Tag Archives: Theater J

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On Around Town, talking Choir Boy, Life Sucks, and The Widow Lincoln.

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http://watch.weta.org/viralplayer/2365420189

Three new Around Town play reviews means three new opportunities to attempt to smile on command and to speak in concise sentences that end rather than trail off. (I’ll keep working on it.) This time, host Robert Aubry Davis and Washington Post arts writer Jane Horwitz and I discuss Studio Theatre‘s Choir Boy, Theater J‘s Life Sucks, Or the Present Ridiculous, and Ford’s Theatre’s The Widow Lincoln. That’s two shows I liked a lot, respectively, plus one I liked, well, more than many others did. (My Washington City Paper reviews are here, here, and here.) I am informed that the Choir Boy video aired on WETA right after Downton Abbey last night. I would’ve worn my sport jacket to the taping had I known that would happen, if not a tuxedo and tails.

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Reality Chekhov: Life Sucks, or the Present Ridiculous, reviewed.

I was excited to see Life Sucks, writer-director Aaron Posner‘s new variation on Anton Chekhov‘s Uncle Vanya, because my love for Stupid Fucking Bird, Posner’s 2013 gloss on The Seagull, was mean and true. And because I tend to like almost everything Posner does. My review is in today’s Washington City Paper. Continue reading

Video

On Around Town, discussing Theater J’s The Intelligent Homosexual’s Guide and Arena’s Fiddler on the Roof

We take you once again to the studios of WETA, where I was delighted as ever to join Around Town host Robert Aubry Davis and Washington Post arts writer Jane Horwitz for on-message discussions of two shows I recently reviewed for the Washington City Paper. We covered Theater J’s production of Tony Kusher’s latest play, the exhausting (deep breath) The Intelligent Homosexual’s Guide to Capitalism and Socialism with a Key to the Scriptures, as well as Arena’s square and satisfying production of Fiddler on the Roof my first. That’s the one I’ll be sending my folks to see for Christmas. Continue reading

Suicide Admission: Theater J’s The Intelligent Homosexual’s Guide, reviewed.

The cast of John Vreeke's production of Tony Kushner's "The Intelligent Homosexual's Guide..." for Theater J.
My review of Theater J’s production of Tony Kusher’s latest play, (deep breath) The Intelligent Homosexual’s Guide to Capitalism and Socialism with a Key to the Scriptures, is in today’s Washington City Paper, just in case your own family’s arguments aren’t sufficiently academic and orotund and insufferable enough for you. Good performances, though. Happy Thanksgiving.

Freud Where Prohibited: The Last Days of Judas Iscariot and Freud’s Last Session, reviewed, plus some Frank (Britton) discussion.

In today’s Washington City Paper, I review two plays that mull over free will and the existence of God, both of which feature Sigmund Freud as a character. The better of the pair, Stephen Adly Guirgis’ The Last Days of Judas Iscariot, features a towering performance from Frank Britton as Pontius Pilate.

Around 2:15 Tuesday morning, after he’d left the cast party that followed Judas‘ opening-night performance, Britton was assaulted and robbed by four or five unidentified attackers near the Silver Spring Metro stop. He underwent surgery at Holy Cross Hospital to treat a broken cheekbone. Britton does not have medical insurance. A crowdfunding campaign to cover his hospital bills (donate here) has raised over $45,000 so far.
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In Arms’ Way: Golda’s Balcony and Moth, reviewed.

Tovah Feldshuh as Golda Meir in "Golda's Balcony" by William Gibson.

I review Golda’s Balcony, William Gibson’s 2003 solo play about the life of Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir, and the U.S. premiere of Australian playwright Declan Greene’s Moth in today’s Washington City Paper, available wherever finer alt-weeklies are given away for free. Read all about ’em.

Tovah Feldshuh as Golda Meir.

Wilder Thing: Our Suburb, reviewed.

OUR-SUBURB-photo-by-Stan-Barouh

Some kind of technical problem prevented a chunk of this week’s Washington City Paper from being posted online. My review of Darrah Cloud’s play Our Suburb at Theater J was among that chunk, so I’m posting the full text of the review here.

Writer Darrah Cloud’s Internet Movie Database page indicates she was once a prolific imagineer of made-for-TV movies: A Christmas Romance, A Holiday for Love, A Holiday Romance, The Sons of Mistletoe, and — shades of intrigue! — Undercover Christmas. I haven’t seen those films, but the titles imply the sort of cornball mawkishness that some people — specifically, people who are very wrong — associate with Thornton Wilder’s oft-revived, Pulitzer-winning 1938 play, Our Town.

