Recent Stage Articles

Unhappy Campers

''Camp David'' offers a subject well worthy of a revisit

An ideal evening at the theater for precocious high schoolers and the politically curious, Lawrence Wright's Camp David is a primer on President Jimmy Carter's brokering of an uneasy peace in the Mideast conflict as it stood in 1978. Written with mild humor, a certain passion and a storyteller's talent, this lesson in the vital and complex problems of this political and religious morass slips down with the ease of a geopolitical gel cap. Though it may not be overflowing ... [Read]

Acting American

''Spelling Bee'' and ''Hair'' fill their stages with overflowing Americana, from well packaged to beautifully powerful

The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee is as American as apple pie -- especially as portrayed in the new production at Ford's Theatre. The musical about contestants and characters at a fictional regional spelling bee is also as American as its producing local theater company, based in the Civil War-era historical venue. Though director Peter Flynn could just as easily have created this for the Walt Disney Company. It's all wholesome, unobjectionable, feel-good fun, with light humor and even ... [Read]

A Mighty Wind

The appeal of Signature's Beaches goes far beyond the maudlin movie

There are people -- plenty of them -- who absolutely love the maudlin 1988 chick flick blockbuster Beaches, about the platonic love of two women. I'm not one of them. But I suspect haters would come away from Signature Theatre's world premiere musical, an adaptation led in large part by the original novel's author Iris Rainer Dart, singing a new tune. Yes, even a certain old one, as director Eric Schaeffer reversed course from an earlier announced decision, and the ... [Read]

Unromantic Comedies

Folger Theatre's unprecedented in-the-round staging makes Richard III an immersive experience -- and a wake-up call

Have you ever nodded off at the theater? Do you worry that you might be particularly prone to doing just that during Shakespeare, the bard of long, complicated, verbose plays? Well, especially if you manage to snag front-row orchestra seats, you don't have to worry with Folger Theatre's new well-staged production of Richard III. Director Robert Richmond has aimed to please by bucking tradition and offering an in-the-round staging of Shakespeare's epic history play. In an unprecedented move, he had ... [Read]

Porter House

The InSeries's new show pays tribute to the legendary Cole Porter

''He lit up like a child on Christmas morning about the idea of getting to work with Cole Porter music,'' Steven Scott Mazzola says. He's talking about Greg Stevens, whom Mazzola tapped last year to help create and direct The Cole Porter Project, a new commission by The InSeries. {InSeries: Steven Scott Mazzola (Photo by Angelisa Gillyard)} ''I've loved Cole Porter since I was in high school,'' Stevens explains, adding that, of all things, it was a disco version of ... [Read]

Magic Act

Jose Carrasquillo returns to GALA with a picturesque puzzle

''I don't do realism well, but I do magic realism very well,'' theater director Jose Carrasquillo says, by way of touting his latest show, The Girl from Tacna, now at GALA Theatre. ''It's really worth seeing because of that: Whether you like this play or not, visually it's very impressive.'' The play, written by Nobel laureate Mario Vargas Llosa, is a somewhat surreal, time-shifting exploration into one Peruvian family's rich history. ''It's a memory play,'' Carrasquillo says, ''and the way ... [Read]

The Power of Charisma

Aside from its two leads, Keegan Theatre has assembled another strong ensemble for its latest production

As written, Gore Vidal's The Best Man ultimately intends viewers to root for William Russell over Joseph Cantwell in their knock-down, drag-out fight to become their party's candidate for president in 1960. But as performed at Keegan Theatre, we unquestionably root for outgoing President Arthur Hockstader instead. The reason is simple: Kevin Adams plays Hockstader with such command, conviction and Bill Clinton-esque charisma, you'd love to vote for him in real life. Has Adams ever been a politician? Is he ... [Read]

Taking Courage

Kathleen Turner, utterly and completely compelling, owns the stage in her portrayal of Brecht's ''Mother Courage''

With a charisma that roars like a coal-fired furnace, Arena's Mother Courage and Her Children, begins and ends with Kathleen Turner in the title role. Yes, there are other memorable players that bring their own well-tended fires, but no one is as fully stoked as Turner. And though her delivery – a gravelly mix of Ian McShane-style proclamations, Marianne Faithful-style vocals and Turner's own potent phrasing – might throw another play off its axis, here it is utterly and completely ... [Read]

Serial Mother

Mother Courage's Kathleen Turner is a proud mother all around

''When I got the script for Serial Mom, I couldn't believe it,'' Kathleen Turner says. ''I kept picking it up and throwing it down. And saying to my husband, 'You're not going to believe this!''' Anyone who's seen John Waters's 20-year-old hysterical black comedy can understand. Turner is brilliant as a gleefully murderous mother, killing people in her suburban Baltimore neighborhood for committing trivial faux pas. ''When I finally realized I was kind of hooked,'' she says, ''I called John ... [Read]

The Past in Two Parts

''How to Succeed'' can't shake loose from its misogyny, while ''Violet'' pulls something beautiful out of the mid-20th century

I searched in vain to find a saving grace in Olney Theatre's new production of How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying. Initially, I thought it might come from actress Sherri L. Edelen. After all, I can still vividly recall her thoroughly commanding performance as Rose in Signature Theatre's just-wrapped production of Gypsy, which deservedly earned Edelen another Helen Hayes Award nomination. But there's only so much even one great actor can do, even with support from other great ... [Read]

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