Category Archives: theatre

Love, American Style: Folger’s “The Merry Wives of Windsor,” reviewed.

The cast of Aaron Posner’s ERA-era Merry Wives dances the night away. (Cameron Whitman)

The new bellbottoms-era Merry Wives is your last chance to see Aaron Posner direct some of his (and my) favorite actors—and some welcome new faces—at the scheduled-for-renovation Folger Theater for two years. Would’ve been even groovier sans intermission, but it’s fun. Here’s my Washington City Paper review.

A Moon For the Mediocre: Amadeus, reviewed.

Samuel Adams as “the creature” Wolfgang A. Mozart. (C. Stanley Photography)

To be clear: Antonio Salieri, as self-assessed in the imagination of Peter Shaffer, is mediocre. The Folger’s new production of Amadeus is quite good.

When They Stop Looking at Us: Fairview, reviewed.

Chinna Palmer in the Woolly production of Fairview. (Teresa Castracane)

When I saw Woolly Mammoth Theater Company’s production of Jackie Sibblies Drury’s We Are Proud to Present... in 2014, it was the worst show I’d ever seen. Five-and-a-half years later, it still is. So to say that I liked Woolly’s new production of Fairview, Drury’s Pulitzer Prize-winner that made its debut last year, better than her previous work is of little value. But I liked it a lot. I appreciated it, more like.

I do understand that my approval is not required. It never is. My Washington City Paper review is here.

Fabulation, or The Re-Education of Undine, reviewed.

Felicia Curry (center) is the star of Mosaic’s Fabulation. (Christopher Banks)

Lynn Nottage has won two Pulitzer Prizes for Drama in the 15 years since her play Fabulation, or the Re-Education of Undine was first performed; there is no Pulitzer Prize for Comedy. Mosaic Theater’s production of Undine gets its weakest scenes out of the way early, though even in its most heart-rending moments I yearned for a little more variation in the rhythm of star Felicia Curry’s speech. I’ve loved her in many other shows. My Washington City Paper review is here.

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The Squeaky Gun Gets the Grease: Assassins at Signature Theatre, reviewed.

The lineup of killers and would-be killers. (Photo: Christopher Mueller)

Whether a production of Assassins uses period-accurate prop guns doesn’t matter. Whether the director of a 2019 Assassins has thought about how our relationship to gun violence, mental illness, & presidential politics has changed since 1990 matters a lot. My review of Signature Theatre’s second, and weaker, 21st-c. take on Stephen Sondheim’s scandalous late-20th century musical is in this week’s Washington City Paper.

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527 Dog Years: Mike Daisey tells A People’s History

Class is in session. (Darrow Montgomery for the Washington City Paper)

Mike Daisey is an artist I’ve written about more often and in greater detail than only anyone else. He’s certainly the artist with to whom I’ve spent the most time speaking directly. The reviews I’ve written of his monologues and the features I’ve reported about how he creates them and the op-ed I was once moved to write in his defense all reflect my great admiration for his work.

That has not prevented me from condemning him when I think he’s deserved it, and he did do something that warranted condemnation, years ago. I will say that in the third year of a Donald J. Trump administration, it seems awfully quaint that so many journalists who had never publicly discussed theatre at all before they lined up to express their outrage at Daisey in the spring of 2012 got so steamed over a guy who tells stories in theaters for a living taking some liberties with one of them.

Anyway, Daisey’s wildly ambitious current show A People’s History—an 18 part retelling of American history circa 1492-to-now, based heavily on the work of Howard Zinn but also on Daisey’s own life—is the subject of my second Washington City Paper cover story about him, available today wherever finer Washington, DC alt-weeklies are given away for free. My 2012 WCP story detailing the problems he created for himself with his show The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs, and his effort to remedy them, is here. In fact, all of my writings about Daisey are mere clicks away! How much time do you have?

Despite Its Pedigree, A Doll’s House, Part 2 Is a Fixer-Upper

Holly Twyford as Nora Helmer, 15 years after that door-slam rocked the 19th-century world. (Kaley Etzkorn)

I’ve been looking forward to seeing Lucas Hnath’s A Doll’s House, Part 2 for a couple of years. The announcement that the Broadway hit’s DC premiere from Round House Theatre would star the great Holly Twyford as Nora? Music to my ears.

In this week’s Washington City Paper, I try to diagnose why Nicole A. Watson’s production is so bloodless.

Two Dope Queens: Mary Stuart, reviewed.

Megan Anderson and Eleasha Gamble as Elizabeth and Mary at Olney Theatre Center.

There’s been no shortage of opportunities to see Mary Stuart, Friedrich Schiller’s early 19th century play about mid-16th century skullduggery among queens, in the DMV over the last decade. But Olney Theatre Center honcho Jason Loewith’s stripped-down update is good. I reviewed it in last week’s Washington City Paper.

Depth and Deprivation: The Children and Love’s Labor’s Lost, reviewed.

I didn’t write about Ella Hickson’s Oil, the best play I’ve seen this year. But I did review Lucy Kirkwood’s The Children, the second-best. I’m struck by how different two plays with ecological themes written by British women born in the 80s that premiered in 2016 can be. I also wrote about Folger’s new production of the seldom-staged Shakespeare comedy, Love’s Labor’s Lost.

The Rooms Where It Happened: JQA, reviewed.

Here’s my Washington City Paper review of JQA, a new historical fiction from playwright-director Aaron Posner featuring two men and two women, all of whom play America’s sixth president.

