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Sam Abney

Sam Abney

Sam Abney is a Washington, D.C. based arts professional. A native of Arizona, he has happily made D.C. his new home. Sam is a graduate from George Mason University with a degree in Communication and currently works for Arena Stage as a member of their Development team. He is a life-long lover of theater and is excited about sharing his passion with as many people as possible.

To stay up-to-date on Sam's latest reviews, be sure to subscribe to alerts. You can also follow him on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram at @sabney93.


BWW Review: FAIRVIEW at Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company
September 19, 2019

Jackie Sibblies Drury's play, Fairview, currently playing at Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company, is a show that desperately calls for conversation. It's no wonder, then, that each performance is immediately followed by community discussions led by Build With, a DC-based anti-racist training, facilitation, and consulting practice focused on people, power, and partnership. While I wasn't able to stay for this event following Saturday night's performance, it is an important step in ensuring this work's complicated themes are digested in a clear way. Fairview is one of the most conceptual shows in recent memory. Not every idea can be fully explored in this production, which has a tight 100-minute run time that director Stevie Walker-Webb keeps clipping at a good pace. Nevertheless, Fairview is a necessary piece for anyone looking to dive deeper into discussions of race and identity in America.

BWW Review: LEGALLY BLONDE at The Keegan Theatre
August 10, 2019

Few characters become so embedded in the fabric of pop culture that merely the mention of a color can elicit their memory. Such is the case, however, for Elle Woods, the golden-haired Malibu native at the center of Legally Blonde. Talk about the color pink for too long and someone in your circle is guaranteed to quote one of the now-iconic lines made immortal by Reese Witherspoon in the 2001 film. The 2007 Broadway musical burdened its star, Laura Bell Bundy, with the responsibility of carrying on Ms. Witherspoon's legacy while appearing in almost every scene and belting her lungs out. This hot pink explosion of female empowerment and sisterhood is a deceptively demanding production with a non-stop score by Laurence O'Keefe and Nell Benjamin. While the DC premiere at The Keegan Theatre is a fun evening, the overly-choreographed production feels like Elle Woods' first day at Harvard: its trying a little too hard.

BWW Review: Signature Theatre's SPUNK Lacks, Well… Spunk
May 13, 2019

I've never been disappointed by a show at Signature Theatre. Even their ongoing Grand Hotel, which is working with some less-than-stellar source material, is elevated by the wonderful craftsmanship and talented artists this theater welcomes. The same can unfortunately not be said of the disappointing Spunk, which opened in Signature's more intimate ARK theater on Friday. Zora Neale Hurston's masterful prose falls flat in a production that feels like it opened too soon, resulting in an evening lacking in the gumption this show tries to champion.

BWW Review: Washington Performing Arts Serves Up a Swinging Gala
April 7, 2019

All of the cultural offerings in Washington, D.C. can be easy to take for granted. There are now so many options for theater, music, dance, opera, ballet, or any other art form that it's easy to forget this wasn't always the case. The robust arts scene of today is possible thanks to long-established organizations which have championed the creation and presentation of exciting works for decades. As one of the most established performing arts institutions in America, Washington Performing Arts stands as a symbol of all the city has to offer. During their annual gala, the organization successfully celebrated their long history while looking to all they still have to offer in the coming years.

BWW Review: New York City Ballet Surprises and Impresses at The Kennedy Center
April 6, 2019

Sometimes ballet can be tricky. It's an art form that, when misunderstood, can come off as stuffy and out-of-date. Neither of those labels are an accurate description of the program New York City Ballet is showcasing at the Kennedy Center. With a skillful blend of contemporary and classic techniques, there's something for everyone in this thrilling presentation.

