Roger Catlin is a Washington based arts writer whose work appears regularly in The Washington Post and SmithsonianMagazine.com. He has also written for Salon and Al-Jazeera and was a staff writer for The Hartford Courant in Connecticut for longer than he would like to tell you.
Just as African-American artists have sought to reclaim the racist imagery of the past to confront contemporary viewers, the entryway to the Theater Alliance's performance of 'Day of Absence' at the Anacostia Playhouse is decorated with oversized posters advertising blackface minstrel shows.BWW Review: MERCE CUNNINGHAM AT 100 at Kennedy Center October 5, 2019
Pull up a bar stool. The Irish barkeep has a little story to tell you. The saga of 'The Smuggler,' a new prize-winning play by Ronán Noone, couldn't have a more authentic setting than the gently curved eight-seat wooden bar in the speakeasy-like Allegory Bar at the Eaton Hotel downtown. That's where the Irish arts collective Solas Nua has ingeniously set the one man play.BWW Review: FABULATION, OR, THE RE-EDUCATION OF UNDINE at Mosaic Theater August 29, 2019
At the outset of Mosaic Theatre's fifth season opener, 'Fabulation, or the Re-Education of Undine,' the biggest problem facing its central character is the lack of a celebrity for a big Manhattan benefit she's throwing. A high powered PR agent, she throws out a bunch of names cavalierly, and belittles her assistant, who is responsible for getting it all done.BWW Review: ANN at Arena Stage July 20, 2019
Running a small opera company requires innovation enough, but Washington's Urban Arias goes further, by commissioning new works, or finding pieces that are little known or rarely performed and infusing them with reliable company talent that can electrify their purposely small audiences.BWW Review: The Donny Hathaway Story TWISTED MELODIES at Mosaic Theater June 26, 2019
There's a transcendent moment in 'Twisted Melodies,' the one-man Donny Hathaway show by Kelvin Roston Jr. at Mosaic Theater Company, in which the audience and performer are one, singing and clapping to 'The Ghetto,' under his direction, and getting a groove on.BWW Revew: Keegan Theatre's Witty RIPCORD June 21, 2019
Elderly assisted living can be a shared room prison, so the set for David Lindsay-Abaire play 'Ripcord' at the Keegan Theatre has the tidy room explode a coupe of times into some unexpected scenes, from a haunted house to the blue skies that give the comic play its title.BWW Review: In Series' Ambitious THE TALE OF SERSE at Atlas June 4, 2019
Taffety Punk, the insurrectionist yet classically trained company now in its 15th year does what it does best in a pair of striking Greek adaptations by Anne Carson, presented in one invigorating sitting.BWW Review: World Premiere JUBILEE at Arena Stage May 20, 2019
There's a glorious sound coming from Arena Stage.
From out of the mists of time, in monochromatic colors as if from a tintype, comes the sublime harmonizing of 13 voices, giving an idea of the transporting power of the Fisk Jubilee Singers.BWW Review: Washington National Opera's Splendid TOSCA May 14, 2019
It's easy to see why 'Tosca' is one of the most popular works in opera.Its very musical style, broken free from the strict opera house rules before it, allows it to breathe. Singers are not urgently singing every moment. The supertitles person can take a break as it goes dark from time to time. Still, there is drama to burn in the story of an opera singer in the midst of a divided Italy in 1800.BWW Review: PRIDE & JOY: THE MARVIN GAYE MUSICAL at The National May 11, 2019
At a time when Motown Records just marked its 60th anniversary with a lavish TV special, and with 'Ain't Too Proud: The Temptations Musicals' getting a raft of Tony Nominations, following the Broadway success of 'Motown the Musical' and 'Dreamgirls,' based on the Supremes, any fan of the sound would certainly anticipate a new creation called 'Pride & Joy: The Marvin Gaye Musical.'BWW Review: Keegan Theatre's Feisty GOD OF CARNAGE May 10, 2019
A child injures another in a playground confrontation. The parents of each meet to discuss. It's a parenting moment so universal that the familiar premise in Yasmina Reza's 'God of Carnage' was originally written in French and first presented in London. It was a Tony-winner on Broadway a decade ago in a production with James Gandolfini, Jeff Daniels, Hope Davis and Marcia Gay Harden.BWW Review: Constellation Theatre's Magical THE WHITE SNAKE May 1, 2019
Constellation Theatre is closing its season of love stories with a big one from the East. Thankfully 'The White Snake' is not about the 80s English metal band. Instead, it's an ancient, oft-told Chinese folk tale, which was breezily interpreted by Mary Zimmerman originally for the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in 2014. It's brought to lyrical life in a production directed by Allison Arkell Stockman that combines puppetry, movement and a beguiling, underlying musical performance.BWW Review: BLACK PEARL SINGS! Returns to D.C. April 22, 2019
Funny how a few years can change a play, not because of the play itself, but because of social shifts around it.