How Men Crumbled: Arena’s Kleptocracy and Ford’s Twelve Angry Men, reviewed.

Something old, something new, something borrowed, something… something. In this week’s Washington City Paper, I review Kleptocracy, an imperfect but intriguing Vladimir Putin origin story by Kenneth Lin at Arena Stage, starring the guy in the cast who looks the second-most Putinlike as Putin. Plus a puzzling new production of Twelve Angry Men at Ford’s.

Pop Culture Happy Hour: Glass and What’s Making Us Happy

Acting Just Right, Acting Too Much, Not Acting Enough (Jessica Kourkounis/Universal)

I am chuffed to be back on the iHeartRadio Podcast Award-nominated Pop Culture Happy Hour this week to discuss Glass, fallen auteur M. Night Shyamalan’s joint sequel to 2000’s Unbreakable and 2017’s Split. It isn’t very good, but the movie has an anachronistic quality that’s sort of… sweet. While it’s made explicitly clear—every damn thing in this movie is explained and re-re-re-explained—that Glass is set 19 years after Unbreakable, Shyamalan acts as though superhero comics haven’t become Hollywood’s No. 1 source of grist during the back half of that period. (In the years since Unbreakable, we’ve seen three different A-list actors play The Incredible Hulk, for chrissakes.)

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A goodly portion of those films have featured Samuel L. Jackson, who, to be fair, looks like he’s having at least as much fun sitting in a wheelchair staring into the middle distance in Glass as he does when he’s cashing another check as Nick Fury. After his brief return to acting in both Wes Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom and Rian Johnson’s Looper back in 2012, I’d hoped maybe Bruce Willis would deign to open his eyes again, but no such luck. And the movie’s top-billed star continues to perform his solo show Scares Ahoy with James McAvoy.

You can listen to the episode here.

In the Loop: Studio’s Kings, reviewed.

I reviewed Kings, DMV native Sarah Burgess’s smart drama about an idealistic freshman Congresswoman, for the Washington City Paper.

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Intimate Apparel: The Panties, the Profit, and The Partner, reviewed.

Kimberly Gilbert, Carson Elrod, and Turna Mete in The Profit. (Carol Rosegg)

For your Washington City Paper, I reviewed The Panties, the Profit, and the Purse—a series of linked David Ives comedies adapted, with shrinking fidelity, from a trilogy by the 19th century German social critic Carl Sternheim. That sounds awfully highbrow, doesn’t it? Ives is better at farce than at satire, and the show is a better document of what he likes than what he thinks. I liked it, but I’d like it more if Ives would—in the words of the 21st century social critic Boots Riley—”Sho[his]Ass.” As it were.

Written in the Stars: Constellation Theatre’s Aida, reviewed.

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Because three shows had their press nights here in the DMV the same night Constellation Theatre Company opened their version of the Y2K-era Elton John-Tim Rice musical Aida, myWashington City Paper review took a little while to appear. Here it is. The principal actors are better than most of the material.

Theatre of Pain: Woolly’s Gloria and Round House’s Small Mouth Sounds, reviewed.

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After the customary late summer lull, I’m back on the theater beat. Last week’s Washington City Paper featured my reviews of two plays that first appeared in 2015, now making their regional premieres Branden Jacobs-Jenkins’ stunner Gloria, at Woolly Mammoth, and Small Mouth Sounds by Bess Wohl, at Round House.

FURTHER READING: My 2013 City Paper profile of Branden Jacobs-Jenkins is here.

It’s a Bird! It’s a Plane! It’s me on The Original Cast!

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Funny thing: Patrick Flynn lives in Bethesda, Maryland, a short public-transit trip across the northwest border of Washington, DC, where I live. We know many of the same people because we’re both involved in theatre; him as a playwright, me as a critic. And yet our paths never crossed until he heard me on James Bonding last fall, which Matt Gourley and Matt Mira record weekly at Gourley’s beautiful home in Pasadena, all the way on the other side of country.
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The Once and Future Prince: Botticelli in the Fire, reviewed.

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Canuck Renaissance Man Jordan Tannahill’s Renaissance fantasy Botticelli in the Fire is the quintessence of what several speakers at Monday night’s tribute to retiring Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company co-founder Howard Shalwtiz referred to as “a Woolly play.” I tend to like those, and this one I happened to love. Here’s my Washington City Paper review.

Bitches Be Cray: Saint Joan and The Small Room at the Top of the Stairs, reviewed.

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My reviews of Bedlam’s visiting production of Saint Joan at the Folger and of Spooky Action’s local premiere of Carole Fréchette’s The Small Room at the Top of the Stairs were in last week’s Washington City Paper, but for mysterious reasons took a few extra days to surface online. Enjoy.
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Thoughtcrime Doesn’t Pay: Scena’s 1984, reviewed.

1984.03My review of Scena Theatre’s production of the the Duncan MacMillan/Robert Ickes adaptation of Nineteen Eighty-Four that I first saw at the Shakespeare Theatre two years ago is in this week’s Washington City Paper. In the years since I saw this script staged the first time, I have acquired a copy of Eurythmics’ Greatest Hits on LP, which includes the unfortunate “Sexcrime (Nineteen Eighty-Four)” that accompanied the release of Michael Radford’s 1984 movie version.

Photo: Oscar Ceville as Winston Smith (Jae Yi Photography)