DC Theater Friday: ‘King and I’ cruises at Kennedy Center

Saturday, 05 August 2017, 06:32:35 PM. Closing this weekend: “An Octoroon” and “Cabaret.”

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Laura Michelle Kelly as Anna in Rodgers & Hammerstein's “The King and I.” (Matthew Murphy)

The weekly feature of what’s happening on Washington stages.

Last chance for two of the city’s signature dramas, “The Originalist” at Arena Stage and “An Octoroon” at Woolly Mammoth. “Cabaret” and “My Fair Lady” are in their final weekends, too.

In the ETC. category, note the live accompaniment by composer-percussionist Tom Teasley to the classic film “The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari” at Constellation Theater.

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Shepard appreciation by Peter Marks

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“Big Fish.” Andrew Lippa’s adaptation of the 2003 Tim Burton movie gets its D.C. premiere after a 2013 Broadway run. Aug. 5-Sept. 2 at Keegan Theatre, 1742 Church St. NW. Tickets $45-$55. Call 202-265-3767 or visit keegantheatre.com.

“Whipping, or The Football Hamlet.” Writer-director Kathleen Akerley’s annual show (under the banner Longacre Lea) is billed as a political comedy about a black quarterback, with video and live action. Aug. 10-Sept. 10 at Catholic University’s Callan Theatre, 3801 Harewood Rd. NE. Tickets $20. Visit longacrelea.org.

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Benjamin Lurye (Freddy Eynsford-Hill) and Brittany Campbell (Eliza Doolittle) in “My Fair Lady.” (Stan Barouh)

“The King and I.” “You can hold in your head the sense that the perspective of ‘The King and I,’ written more than 65 years ago, is antique even as you’re enraptured by the romantic ballads — ‘Something Wonderful,’ ‘We Kiss in a Shadow,’ ‘I Have Dreamed’ — that make this beautifully sung evening so ahhh-inspiring. Bartlett Sher takes pains in this touring version — with opulent costumes by Catherine Zuber and aesthetically pleasing sets and lighting by Michael Yeargan and Donald Holder — to give texture to the portraits of the Siamese. Jose Llana and Laura Michelle Kelly both offer up the formidable presences required of this musical clash of wills.” (Peter Marks) Through Aug. 20 at the Kennedy Center Opera House. Tickets $59-$149. Call 202-467-4600 or visit kennedy-center.org.

“The Mark of Cain.” “In the latest production by Synetic Theater, the dastardly central character undergoes a series of physical transformations. Cain — the biblical figure who slew his brother, Abel — metamorphosizes first into a cruel Roman emperor, then a bloodthirsty medieval king, then a fascist dictator. And finally, into a familiar-looking guy in a solid red tie who’s obsessed with his smartphone, one who is described in the program as “a media-savvy demagogue.” Hmm, which phone-loving “media-savvy” fellow could ‘The Mark of Cain’ director, Paata Tsikurishvili, possibly be referencing?” (Peter Marks) Through Aug. 13 at Synetic Theater, 1800 S. Bell St., Arlington. Tickets $20-$60. Call 866-811-4111 or visit synetictheater.org.

“Night Seasons.” The D.C. area premiere of a family saga by Horton Foote, the late “Trip to Bountiful” writer. Produced by Quotidian Theatre. Through Aug. 13 at The Writer’s Center, 4508 Walsh St, Chevy Chase. Tickets $15-$30. Call 301-654-8664 or visit quotidiantheatre.org.