Our Suburb is Cloud’s riff on Wilder’s classic in the way that Aaron Posner’s Stupid Fucking Bird was a reworking of Anton Chekhov’The Seagull, only she isn’t debating her source material the way Posner’s thrilling play did. She’s moved the action — well, “action;” she’s kept Wilder’s sense of life as a sequence of mostly prosaic moments that we are tragically incapable of appreciating   —  from the fictitious hamlet of Grover’s Corners, New Hampshire in the early years of the 20th century to her native Chicago suburb of Skokie, Illinois, about 75 years later. There we follow three households, alike in rigorously striving dignity: The white Majors, and black Minors, and the Jewish Edelmans.

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The Scarlet A(s): Inventing Van Gogh and The Argument, reviewed.

Lawrence Redmond & Ryan Tumulty in "Inventing Van Gogh." (C. Stanley Photography/Washington Stage Guild)

Lawrence Redmond & Ryan Tumulty in “Inventing Van Gogh.” (C. Stanley Photography/Washington Stage Guild)

In today’s Washington City Paper, I review two shows I mostly liked: Washington Stage Guild‘s Inventing Van Gogh and Theater J‘s The Argument.

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This Was Supposed to Be the New World: Theater J’s After the Revolution and Woolly Mammoth’s Detroit, reviewed

Nancy Robinette & Megan Anderson in "After the Revolution." Photo: Stan Barouh/Theater J.

Nancy Robinette & Megan Anderson in “After the Revolution.” Photo: Stan Barouh/Theater J.

I was a bigger fan of Studio Theatre‘s production of Amy Herzog‘s 4,000 Miles earlier this year than I am of Theater J’s new staging of its companion play, After the Revolution.

I can’t fault director Eleanor Holdridge‘s staging of the latter for that; I just connected more strongly to the material in 4,000 Miles. Getting to see two marvelous actors, Tanya Hicken and Nancy Robinette, offer their takes on the same character — a close approximation of Herzog’s grandmother — in 4,000 Miles and Revolution, respectively, within a half-year of each other was fun. Continue reading

College Try: Theater J’s The Hampton Years, reviewed

Crashonda Edwards and Julian Elijah Martinez

Crashonda Edwards and Julian Elijah Martinez

This week’s City Paper theater column was supposed to include reviews of Theater J’s new The Hampton Years and American Century Theater’s revived Biography. The Sunday matinee of Biography I attended was cancelled due to a power failure 30 minutes into the show, and there wasn’t another performance scheduled before my Monday-evening deadline, regrettably.

So I ended up with a few more hundred words of real estate in which to unpack what I consider be the very earnest and honorable Hampton Years’ very earnest and honorable shortcomings. And also the rather less honorable shortcoming of my published review, wherein I reported that the artist Elizabeth Catlett, a character in The Hampton Years, is still alive. In fact, Ms. Catlett died last year. I apologize for my stupid, sloppy error.

Theater on the TV: Discussing Stupid Fucking Bird and The Hampton Years on WETA’s Around Town

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In the unlikely event you’ve nothing better to do on this rainy Friday afternoon than watch Robert Aubry Davis and Jane Horowitz offer insightful comments about a couple of current plays while I blink my eyes and wobble my head around and emit words, then by all means: Gawk away as we discuss Stupid Fuckinging Bird and The Hampton Years on PBS. Continue reading

Personal is Heretical: Theater J’s Andy and the Shadows, reviewed.

high-fidelity-movie-poster-4fc9aac36bb54To paraphrase the leader of the free world, let me be clear: I liked Theater J’s premiere of Artistic Director Ari Roth’s long-gestating, heavily autobiographical play, Andy and the Shadows. I liked it a lot.  It’s too long, its references too scattered and too many, and at the end you feel like you’ve spent your time in the company of a hyperactive (if uncommonly sensitive and articulate) 19-year-old who just will not stop talking, ever. But these are good problems to have. Overreach is better than undereach. And the cast is just tremendous.

The play, as I note, has been around in some form since nearly a decade prior to the publication of Nick Hornby’s novel High Fidelity in 1995, which means it almost certainly also predates Stephen Frears’ Y2K film version of the book.

