A Theatre Lover's Guide to DC/Capital Area Theatres – May 2010 Offerings

The weather is so beautiful and the dogwoods, azaleas, tulips, and magnolias are in full bloom, and as May rolls around, DC area theatres are bursting with new productions.

This month's MUST-SEES include a dip into the Jewish ritual bath - the mikveh, a get-together with a Dominican Abbess, playwright George Bernard Shaw, and a famous museum curator, a hare-raising adventure gone wrong, another loony Landless Theatre production about Perez Hilton, a composer's autobiographical musical growing up in the Big Apple, two 8-year olds who have a bone to pick with everyone and everything, and an alchemist, cheat, and magician who you wouldn't want to befriend. Come visit our nation's capital before the humidity sets in, and surround yourself with nature's gorgeous blooming colors.


(1) Mikveh, from May 5th to June 5th, at Theater J, in Washington, DC.

I would run to see any production that starred any of these incredible actresses: Sarah Marshall, Kim Schraf, Lise Bruneau, Tonya Beckman Ross, Carla Briscoe, Helen Pafumi, Rachel Olivia Condliffe, and Amal Saade. But, it's a special event when you have all them appearing together on the same stage in Hadar Galron's play Mikveh at Theater J.

I grew up in an Orthodox Jewish home in Buffalo, NYC and I knew women who faithfully and religiously went to the mikveh before every Shabbat. But when I asked them what happened at The mikveh and what motivated them to continue this old tradition in modern times, they were so secretive - like The Masons. When I saw a snippet of Mikveh at The Kennedy Center's Page-To-Stage last summer, I wanted to see more, and with this amazing cast directed by the talented Shirley Serotsky, it will be interesting to immerse myself in the stories of eight women who discuss this tradition and the role of women in Israel today. And, personally I'd like to find out why this play was such a big hit in Israel.

(2) The Best of Friends, from May 6th to May 29th, at Washington Stage Guild, at Undercroft Theatre Of the Mount Vernon Place United Methodist Church, in Washington, DC.

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Washington Stage Guild production this spring and I can't wait to see their new production of Hugh Whitemore's The Best of Friends. Just the premise of Dame Laurentia McLachlan - a Dominican Abbess, playwright George Bernard Shaw and Sidney Cockerell - a famous museum curator in the same room sounds crazy - doesn't it? I'm interested in what will they talk about, and how these three famous people met and sustained a long friendship.

Alan Wade directs Catherine Flye (guess who she is playing?), David Bryan Jackson (as Cockerell), and one my favorite actors, Washington Stage Guild's artistic director Bill Largess who will portray the writer of Pygmalion. Sounds like lots of fun.

(3) Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Musical, from May 8th to May 23rd, at The Kennedy Center's Family Theatre, in Washington, DC.

I am a huge fan of Stephanie D'Abruzzo and I became a fan-for-life when I first saw her in Avenue Q pulling those strings and singing the wonderful "There's a Fine, Fine Line" and in I Love You Because. Now, along with local favorites Michael John Casey, who I loved as Falkor The Dragon in Imagination Stage's 2008 production of The Neverending Story, the hysterical Matthew McGloin, who made me laugh myself silly as the Croc in Imagination Stage's Lyle The Crocodile, the elegant chanteuse Gia Mora, and Erika Rose, who recently riveted Theater J audiences as Darfuri refugee Hawa in In Darfur, get to hop around the Family Theatre Stage and have some hare-raising fun.

Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Musical is based on the book by the same name by author Mo Willems, who wrote the script and lyrics to Michael Silversher's score. The show is directed by Rosemary Newcott and choreographed by Paige Hernandez. What happens when a family takes a trip to a Laundromat and they are put through the wringer? Hop over to the Kennedy Center and find out why this family is hung out to dry.

The run is SOLD OUT, but I was told that if you check with the box office, you may get lucky if someone cancels.

(4) Perez Hilton Saves The Universe, from May 14th to June 5th, at Landless Theatre
Company, in Washington, DC.

They have become my favorite small theatre company in the area with their wonderful productions of musicals that just didn't make it big in The Big Apple. So here is how Landless' Andrew Baughman describes this wacky musical written by Randy Blair and Timothy Michael Drucker, with lyrics by Randy Blair and music by Zachary Redler, "Perez Hilton follows a day in the life of the "thirty-something pink-haired chubby gay Cubano gossip blogger." Brittany Spears has tragically passed away, and the stars are all coming out for her Red Carpet Wake. Perez finds himself at the center of an Al Queda terrorist plot to crash the wake and blow up all of the L.A.. Not to mention he's the target of an angry hit-mob of celebrities, Scientologist Jedi Tom Cruise, and the diabolically attention-hungry Kathy Griffin. How will Perez ever save the Universe and find a hot date to Britney's wake in time?

