By Tristan Lejeune
2016 was another great year for Washington-area theatre. Whether you wanted dignified drama, unusual experiments, celebrity-led tours or an old favorite done well, the District playhouses had you covered.
Unsurprising for an election year, things got political. Round House and Arena Stage looked to the lessons of the past with the Reagan-era Angels in America and the Johnson White House All the Way, respectively. The Shakespeare Theatre Company filled its Othello with oil and Islam, while the Folger Shakespeare Library transplanted Shylock from Venice to D.C. for its District Merchants. Source Theatre foresaw a dystopian future with Urinetown and Woolly Mammoth reacted to the shocking election night with a laugh-to-keep-from-crying variety show.
Here are the D.C. plays to which I’m most looking forward in 2017
Arena Stage A Raisin in the Sun
Arena has a tough-to-miss world premiere on its docket: The abortion drama Roe begins on Jan. 12. But I’m a sucker for a classic if the cast and crew can pull it off, and the idea of watching the story of the Youngers, the first family of black American drama, play out in the round on the Fichandler Stage is too much to resist. Raisin is set to premiere March 31.
Folger Shakespeare Library Timon of Athens
As You Like It, which starts next month and runs through early March, is done well relatively often, but Timon of Athens, which opens in May, is hardly ever done! Shakespeare is not famous for his tragicomic satires, which are sometimes performed even less than his histories. I can’t wait to see what Folger does with Timon.
Round House Theatre Caroline, or Change
If it ain’t broke, don’t fix fix it: Round House is doubling down on catering to theatre-goers’ hunger for Tony Kushner. After their highly acclaimed Angels in America, the Bethesda theatre is continuing their “celebration” of the Pulitzer-winning playwright with this story set in Civil Rights-era Louisiana. Their website promises it’ll be “the largest musical in Round House’s history.” Go on…
Shakespeare Theatre Company The Select
After an underwhelming Romeo & Juliet and an unenjoyable Secret Garden, STC needs a quality comeback but quick. Fortunately, the second half of the ’16-’17 season feels far bolder and riskier for D.C.’s most staid theatre. There’s King Charles III, which explores a modern transfer of power in Elizabethan blank verse, and there’s The Select, a new adaptation of The Sun Also Rises. This is catnip for English majors, but everyone should admire the roll of the dice. It could be awful. It could be wonderful. Isn’t it pretty to think so?
Source Theatre Peter and the Starcatcher
In full disclosure, I know exactly two things about this play. It is, as the Constellation Theatre Company’s website says, “a grownup prequel to the treasured story of Peter Pan,” and my friends who are actors love performing in it. That’s a very good sign for this musical, coming to the 14th Street space on Feb. 9. Constellation excels at packing vivacious stories into Source’s black box; Neverland could be the perfect setting for their intense ratio of theatre-per-square-inch.
Studio Theatre The Hard Problem
Tom Stoppard has a new play? Enough said; I’m there. Studio’s production — from perhaps the greatest living playwright — begins January 11.
Theater J Copenhagen
I gave my boyfriend a list of shows to choose from for what he wanted to see with me in January. He didn’t even hesitate, immediately requesting this cerebral drama set in 1941 concerning two physicists and their discussions of the incipient atom bomb. I’m sure it appeals to both the history buff and the science nerd in him. But after the recent success of The Christians, no doubt he was also considering how well Theatre J does with cerebral dramas.
Woolly Mammoth Theatre Hir
Washington’s weirdest, most daring theatre plans to close out its season in May with (you guessed it? if you’re psychic??) the tale of a dishonorably discharged son returning from the war to a domestic chaos full of gender transition, role reversal and lots and lots of meds. Mammoth is huge when it comes to tip-toeing up to the line of insanity without going over, and the original New York Times review of Hir applauded the show’s “woolly, dark vision.” It’s like it was meant to be.