2020 will see a presidential election, the summer Olympic games, and a total eclipse of the sun — and that’s just some of the stuff we have in store.
Be sure, during this busy, busy year, that you take some time for you. Smell the flowers. Sip the coffee. I dunno, juggle some puppies. And for god’s sake, get to the theatre now and then! You know you want to.
In order of premiere date, here’s what has us most excited at several D.C.-area theatres as we begin the second halves of their 2019-2020 seasons. Musicals, Shakespeare, world premieres … may your self-care involve a night with one of these live performances!
The Folger Shakespeare Library’s Merry Wives of Windsor
Folger is ending its season back where (or at least with whom) it began: Falstaff. Following last year’s dramatic Henry IV Part 1, the Shakespeare library turns to the strictly comical — and fictional — for this farce that puts his audience-favorite character through the wringer. This production, which is full of talented D.C. actors and opens January 14, will be both the first show I review for BYT in 2020 (so watch this space) and the last that Folger does on its regular stage before beginning extensive renovations (so watch that one, too).
Round House’s Spring Awakening
As a critic, there are some shows you just can’t get enough of — never, ever turn down an opportunity to see Six Characters in Search of an Author — but there are also some important ones that somehow or other always seem to elude you. So it is with yours truly and Spring Awakening, Steven Sater and Duncan Sheik’s 2006 rock musical adaptation of the 19th century German play. And there’s nowhere I’d rather take in my first production of it than Round House, where they only do smart straight plays and even smarter musicals. This one starts January 22.
Ford’s Theatre’s Silent Sky
It sounds like a pre-NASA Hidden Figures: Real-life astronomer Henrietta Leavitt finds new stars and develops field-changing processes at the Harvard Observatory in the early 20th century. Silent Sky, which opens on January 24, takes the study of the cosmos back to before the discovery of Pluto. Cepheid variables not doing it for ya? Then the female pioneers will have to do, and director Seema Sueko brought terrific depth of feeling last year to Arena Stage’s The Heiress, another tale of an underestimated turn-of-the-century woman coming into her own.
Studio Theatre’s Pass Over
The concept couldn’t be more intriguing: an update of Waiting for Godot and, per Studio’s website, “chilling collision of the Exodus saga,” that looks at two black men stuck waiting on a modern-day street corner … that could also be a 19th century plantation. Or possibly pharaoh-era Egypt. There’s a lot to unpack here, which is exactly where Studio lives. Written by Antoinette Nwandu, this head-scratcher opens on March 4.
Arena Stage’s Seven Guitars
Arena Stage has put on two plays from August Wilson’s “Pittsburg Cycle” in as many years: 2018’s Two Trains Running and last year’s Jitney. Both were fucking fantastic. So, you know, no pressure on Seven Guitars, which opens on April 3. Set in the 1940s, this tale of seven interconnected lives examines redemption and the search for a better life, all while singing the blues. If I could only see one show on this list, it would be this one.
Woolly Mammoth’s There’s Always the Hudson
The back half of Woolly’s 2019-2020 season looks even more fiery than usual, none more so than this world premiere, which is about a pair of friends who met in a sexual abuse support group and are now “plotting to exact revenge.” Yikes. It’s a brand-new show, so no one has seen it, though it might be a safe bet to leave the kids at home for this one, which starts April 6. But I’ll be there.
The Shakespeare Theatre Company’s Much Ado About Nothing
It might be the most anticipated play in Washington this year. STC’s new artistic director Simon Godwin technically makes his directorial debut with February’s Timon of Athens at the Michael R. Klein Theatre, but that’s actually a restaging of his already-acclaimed Royal Shakespeare Company production. I have to imagine that will be great, but for something new (and at the larger Sidney Harmon Hall), we have to wait for May 5 and this battle of the sexes in the form of Beatrice vs. Benedick. Break a leg, Simon!
Constellation Theatre Company’s Eurydice
Revamped Greek classics are having a moment (when are they not?), but after Constellation absolutely knocked Sarah Ruhl’s Melancholy Play out of the park last season, there’s no one I’d trust more to stage her adaptation of the underworldly Orpheus legend. The Source Theatre’s resident company specializes in archetypal or mythic stories told on an intimate, intensely human scale. Eurydice, which opens on May 7, sounds like their sweet spot.
Signature Theatre’s Hair
Signature has been absolutely crushing the classic musicals recently — their Chorus Line was one of the best area shows of last year — so theatregoers would be fools to miss a summer production of Hair. 2020 feels, if anything, like the dying of the age of Aquarius. Perhaps this hippy-dippy rock musical, which starts May 19, can let the sunshine in.