You can only imagine what they will do in the "in your face" space at the District of Columbia Arts Center. The amazing cast includes Andrew Baughman, Shayna Blass, Jedd Breckenridge, Katie Brobst, Helen Hayes Award-winners Mickey D. DaGuiso, and Edward Daniels (part of this year's Outstanding Ensemble of the musical RENT at Keegan Theatre, and Cyle Durkee, Nora Palka, and Heather Scheeler. The show is directed and choreographed by my Musical Performer of the Year - Karissa Swanigan, musical directed by Mickey D. DaGuiso, with scenic design by Jared Davis, costume design by Elizabeth Reeves, lighting design by Carey Rausch, and projection and sound Design - Nicholas James. Paris Hilton look out! There's an even crazier Hilton lurking on the DCAC stage.

(5) Sycamore Trees, From May 18th to June 13th, at Signature Theatre, in Arlington, VA.

As part of Signature Theatre's "American Musical Voices Project", the DC area is so lucky to have the world premiere of composer Ricky Ian Gordon's musical Sycamore Trees. Here once again is a magnificent cast - not to missed - Broadway actors who I admire and whose work I have enjoyed and respected: Farah Alvin, Marc Kudisch, Judy Kuhn, Jessica Molaskey, Matthew Risch, Diane Sutherland, and Tony Yazbeck.

Directed by Steppenwolf Theatre's Tina Landau, with a book by Ricky Ian Gordon and Nina Mankin, Sycamore Trees is Ricky Ian Gordon's story of his family: "When my father came home from World War II in 1945, my family lived in a crowded tenement in the Bronx, poor and with bed bugs. Then my parents got the idea to move to the suburbs where the dream of life flowering in a clean and spacious environment promised to be the answer. It wasn't. This is the story of a family and what happened to them ... and music is its heartbeat and inner life". I am a fan of Ricky Ian Gordon's work and I look forward to hearing his new score. It's the story of many of our families who came to this country and were subjected to living in cramped quarters while they were searching for their own American Dream.

(6) Gruesome Playground Injuries, from May 17th to June 13th, at Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company, in Washington, DC.

"Two eight-year-olds' lives collide in the nurse's office: Doug rode his bike off the roof and Kayleen can't stop throwing up. As they mature from accident-prone kids to self-destructive adults, their broken hearts and broKen Bones draw them ever closer. These two rebels may only be fit for one another. But how far can one person go to heal another's wounds?" Is this a typical Woolly Mammoth production - or what?

John Vreeke directs Gabriela Fernandez-Coffey and Tim Getman in Rajiv Joseph's Gruesome Playground Injuries, and you just know the audience is in for some surprises. In an interview on The Alley Theatre website, playwright Rajiv Joseph described Gruesome Playground Injuries, "This play is, at its core, the charting of two lives using scars, injuries, and calamity as the mile markers. The play on a certain level explores why people hurt themselves to gain another's love and the cumulative effect of such damage, of such demands". You can read the full interview here. Well, we are in for scar-filled, injury-filled and calamity-filled evening at Woolly Mammoth Theatre with this play, and we wouldn't want it any
other way.

(7) Burn Your Bookes, through May 22nd, at Taffety Punk, at the Capitol Hill Arts Workshop, in Washington, DC.

I have never heard of English alchemist Edward Kelley, and as I keep googling to learn about his many escapades and talents, it makes me want to run and buy a ticket to Burn Your Bookes. Local playwright Richard Byrne's has written a play about this "fraud and cheat who was (also) a wife swapper, a vicious drunk who dug up graves to question the dead and steal alchemical tincture. A magician who changed children into donkeys". Doesn't he sound like a real ass? Doesn't this make you want to run to the Capitol Arts Workshop and see this?

"But who was Edward Kelley really? Richard Byrne's play Burn Your Bookes: An Alchemical Triptych tries to answer that question. The playwright revisited primary sources and delved into contemporary writing on alchemy and Kelley to write a new portrait of the legendary alchemist as a clever, ruthless, and surprisingly modern figure." It's the kind of character I love to watch in the theatre.

Burn Your Bookes is directed by Taffety Punk's artistic director Marcus Kyd, and features three amazing local actors - Kimberly Gilbert, Joel D. Santner and Esther Williamson. With a cast like this, it should a magical time in the theatre.

Read a Q&A with playwright Richard Byrne about alchemy, Edward Kelley and Burn Your Bookes here.


May 5th through May 30th, Around the World in 80 Days,
by Round House Theatre, in Bethesda, MD.

May 5th through June 13th, American Buffalo,
by Studio Theatre, in Washington, DC.

May 6th through May 29th, Rifar el Corazón (Heartstrings),
by Teatro de la Luna, at Gunston Arts Center Theatre 2, in Arlington, VA.

May 6th through May 30th, In The Goldfish Bowl,
by Venus Theatre, in Laurel, MD.

May 6th through June 6th, The Ramayana,
by Constellation Theatre at Source, in Washington, DC.

May 7th through May 23rd, Twelfth Night,
by Vpstart Crow, in Manassas, VA.

May 7th through June 13th, Naked Boys Singing,
by Ganymede Arts, at Playbill Café, in Washington, DC.

