- The Washington Times - Friday, August 29, 2003

As the hoary cliche has it, fall is when the theater season leaps into high gear. Except that Washington-area theaters have become year-round attractions, so Labor Day weekend now signals more of the same — intriguing and innovative productions from a wealth of local companies. Here is the fall lineup:


It’s a Ken Ludwig kind of year. His dapper adaptation of “The Twentieth Century” is lighting up the joint at Signature Theater, and, on the other side of the Potomac, Arena Stage opens the 2003-04 season with Mr. Ludwig’s “Shakespeare in Hollywood” (Sept. 5 to Oct. 19). This world premiere takes us to 1930s Hollywood, where a young Olivia de Havilland dreams of love and Oscars while on the set of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”

Arena moves on to adduce “Proof” (Oct. 3 to Nov. 23), which deals with mathematical genius and madness. You might well need a bit of an upper after “Proof,” and artistic director Molly Smith’s staging of “Camelot” (Nov. 14 to Jan. 4) may just be the ticket. The Knights of the Round Table — and their singing and dancing damsels — are back in this regal musical. Playwright and director Regina Taylor celebrates family, faith, and the importance of good millinery in “Crowns” (Dec. 12 to Feb. 15). Call 202/554-9066.

The Shakespeare Theatre keeps it light and la-di-dah with “The Rivals” (through Oct. 19), Richard Brinsley Sheridan’s iridescent farce about the wooing of idealistic heiress Lydia Languish. This play introduced the world to the language-mangling character of Mrs. Malaprop. Continuing in the lyrical vein is “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” (Nov. 4 to Jan. 4), directed by Mark Lamos. Call 202/547-1122.

Woolly Mammoth furthers its mission to foster new and risky work with its season premiere, “The Mineola Twins” (through Oct. 5), a corker of a play by Paula Vogel that will be presented at the DC Jewish Community Center. Sarah Marshall stars as the twins Myrna and Myra — a study in contrasts both political and anatomical. From the man who wrote the lovely “Billy Elliot” comes “Cooking with Elvis” (Dec. 16 to Jan. 11) at the Kennedy Center’s AFI National Film Theater. This comedy is described as being in “exceptionally bad taste” (and that’s good). Call 202/393-3939.

The Studio Theatre has five Washington premieres this season. Fresh from Broadway is Suzan Lori-Parks’ Pulitzer Prize-winning play, “Topdog/Underdog” (Sept. 3 to Oct. 12), a fierce work that explores race, family, and the weight of America’s collective history. And, direct from the London stage is David Hare’s lauded adaptation of Bertolt Brecht’s “The Life of Galileo” (Oct. 22 to Nov. 30), featuring Washington immortal Ted van Griethuysen in the title role, which garnered him lavish praise in the British press. In tandem with this production, Studio’s SecondStage will present “The Galileo Project” (Nov. 13 to 23), an exploration of the love affair between scientists and artists. Studio will present another American premiere, “The York Realist” (Dec. 3 to Jan. 11), Peter Gill’s memory play about an ill-timed love between two men. Call 202/332-3300.

Theatre J’s promising season begins with A Traveling Jewish Theatre’s klezmer-infused production of “God’s Donkey: A Play On Moses” (Oct. 30 to Nov. 23). Next comes “From Tel Aviv to Ramallah: A Beat-Box Journey” (Nov. 1 to 30), blending hip-hop, Palestinian and Israeli voices, muezzin calls, and traffic sounds into a modern portrait of the Middle East. Call 202/777-3229.

The Kennedy Center is gearing up for next year’s Tennessee Williams festival, but it does have one major theater event, the pre-Broadway tryout of Stephen Sondheim’s “Bounce” (Oct. 21 to Nov. 16), his first new musical in nine years. The show, which will be directed by Hal Prince, immortalizes two of the most notorious and colorful con men from the Roaring ‘20s, brothers Addison and Wilson Mizner. Call 202/467-4600.

The Folger Theatre, naturally, turns to the Bard to begin its season. “All’s Well That Ends Well” (Oct. 25 to Nov. 30) explores the powerful love of the resourceful Helena for a young nobleman. The cast includes Catherine Flye, Ken Howard, Naomi Jacobsen and Holly Twyford. Call 202/544-7077.

The Theater Alliance will present Neil Bartlett’s translation of Marivaux’s farce “The Dispute” (Oct. 23 to Nov. 23), a provocative play about temptation, jealousy and inconstancy in love. Synetic Theater launches its season with a revival of its much admired production of “Hamlet … The Rest is Silence” (Oct. 9 to Nov. 9), a wordless interpretation of Shakespeare’s tragedy. For information on the Theater Alliance, call 800/494-8497, for Synetic, the number is 202/462-5364.