BWW Review: COME THROUGH at the Kennedy Center is a Contemporary Triumph
March 30, 2019

Monday night's production of Bon Iver and TU Dance's Come Through at the Kennedy Center is one of the most quintessentially contemporary performances on record. Filled with emotional dancing, strobing projections, and barely discernible and highly auto-tuned vocals, the night was a celebration of all things modern. On first thought, such a performance seems out of place in the Center's Concert Hall, arguably the most classical space they possess. Surprisingly, the evening works as a solid addition to the Center's programming.

BWW Review: A BRONX TALE at the National Theatre is Disappointingly Disjointed
March 27, 2019

The first words sung in A Bronx Tale, the tonally uneven and musically disappointing touring show that opened at D.C.'s National Theatre on Tuesday, are literally "this is a Bronx tale." The artistic subtleties don't get much better from there, as the musical (based on a movie based on a one-man show) proceeds to tackle issues from morality to racism with all the delicateness of a mobster smashing someone's head in with a baseball bat. Everything about this production is underwhelming from the performances to the design to the direction and choreography. Ultimately, A Bronx Tale is the perfect example of why we should stop adapting movies into musicals.

BWW Review: The Washington Chorus Gives a Joyous St. Patrick's Day Concert
March 24, 2019

Third on the list of identifying traits for St. Patrick's Day (behind binge drinking and the color green) is the amount of fun the holiday elicits from devoted celebrants. This sheer joy was on full display at The Washington Chorus's St. Patrick's Day Celebration presented at the Kennedy Center on the holiday in question. In addition to being a beautiful showcase for the talented group, the day was a fun-filled one thanks to programming that united multiple arts groups from across the District (and the globe) and especially because of their show-stealing conductor and Artistic Director, Christopher Bell.

BWW Review: Washington National Opera's FAUST is a Devilishly Good Time
March 20, 2019

Few works have inspired such a long-lasting legacy as Johann Wolfgang von Goethe's Faust. The Faustian bargain has become a common expression for metaphorically selling one's soul in order to obtain their goals. Of course, the metaphor is much less metaphorical in von Goethe's work and, subsequently, the Charles Gounod opera which stems from this German classic. Gounod's opera isn't always perfect, but the Washington National Opera's new production which opened at the Kennedy Center on Saturday evening breathes enough life into this classic that you'll likely not notice the over three hours you've spent watching the drama unfold.

BWW Review: THUNDER KNOCKING ON THE DOOR at Creative Cauldron
February 19, 2019

There is nothing outright wrong with Thunder Knocking on the Door, the blues-filled musical which opened at Creative Cauldron this past Saturday. But there isn't much that is right with it either. Overall, the production is a firmly middle-of-the-road endeavor where the mismatched cast are unable to elevate the subpar source material. At the end of the day, this is a show that thinks it has more to say that it actually does.

BWW Review: Wolf Trap Opera and Washington Concert Opera Elevate LE VIN HERBE
February 16, 2019

When you think about Wolf Trap, you probably think of their stunning outdoor Filene Center where their summer performance series takes place. But their indoor venue, The Barns, might just give the Filene Center a run for its money. Wolf Trap Opera and Washington Concert Opera's recent production of Le Vin Herbe shows off the utilitarianism of this space while highlighting a dozen stellar vocalists. The chosen source material might not be the most compelling-but this co-production elevates the work beyond the middling libretto.

BWW Review: EL VIEJO, EL JOVEN Y EL MAR at GALA Hispanic Theatre is a Beautiful Spanish-Language Work
February 13, 2019

With so many wordy productions from playwrights ready to wax philosophical about any issue, it's easy to forget that true dramatic excellence comes not from beautiful words but beautiful emotions honestly portrayed. If, like me, you are not fluent in Spanish you shouldn't be scared of El Viejo, El Joven Y El Mar which opened at GALA Hispanic Theatre on Saturday night. After all, you'll still understand most of the action even if you aren't following everything on the provided supertitles thanks to some splendid performances. While the play fumbles with some unnecessary plot points that overextend the runtime, GALA has still provided an enjoyable evening at the theater.

