What you should be seeing in D.C. theater: May 4-10

Hamlet

Rising British star Paapa Essiedu plays the title role as a graffiti-spraying outsider in the Royal Shakespeare Company’s first visit to the Kennedy Center in over a decade. Director Simon Godwin’s production is set in contemporary West Africa; London’s Guardian newspaper described the show as “spiritually refreshing.” The brief visit ends Sunday. Through May 6 at the Kennedy Center’s Eisenhower Theater. $49-$139.

The Crucible

If you have any inclination to revisit Arthur Miller’s McCarthy-era parable, see this. “The Crucible” is one of America’s great protest plays, and there is nothing timid about the performance. The show looks like 1692 before intermission, but Andrew R. Cohen’s set gets a modern edge in the second half, with the court and jail scenes unfolding in front of tall glass walls and under fluorescent lights. It works — and anyway, there’s no upstaging the acting. Miller was dramatizing a country ablaze, and that’s how the cast plays it. Through May 20 at Olney Theatre Center. $59-$74. — Nelson Pressley

Girlfriend

Will and Mike are high school seniors attracted to each other in a small town in Nebraska in the near-past, a time when cassette tapes were still a viable adolescent appliance. Director Matthew Gardiner’s production has us eavesdrop on Will and Mike’s tentative courtship, courtesy of set designer Misha Kachman’s renderings of their bedrooms and, of course, the catchy music and lyrics of Matthew Sweet and story and dialogue by Todd Almond. The rock band is behind a glass partition, of the kind you might find in a recording studio, reinforcing the organic level on which teenagers relate to their music, how the anthems of one’s youth sing in you, and around you, and for you. Through June 10 at Signature Theatre. $40-$98. — Peter Marks

Luzia

Cirque du Soleil shows can be creepy and alarmingly risky, but ‘Luzia ’ is blessedly earthbound and largely soothing. There’s a terrific balancing act on slender canes stacked higher and higher; former pro soccer players in a fabulous soccer ball dance; and a duo spinning in Cyr wheels (human-size hoops) with another performer executing pretty airborne maneuvers above. The show does dazzling things with curtains of rain; its warm tone is a balm. Through May 27 at Tysons II. $39-$280. — Nelson Pressley

The Wiz

The opulent show always feels about a half step away from being a hot, hot mess, but director Kent Gash is merely following the groove that expanded the Broadway mold as an all-black retelling of an American staple. And he’s got performers who are able to bend the iconic roles their way; it’s hard not to surrender as soon as you get an eyeful of Hasani Allen as the Scarecrow, flopping and hopping with buoyant rhythm. Through May 12 at Ford’s Theatre. $20-$73. — Nelson Pressley

Waiting for Godot

Not to take anything away from the estimable, affectionate staging brought to Shakespeare Theatre Company by Ireland’s Druid theater, but I wager that a revisit is essential only for those who’ve never had a “Godot” experience, or for those who can never get enough. The actors fulfill their assignments with élan: Those disheveled clowns out on the barren heath, Vladi­mir and Estragon, are embodied here touchingly by Marty Rea (the taller one) and Aaron Monaghan (the needier one). Rea’s performance is the metaphysical Abbott to Monaghan’s Costello. Or maybe it’s the other way around. In any event, they do uphold those Beckett standards of yore, these two physically agile comic actors, engaged in existential standup. Through May 20 at the Shakespeare Theatre Company. $44-$118. — Peter Marks

How designers shake up the void of “Waiting for Godot”

LAST CHANCE

‘Master Harold’ . . . and The Boys

“‘Master Harold’” is loosely based on Fugard’s youth as a white South African affectionately looked after by two black men working in his mother’s tea shop. The action unfolds in real time, and is all the more believable for the long-standing camaraderie we see as the three characters unwind stories about old times. The literary shape is gorgeous, and Fugard has always had a gift for the ways intimate relationships get fractured by social forces. Through May 6 at Round House Theatre. $36-$65. — Nelson Pressley

Two Trains Running

Set in 1969 — there’s one August Wilson play for every decade of the 20th century — ‘Two Trains Running’ resounds with familiar Wilson themes: of aspirations crushed, of survival by grit and wit, of the long shadow of a brutal history, of spirits and death swirling in the city’s smoke. Director Juliette Carrillo elicits from her cast the desired portrait of a transitional moment in a black community, with memories still fresh of the country’s racist history, and the civil rights movement settling into the consciousness of a generation coming of age. Through May 6 at Arena Stage. $50-$111. — Peter Marks

August Wilson’s jukebox, on stage in “Two Trains”

READ MORE:

Matthew Sweet’s LP “Girlfriend” is a musical

Taking a shot at “Hamilton” tickets

NEW YORK NOTES:

Peter Marks reviews the Broadway “Harry Potter”

“My Fair Lady” and “Carousel”

The battle royal that’s threatening Broadway’s “To Kill a Mockingbird”

“Mean Girls”: Better on Broadway

Landmark gay dramas return to Broadway

“Frozen,” the Broadway musical

For Parrotheads only, “Escape to Margaritaville”

Harry Potter on Broadway

Peter Marks with Broadway’s “Frozen” team

Bernadette Peters in B’way’s “Hello, Dolly!”

The $20 million “SpongeBob” musical

“The Band’s Visit” is Broadway’s best new musical

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