Home Entertainment The best of theater 2018: distinguished visitors and hometown heroes

The best of theater 2018: distinguished visitors and hometown heroes


Bryson Bruce, center and the "Hamilton" company at the Kennedy Center. (Joan Marcus)

There were many enchanting evenings on Washington stages in 2018. These are the best from outside the city and the best shows from home.

Just visiting

Hamilton. The chaos over tickets made the gloss dull, but this show still remains the best new Broadway musical in times. It filled the Kennedy Center Opera House all summer.

The people. National tours of large plays are rare, and it was a treat to see the first drama of Stephen Karam about the fear of one family in the working class at the Kennedy Center's Eisenhower Theater. Also worth remembering, for just one night, singer-provocateur Taylor Mac, with a beautiful band, which tops the Kennedy Center with three hours of its 24-hour A Decade History of Popular Music & # 39 ; It swung, but also floated and was completely different from everything else.

The fall. Created and performed by South African university students, this 90-minute protest docudrama constantly surprised. The passionate, cerebral arguments about resistance and political empowerment in South Africa after apartheid became complicated in a way that the American public could easily relate.


The cast of Shakespeare Theater Company & # 39; s "An Inspector Calls." (Mark Douet)

An inspector calls. Still an excellent display of intellectual melodrama, a quarter of a century later Stephen Daldry & # 39; s historical production premiered. Daldry put a Brechtian lead on JB Priestley's conscientious-pricking 1946 detective story, and this British import – now making an American tour stop at the Shakespeare Theater Company – reports dark and stormy night tension with grim (and still timely) political consequences.

Waitress. Musicals who tried this year in Washington included the film-derived political comedy "Dave" in Arena Stage and "Beetlejuice" in the National Theater. The best of the new shows was the Temptations jukebox show & # 39; Is Not Too Proud & # 39 ;, which played the Kennedy Center in the summer and went to Broadway in the spring. It was smooth as ice in Des McAnuff's staging, but still laborious in his punch-the-numbers book about the rocky history of the Motown group. So yes, "Waitress ": Check yourself if you can not find a weakness for the bittersweet comedy with the score of Sara Bareilles.


Jennifer Mendenhall, Beth Hylton, Susan Lynskey and Kate Fahy in the production of & # 39; Handbagged & # 39; by the Round House Theater (Kaley Etzkorn)

Homegrown highlights

Handbagged / Familiar / Noura. A delicious trifecta from the previous winter Women & # 39; s Voices Theater Festival. & # 39; Handbagged & # 39 ;, the comedy by Moira Buffini about Margaret Thatcher and Elizabeth II, placed recordings at the Round House Theater. Danai Gurira & # 39; s Familiar & # 39 ;, an in-depth comedy by Zimbabwean Minnesotans, was surprisingly warm-hearted at Woolly Mammoth. And in the Shakespeare Theater Company, Heather Raffo wrote and played the lead in & # 39; Noura & # 39 ;, the sizzling Iraqi American update on & # 39; A Dolls House & # 39; from Henrik Ibsen.

The wolves. Marti Lyons' s well-balanced cast in Studio Theater treated agile emotions and kicked footballs precisely in the enlightening drama of Sarah DeLappe of several competitive girls in high school.

The Frederick Douglass project. This fruitful experiment by the Irish theme group Solas Nua took place on a pier in the Yards Park of the Capitol Riverfront. The show filmed "An exuberant fugitive slave flight to Ireland", by D.C.'s Psalmeyene 24, and "Wild Notes", by Deirdre Kinahan from Ireland. The intriguing cultural crosswind of the well-conceived drama predicts well for director Raymond O. Caldwell, who takes over as the artistic director of Anacostia's Theater Alliance in January.

Hamlet. Michael Urie proved to be an unusual speaker with Shakespeare's liquid tongue. In Michael Kahn's production for the Shakespeare Theater Company, Urie was ghostly and memorable as a Hamlet that was entangled in an Elsinore surveillance state.

The Wiz. There were no real slam-dunks among locally produced musicals this year, so, especially for daring and flamboyance, Kent Gash's outrageous "The Wiz" in Ford's Theater with a nose about Matthew Gardiner & # 39 ; s solid "Billy Elliot" in Signature Theater.

Every brilliant thing. Several shows at the Olney Theater Center were a cut above: the fierce acted "The Crucible"; James Graham's political comedy "Labor of Love", with Julia Coffey who delivered one of the most impressive performances of the year as a career policeman; and the political thriller of Ayad Akhtar "The Invisible Hand." "Every Brilliant Thing" was a solo show about grief that was joyfully and poignantly performed by Alexander Strain, which was fascinating the spearhead of something rare: inspired audience participation.

Taffety Punk. Choose a blanket. The most vital of the small groups of the city this year, the shocking swaffing Taffety Punk operates in the intimate Capitol Hill Arts Workshop and offers a modest but carefully chosen stream of smart, mostly current works. This year's harvest: Madeline Joey Rose's exploration of pro-lifers in Mom Baby God & # 39 ;, a completely feminine & # 39; Don Juan & # 39; and Sadie Hasler & # 39; s actor British drama about motherhood, & # 39; Pramkicker & # 39 ;.


Jaysen Wright and Sylvia Kates in Theater J & # 39; s "Actually." (C. Stanley Photography)

Really. Washington had a remarkably timed # MeToo moment this fall. Thanks to an imaginative performance by Kimberly Gilbert as Billie Dawn, "Born Yesterday "at Ford's Theater sounded unexpectedly resonant notes about abuse, and at Round House, Paula Vogel's Pulitzer winner from 1998," How I Learned to Drive ", confirmed his strength in dramatizing a Anna Zeigler & # 39; s "Actually", produced by Theater J in Arena Stage & # 39; s Kogod Cradle, streamlined the issue with clinical precision, as two nifty young actors, Jaysen Wright and Sylvia Case, played students who tried to be honest and honest after a drunken night a "He said / said" matter.

See Rock City. Modest and well worked out: the second part in Arlene Hutton's Nibroc Trilogy, about a southern and southern twentieth century who falls in love, examines their newlywed days. Nothing much – leave this behind with the meticulous character studies of the late Horton Foote – but the modest versions by Lexi Langs and Wood Van Meter (for the Washington Stage Guild) had an old-fashioned chemistry.

Indecent. Influencing work in Arena Stage. The Paula Vogel script, crowned last year by Tony Award for the best game, shines in this fleet series about anti-Semitism, homophobia and the disturbing power of art, taken from the history of Sholem Asch's controversial 1907 play & # 39 God of Vengeance & # 39 ;.

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