Nevertheless, the play’s likeness to the movie is sort of uncanny.

My review of the play in today’s Washington City Paper lays out the evidence. Any resemblance to fictional persons, living or dead, is accidental. Continue reading

This Band Is Your Band: Woody Sez, reviewed

I reviewed the bio-musical Woody Sez: The Life and Music of Woody Guthrie for the Washington City Paper.

I Think About Autism, Therefore I’m Not: Theater J’s Body Awareness, reviewed

Bedroom cries: MaryBeth Wise, Susan Lynskey & Adi Stein

I reviewed Theater J‘s production of Annie Baker‘s breakout play, Body Awareness, in today’s City Paper.

Two years ago I reviewed Baker’s follow-up, Circle Mirror Transformation, for the Examiner.

AIDS Crisis on Infinite Earths: On The History of Invulnerability and The Normal Heart

SUPERFAMILIAS: David Deblinger and Tim Getman (Stan Barouh/Theater J)

Any honest critic will occasionally find himself out on a lonely limb, and this week it’s my turn. To me and apparently no one else, Arena Stage’s The Normal Heart — a historically vital play about the early years of the AIDS epidemic in New York City — is morally worthy but artistically wanting.

I am girding myself for hate mail.

People sometimes make fun of Ford’s Theatre’s presidential history plays for being dowdy and pedantic; for being more interested in teaching us A Very Important Lesson than in taking us somewhere. That’s how The Normal Heart felt to me, albeit with a lot more crying. (Also, I tend to like the musty presidential histories.) I happen to agree with the play’s politics, as I understand them — though that really shouldn’t matter at all — and I acknowledge in my review that activist/playwright Larry Kramer was writing in a time and place when subtlety would not have been an appropriate or effective response to the nightmare he and his peers were living through.

I just don’t think the preachy, shouty play he wrote holds up, removed from that urgent context. Your mileage may, and probably will, vary. Continue reading

New Jerusalem, reviewed

Strain & Tolaydo in Theater J's NEW JERUSALEM.

I’ll just go ahead and admit I hadn’t heard of Baruch de Spinoza, or hadn’t remembered his name from Philosophy 101 a million years ago. But David Ives’s Venus in Fur was, I think, the best play I saw in DC last year, so when I had the opportunity to catch Theater J’s current remount of their 2010 production of Ives’s New Jerusalem: The Interrogation of Baruch de Spinoza, I fairly jumped at the chance.

Hurts So Good: Theater J’s After the Fall, considered.

Theater J’s new production of Arthur Miller‘s What? No, it’s not about me; you’re an imaginationless churl merely to suggest it play After the Fall is a staggering work of heartbreaking genius. I reviewed it in today’s Washington City Paper, along with Studio Theater’s busy U.S. premiere of Roland Schimmelpfennig‘s The Golden Dragon, which does Rorschach’s After the Quake, which I liked, one better in the the opaque-animal-metaphor interpretation derby.

As ever, your mileage may vary.

Theater J’s Return to Haifa, reviewed

My understanding of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is not significantly more nuanced than they way it’s rendered here, but I was moved by and wrote about Return to Haifa, the 2008 Israeli stage adaptation of the 1970 Palestinian novella.

Yep, they really did run the photo with the caption, “Requiem Darfur a dream.”

Rahaaleah Nassri and Erika Rose

Noted with Relief: Theater J’s In Darfur ‘s intentions aren’t the only thing that’s good about it. CP review commences:

Winter Miller’s In Darfur is one of those plays that seems at least obliquely to chronicle its own creation, like Moises Kaufman’s 33 Variations or Doug Wright’s I Am My Own Wife. In seeking to compress an unfathomable tragedy into a tellable story, Miller transfers her own pedagogical burden onto one of her three major characters: New York Times reporter Maryka (Rahaleh Nassri) has only days to turn up evidence of a genocide campaign backed by the Sudanese government before her editor reassigns her to a story with more established news value. “Are these good rebels or bad rebels?” Maryka’s editor wants to know, inquiring after the Sudan Liberation Movement. “They’re not great,” Maryka says. The difficulty of untangling the warring factions for Westerners hardens the Times’ reluctance. But Maryka has lucked into the ideal ambassador in Hawa, a teacher whose command of English gives her the ability to personalize the story for readers Maryka hopes will pressure their governments to act if she can get Darfur onto page one.

Read the complete review in the Washington City Paper.