February 8, 2019

About ten minutes into the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater's (AAADT) performance on Tuesday evening at the Kennedy Center I put away my notebook on which I jot down my ideas for reviews. There are only so many times that you can write variations of 'wow, that was incredible' before the phrase becomes redundant. As the Ailey dancers do on every visit to the Center, they delivered an enrapturing evening of dance with new creations and classic items from their repertoire. Yet again, this company proves why it is one of the leading dance companies worldwide.

BWW Review: American Ballet Theatre Delivers a Simple HARLEQUINADE
February 1, 2019

When the American Ballet Theatre came to Washington, D.C. last year, they served up a delectable Whipped Cream at the Kennedy Center. In 2019, the company has returned with a similarly infectious Harlequinade which, even when viewed independent of Whipped Cream, never reaches the technical heights expected of such a revered company. At Tuesday's performance, the murmurs I overheard at intermission were largely mixed with one audience member calling the dance 'enjoyable but so thin it was like looking through cellophane.' Harlequinade is a fun evening-but it plays more as an introduction to ballet then as a truly triumphant production.

BWW Review: KINGS at Studio Theatre Rules
December 20, 2018

Some people go to the theater to find a place to escape from the world around them. If you are one of those people, Studio Theatre's production of Kings wont be your cup of tea. This production is often an uncomfortably real exploration of politics, lobbyists and daily life in the heart of our nation. It takes a moment for the plot to get moving, but once it has left the station, Kings proved to be a thoroughly enjoyable ride.

BWW Review: Washington Concert Opera Serves Up a Seductive SAPHO
November 21, 2018

If you have ever attended an opera and thought 'all of these sets and costumes are so incredibly distracting' then Washington Concert Opera would be right up your alley. Stripping away the grandiose of an opera production, WCO presents their works in their most raw form: with just an orchestra, a chorus, and principles who sing their hearts out. This minimalist style isn't likely to convert opera skeptics, but it is a great way to deepen one's appreciation for the art form. Their most recent presentation of Charles Gounod's first opera, Sapho, benefits from some strong lead performances. It's just a shame that the libretto isn't better.

BWW Review: Washington National Opera's SILENT NIGHT is a Timely Tribute to Veterans
November 11, 2018

One hundred years after the armistice of The Great War, it is still crucial to honor the memory of all who fought to create a better world for the future. Washington National Opera's production of Silent Night, which opened on Saturday night at the Kennedy Center, is a glorious celebration of the brave soldiers who have risked their lives for their countries. The production is weakened by some questionable staging choices but serves as a suitable showcase for opera's rising stars.

BWW Review: Ragamala Dance Company's WRITTEN IN WATER at the Kennedy Center
November 3, 2018

Just because a work is new doesn't mean that it isn't able to honor the classic sources that paved the way for its creation. This idea is underscored in the Ragamala Dance Company's elegant and well-executed performance of Written in Water, which relies on the ancient Indian board game Paramapadam (a precursor to Snakes and Ladders) and Hindu mythology to craft the performance's three movements. Even though the performance could benefit from more dynamic shifts in tonality, the overall effect is gorgeous and precise.

BWW Review: Theater J's ACTUALLY is, Actually, Very Thought-Provoking
October 25, 2018

Theater J's new production of Actually, which opened on Monday night, provides new voices to the issue of campus safety and sexual assault. Anna Ziegler's script undoubtedly has important things to say-and Actually is a crucial piece which dives into the intricacies of campus safety. It's tough material that suffers from some uneven pacing but one which, nevertheless, encourages continued engagement and thought.

BWW Review: THE FALL at Studio Theatre Must Be Seen
October 18, 2018

Every now and then, a show comes along that is an undeniable "must-watch." The reasons for such a status may vary but the final verdict is unmistakable: the performance cannot be missed. With The Fall, Studio Theatre has such a scenario on their hands. This 80-minute performance, brought to D.C. by The Baxter Theatre Centre at the University of Cape Town, flies by so quickly that I didn't want it to end.