May 11th through May 29th, Paige in Full,
by The Hegira at The Mead Theatre Lab at Flashpoint, in Washington, DC.

May 13th through June 5th, Anna Christie,
by The Heritage - O'Neill Theatre Company, in Bethesda, MD.

May 14th through May 23rd, The Comedy of Errors...at Colonus?
by Lumina Studios at Round House Silver Spring in Silver Spring, MD

May 27th through June 19th, The Amazing Sophie,
by American Century Theater, at Gunston Arts II in Arlington, VA.

May 28th through June 20th, Every Young Woman's Desire,
by Washington Shakespeare Company, at Clark Street Playhouse, in Arlington, VA.


Through May 2nd, El retablillo de Don Cristóbal,
by Gala Hispanic Theatre, in Washington, DC.

Through May 2nd, Fiddler on the Roof,
the national touring company at the National Theatre, in Washington, DC.

Through May 2nd, On the Verge,
by Rep Stage, in Columbia, MD.

Through May 2nd, The Seven Ages of Mime,
by Happenstance Theatre at the Montgomery College Performing Arts Center Theatre 2, in Silver Spring, MD.

Through May 8th, HOODOO,
at Capital Fringe Headquarters, in Washington, DC.

Through May 9th, The House with Two Doors,
by Capital Fringe Headquarters, in Washington, DC.

Through May 9th, Sixty Miles to Silver Lake,
by Studio Theatre, in Washington, DC.

Through May 9th, The Triumph of Love,
by Olney Theatre Center, in Olney, MD.

Through May 9th, Yours, Isabel,
by Capital Fringe Headquarters, in Washington, DC.

Through May 9th, Chicks,
by Bonifant Theatre Space, in Silver, MD.

Through May 16th, The Old Settler,
by African Continuum Theatre Company, at Atlas Performing Performing Arts Center, in Washington, DC.

Through May 16th, Reasons To Be Pretty,
by Studio Theatre, in Washington, DC.

Through May 16th, The Trip to Bountiful,
by Quotidian Theatre Company, at The Writer's Center, in Bethesda, MD.

Through May 22nd, Metamorphosis,
by Synetic Theater at the Rosslyn Spectrum, in Arlington, VA.

Through May 22nd, Violet,
by Kensington Arts Theatre, in Kensington, MD.

Through May 23rd, The Graduate,
by Keegan Theatre at Church Street Theatre, in Washington, DC.

Through May 23rd, The Last Five Years,
by 1st Stage, in Tyson's Corner, VA.

Through May 23rd, The Liar,
by Shakespeare Theatre at the Lansburgh Theatre, in Washington, DC.

Through May 30th, The Dancing Princesses,
by Imagination Stage, in Bethesda, MD.

Through May 30th, Sophisticated Ladies,
by Arena Stage at the Lincoln Theatre, in Washington, DC.

Through June 3rd, The Puppet Company,
by The Puppet Company, in Glen Echo, MD.

Through June 5th, Planet Claire,
by Maryland Ensemble Theatre (MET), in Frederick, MD.

Through June 5th, Souvenir,
by Bay Theatre Company, in Annapolis, MD,

Through June 6th, Hamlet,
by The Folger Elizabethan Theatre, in Washington, DC.

Though June 13th, The Red Balloon,
by Adventure Theatre in Glen Echo, MD.

Through June 27th, [title of show],
by Signature Theatre, in Arlington, VA.


(1) Mikveh at Theater J. Image by David Polonsky.

(2) Bill Largess, who will be performing the role of George Bernard Shaw in Washington Theatre Guild's The Best of Friends.

(3) Artwork by Mo Willems for The Kennedy Center's production of Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Musical.

(4) Gaga (Katie Brobst), Tiger (Edward Daniels), Perez (Andrew Baughman), Zac (Jedd Brekenridge) and Miley (Shayna Blass), in Landless Theatre Company's production of
Perez Hilton Saves the Universe, Photo credit: Amanda Williams Photography.

(5) Tony Yazbeck (sitting), Marc Kudisch, and Diane Sutherland star in Signature Theatre's 's world premiere musical Sycamore Trees by Ricky Ian Gordon. Photo credit: Chris Mueller.

(6) Gabriela Fernandez-Coffey and Tim Getman in Wooly Mammoth Theatre Company's
production of Gruesome Playground Injuries. Photo credit: Stan Barouh.

(7) Joel D. Santner as Jakub Muller and Daniel Flint as Edward Kelley, in Taffety Punk Theatre Company's Burn Your Bookes. Photo credit: Marcus Kyd.
-- Joel Markowitz writes about theatre in Washington, DC, Philadelphia, and New York for DC Theatre Scene. Follow Joel's Theatre Schmooze column here and his podcast interviews here. Joel can also be heard on The Lunch and Judy Show radio program starring Judy Stadt on WTBQ 1110 AM in NYC.



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Joel Markowitz grew up in Buffalo, NY. At a young age, between shoveling snow and eating hot Buffalo wings, he fell in love with theatre, (read more...)

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