male Filipino nurses in Tel Aviv who care for elderly Orthodox and Chasidic men six days a week. But instead of white Keds and scrubs, these fab male nurses don high heels and boa scarves on their day off to headline a drag show. Based on the true story behind a 2006 Israeli documentary, Paper Dolls confronts the challenges that migrant workers face while yearning for citizenship and a place to belong. This American premiere is part of the 2018 Voices from a Changing Middle East Festival and directed by veteran Broadway director Mark Brokaw. Tickets start at $20. Atlas Performing Arts Center: 1333 H St. NE, DC; www.atlasarts.org

FRIDAY, MARCH 30 – SUNDAY, APRIL 29

Two Trains Running
Two Trains Running examines everyday life for black Americans in 1969 as tremors of the Civil Rights Movement reach Pittsburgh’s Hill District, which was one of the most prosperous, culturally active black neighborhoods in the country in the 40s and 50s. But when the 60s rolled around, the Hill District faced a sharp economic decline. Playwright August Wilson directly comments on this regression when Memphis Lee’s diner, the center of the Hill District’s community, is slated to be demolished. Arena Stage’s website describes it best: “Confronted with the reality of a rapidly changing world, Memphis and his regular customers struggle to maintain their solidarity and sense of pride.” Tickets start at $81; check website for information on discounts. Arena Stage: 1101 6th St. SW, DC; www.arenastage.org

THURSDAY, APRIL 5 – SUNDAY, APRIL 29

The Mystery of Edwin Drood (Symphonic Metal Version)
This reenactment of Charles Dickens’ unfinished novel will have you headbanging so hard, your neck will hurt for days. Landless Theatre Company and British-American composer, dramatist and author Rupert Holmes come together to transform Tony Award-winning musical, The Mystery of Edwin Drood, into a hard rock masterpiece. Tickets are $25. Capital Fringe: 1358 Florida Ave. NE, DC; www.capitalfringe.org

THURSDAY, APRIL 12 – SUNDAY, MAY 6

Witch
Strong, bold and powerful women have been feared, objectified and discouraged for many, many generations – especially when their power has challenged the status quo of that particular moment in history. Witch explores the thread that connects the Salem witch trials in the late 1600s to modern politics, examining the stories of women who have been labeled and chastised as witches throughout the centuries. This musical is sure to make you think long and hard about what it means to be a woman in the modern age, and what it must’ve felt like back then. Tickets start at $30. Creative Cauldron: 410 S Maple Ave. Falls Church, VA; www.creativecauldron.org

TUESDAY, APRIL 17 – SUNDAY, JUNE 10

Girlfriend
Set in a small Nebraska town in 1993, Girlfriend tells the tender, coming-of-age tale of college-bound jock Mike and self-assured but aimless Will, who are high on the rush of a first-time love filled with excitement, confusion and passion. All of these emotions and more are perfectly captured by Matthew Sweet’s alt-rock album, Girlfriend, which inspired the musical. Rolling Stone describes the play as a “rock ‘n’ roll Valentine that delivers subtle wisdom with an exhilarating kick.” Pride nights on May 11 and 18. Tickets start at $40. Signature Theatre: 4200 Campbell Ave. Arlington, VA; www.sigtheatre.org

WEDNESDAY, APRIL 18 – SUNDAY, MAY 20

The Crucible
Arthur Miller’s classic 1953 play about the Salem witch trials comes to life on Olney Theater’s stage this spring. Enter the world of Salem, Massachusetts in 1692, when an unseen evil swept through the small town of God-fearing people. This is a timeless reminder of the terrible outcomes that stem from bending the truth to conveniently fit one’s political agenda. Tickets start at $59. Olney Theater Center: 2001 Olney-Sandy Spring Rd. Olney, MD; www.olneytheatre.org

THURSDAY, APRIL 19 – SUNDAY, APRIL 29

International Film Festival
The 32nd annual International Film Festival has been expanding minds and opening eyes for the last three decades, and it’s not about to stop now. Choose from 80 films from over 45 countries over the course of 11 days at various locations throughout the city. Featured films include opening night’s Streake, about a different kind of sports star, and closing night’s Just to Be Sure, a comedy exploring the virtues and vagaries of DNA. Full schedule and ticket information available at www.filmfestdc.org.

SATURDAY, APRIL 21 – SUNDAY, APRIL 22

Another F*cking Warhol Production
The feath3r theory, a dance-theatre-media company based in New York City, is coming to the District with Another F*cking Warhol Production. This American docufiction, post-ballet theatre musical is a recreation of the unrecorded, deleted and lost footage from Saturday Night Live’s 2015 episode on love and war (“The Love Episode”). With dancers wearing brightly colored morph suits inspired by 60s fashion, this musical is just the right amount of quirky and compelling. Saturday at 8 p.m., Sunday at 7 p.m. Tickets are $15-$30. Dance Place: 3225 8th St. NE, DC; www.danceplace.org