“Thurgood.” “Pure hero worship. The play is by George Stevens, Jr., the longtime producer of the Kennedy Center Honors until his run was abruptly severed in 2014, and this script feels like an extended tribute to the country’s first African American Supreme Court justice. Director Walter Dallas counters the unimaginative dramaturgy by drawing an energized performance from Brian Anthony Wilson: The pace is brisk, and the stories charge forth.” (Nelson Pressley) Through Aug. 20 at the Olney Theatre Center, 2001 Olney-Sandy Spring Rd., Olney. Tickets $45-$70. Call 301-924-3400 or visit olneytheatre.org.

dc-theater-friday-king-and-i-cruises-at-kennedy-center photo 3 Jaysen Wright, Jamyl Dobson, and Michael Rishawn in “Wig Out!” (Teresa Wood)

“Wig Out.” “The rivalries are ferocious in the pulpy drama about drag performers in competing ‘houses.’ Movie audiences who know writer Tarell Alvin McCraney for this year’s pensive best-picture winner ‘Moonlight’ will find him in a far more outgoing key in this 2008 play, which strides firmly (while wearing very high heels) into territory pioneered by the documentary ‘Paris Is Burning.’ At 2½ hours it’s a drawn-out tempest, but like ‘Moonlight,’ it’s about donning the hard shell needed to survive tough upbringings and harsh circumstances.” (Nelson Pressley) Through Aug. 20 at Studio Theatre, 1501 14th St. NW. Tickets $20-$62. Call 202-332-3300 or visit studiotheatre.org.

TYA (Theater for Young Audiences)

“Junie B. Jones Is Not a Crook.” Allison Gregory’s adaptation of the Barbara Park series. For all ages. Through Aug. 14 at Adventure Theatre MTC, 7300 MacArthur Blvd. (Glen Echo Park), Glen Echo. Call 301-634-2270 or visit adventuretheatre-mtc.org.

“Wonderland: Alice’s Rock and Roll Adventure.” The versatile Erin Weaver is Alice in this rock telling of Lewis Carroll’s fantasy, for age 5 and older. Through Aug. 13 at Imagination Stage, 4908 Auburn Avenue, Bethesda. Tickets $10-$30. Call 301-280-1660 or visit imaginationstage.org.

READ MORE: Jane Horwitz rounds up this summer’s family-friendly fare.


“Cabaret.” “The defiantly strident production that Sam Mendes first concocted around Alan Cumming’s nasty Emcee at London’s Donmar Warehouse in 1993 is winding down after a long, frigid reign. Jon Peterson competently steps into Cumming’s punk shorts and shirtless, suspender-snapping bravado, nipples rouged and sarcasm dripping. The sturdy-voiced Leigh Ann Larkin, as Sally Bowles, has wide eyes and a big smile that she beams on

dc-theater-friday-king-and-i-cruises-at-kennedy-center photo 4 Leigh Ann Larkin in Roundabout Theatre Company's “Cabaret.” (Joan Marcus)

Benjamin Eakeley’s Clifford Bradshaw, but to little effect. The grubby cynicism is showbiz-averse, and it harshly overstates the obvious.” (Nelson Pressley) Through Aug. 6 at the Kennedy Center Eisenhower Theater. Tickets $59-$149. Call 202-467-4600 or visit kennedy-center.org.

“Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill.” An Anacostia Playhouse production of the late-career Billie Holiday concert drama, featuring Anya Randall Nebel. “It’s always been a downer of a show, catching Holiday in the throes of addiction, bitter and out of control in this small club gig. Nebel sings and acts it well, though the effort to mimic Holiday’s bugle bleat tone and slurred vowels is more distraction than asset. The nightclub ambiance works well in the playhouse, but the piano-bass-drums trio wasn’t fully in command as of opening night.” (Nelson Pressley) Through Aug. 6 at the Anacostia Playhouse, 2020 Shannon Pl. SE. Tickets $30-$40. Call 202-290-2328 or visit anacostiaplayhouse.com.

“My Fair Lady.” “In the lean, generally fetching, mildly nontraditional ‘My Fair Lady,’ the power struggle between Higgins and Eliza occasionally displays a startling erotic edge. That’s the case in part because director Alan Souza has given us a Higgins with the looks, and often the presence, of a matinee idol. This production benefits from the dynamism and singing prowess of Brittany Campbell as Eliza, the Covent Garden flower seller who learns elite pronunciation under Higgins’s tutelage. Program notes proclaim that Souza has set the story in 1921, a few years after the passage of a law that enabled some British women to vote. Postdating the story seems almost redundant, given Eliza’s resolve, iconoclasm, daring and ultimate self-reliance.” (Celia Wren) Through Aug. 6 at the Olney Theatre Center, 2001 Olney-Sandy Spring Rd., Olney. Tickets $33-$80. Call 301-924-3400 or visit olneytheatre.org .