Bethesda’s Imagination Stage inaugurates a gorgeous new theater with “The BFG,” which means The Big Friendly Giant. Roald Dahl’s tale about a small girl who strikes up a most unlikely friendship with an offbeat giant, runs Sept. 13 to Oct. 19. Following on the saddle shoe-heels of last season’s wildly successful “Miss Nelson is Missing,” is “Miss Nelson Has A Field Day” (Nov. 15 to Jan. 11). Call 301/280-1660.

Olney Theatre Center builds on the success of this summer’s superb Potomac Theatre Festival with “Anna K” (through Sept. 21), playwright Helen Edmundson’s adaptation of Leo Tolstoy’s classic tale of infidelity. With “Charlie’s Aunt” (Oct. 1 to Nov. 2), Olney offers a gender-blending farce about two young swains’ urgent need for a chaperone at a luncheon. A world premiere musical, “The Gift” (Nov. 19 to Dec. 28), arrives just in time for the season of giving. Based on “The Gift of the Magi” and “The Four Million” by O. Henry, this show by Maryrose Wood takes a warm look at an American Christmas 100 years ago. Call 301/924-3400.

They’re singing “O, Canada!” at Round House Theatre this year with the staging of “The Drawer Boy” (Sept. 10 to Oct. 12), one of the most critically acclaimed and commercially successful Canadian plays of the last decade. Local faces Marty Lodge, Mitchell Hebert and Eric Sutton join director Daniel De Raey in this funny play about two middle-aged bachelor farmers and the young actor who moves in with them to research farm life. Round House explores war, politics and disillusionment with British society in George Bernard Shaw’s “Heartbreak House” (Nov. 12 to Dec. 14), directed by Nick Olcott. Call 240/644-1100.

Open Theatre continues its commitment to innovative European playwrights with its production of August Strindberg’s “A Dream Play” (Sept. 6 to Oct. 4). The staging will blend Indian and European performance styles and features original music by Shubha Sankaran. Call 202/547-0874.

Rep Stage in Columbia starts off its fall season with the sex-fueled angst of Sam Shepard’s “Fool for Love” (Sept. 26 to Oct. 12). Another great American playwright, Richard Greenberg (whose “Take Me Out” is currently on Broadway), will be represented with a Baltimore-Washington premiere, “The Dazzle” (Oct. 31 to Nov. 23), the bizarre story of the infamous Collyer brothers, turn-of-the-century eccentrics who barricaded themselves in their mansion with 136 tons of junk to avoid contact with the outside world. Call 410/772-4900.

Also in the wilds of Columbia, the Helen Hayes Award-winning Toby’s Dinner Theatre will present “Ragtime” (Sept. 5 to Nov. 23), the stirring musical adaptation of E.L. Doctorow’s novel about a Jewish family, a black husband and wife, and a well-to-do white clan in turn-of-the-century America. Another slice of Americana, “Meet Me in St. Louis” (Nov. 27 to Feb. 15), will be Toby’s holiday-and-beyond offering. Call 800/888-6297.


Signature Theatre’s love affair with Sondheim continues with its production of “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum” (Oct. 28 to Dec. 14), starring uber-funnyman Floyd King as the Roman slave Pseudolus in hot pursuit of love and freedom. Call 703/820-8771.

The American Century Theater, which beguiled audiences this summer with Jerry Herman’s oft-maligned musical “Dear World,” resurrects another neglected cult musical, “The Robber Bridegroom” (September 11 to Oct. 11). This darkly comedic “folk musical” is based on a novella by Eudora Welty and features a chatty disembodied head. From Nov. 20 to Jan. 31, American Century will host two shows in repertory, “If Only in my Dreams,” a musical revue about the bittersweet Christmas seasons of World War II, and “Mister Roberts,” the 1948 play which became a movie classic starring Jack Lemmon. Call 703/553-8782.

MetroStage in Alexandria starts its new season with a Washington favorite, playwright Tom Stoppard. “Rough Crossing” (Sept. 18 to Oct. 26) is Mr. Stoppard’s freewheeling take on a classic Molnar farce that features his trademark witty wordplay. Another sparkling wit, Noel Coward, is featured in the revue “Noel and Gertie” (Nov. 13 to Dec. 14), which depicts the unconventional love affair between Mr. Coward and Gertrude Lawrence. Call 703/548-9044.

Meanwhile, the Washington Shakespeare Company plunges into the heat and political intrigue of the French Revolution for a new adaptation of “Scaramouche” (Sept. 18 to Oct. 19) by Barbara Field. Call 703/418-4808.

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