“Oblivion.” “Carly Mensch is an accomplished TV writer-producer, and her dialogue flows naturally in this four-character plot about a high schooler named Julie (a charming and willful Ruthie Rado) who turns to Christianity as her parents’ marriage hits a bad patch. It’s good to see more thoughtful new American plays on religion, but ‘Oblivion’ is largely a marital/family drama, and on that front it can be frustrating.” (Nelson Pressley) Produced by Unexpected Stage Company. Through Aug. 6 at the River Road Unitarian Universalist Congregation, 6301 River Rd., Bethesda. Tickets $10. Call 301-229-0400 or visit unexpectedstage.org.

“An Octoroon.” Woolly Mammoth revives its staging of Brandon Jacobs-Jenkins’s acclaimed drama. “Jacobs-Jenkins is looking with a jaundiced eye at the mechanics of ‘The Octoroon,’ the 1859 ‘sensation drama’ by Dion Boucicault that inspired Jacobs-Jenkins’s play. Simultaneously he’s highlighting the collective skittishness of our time over labels and racial identity and who has permission to say what about whom. By pla­cing black actors in whiteface and Latino actors in blackface and white actors in redface, he’s for­cing the rest of us to consider in the starkest terms the impact of society’s relentless color-sorting — conscious or otherwise.” (Peter Marks) Through Aug. 6 at Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company, 641 D St. NW. Tickets $20-$69. Call 202-393-3939 or visit woollymammoth.net.

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Gone with the wind: “An Octoroon,” closing Aug. 6 at Woolly Mammoth Theater. (Scott Suchman)

“The Originalist.” “Edward Gero as the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia is a slam-dunk case of an actor in a perfect-fit role. Scalia was alive and available to Gero when ‘The Originalist’ debuted at Arena Stage in 2015, but the glory of Gero’s performance is how artfully it balances the actual man — an iron-willed conservative regarded by many on the left as heartless — with the comic demands of John Strand’s crowd-pleasing play. ‘The Originalist’ insists that you like Scalia: Then maybe, just maybe, you’ll hear his arguments. Gero woos the crowd beautifully.” (Nelson Pressley) Through Aug. 6 at Arena Stage, 1101 Sixth St. SW. Tickets $41-$101. Call 202-488-3300 or visit arenastage.org.


“The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari.” Composer-percussionist Tom Teasley plays his original live accompaniment to the classic film in a five-nights-only Constellation Theatre Company presentation. Aug. 9-13 at Source, 1835 14th St. NW. Tickets $25-$55. Call 202-204-7741 or visit constellationtheatre.org.

The Capitol Steps. The longtime political satirists, tearing laughs from the headlines. Fridays and Saturdays in the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center Amphitheater, 1300 Pennsylvania Ave. NW. Tickets $36. Call 202-397-7328 or visit www.capsteps.com.

“The Second City’s Almost Accurate Guide to America: Divided We Stand.” The Chicago-based comedy troupe returns with an update of last summer’s political satire. “A running joke is that North Korea’s missiles have launched and caught us off-guard; we have 15 minutes ’til doomsday. This cast seems to have an especially good time playing together, and they blend well embodying a bunch of stereotypes at a pre-protest meetup. ‘Okay, guys,’ someone says, only to be greeted by a protest: ‘Please don’t gender the group.’ This isn’t electric material; it’s genial. But the summery spirit is a balm.” (Nelson Pressley) Through Aug. 13 at the Kennedy Center Theater Lab. Tickets $49-$69. Call Call 202-467-4600 or visit kennedy-center.org.


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Look ahead: Marks and Pressley annotate the 2017-18 theater season

Look back: This year’s Helen Hayes Awards

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