Winter Theater Season Off to Lively Start

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Washington’s 2014 theater scene
offers an eclectic mix of entertainment.
We’ve got Shakespeare,
Moliere, Oscar Wilde. We’ve got new plays
and old plays and new ways to put old plays
on stage. We’ve got musicals and Peter Pan
and Ella Fitzgerald. And of course we’ve got
politics.

Shakespeare—he’s always here in one way
or another. The accent right now is “another.”
The redoubtable Georgian duo of Paata and
Irina Tsikurishvili of Synetic Theatre star in
and direct “Twelfth Night,” another in a series
of the group’s “silent Shakespeare” productions.
While there are no words there’s a lot of dancing
and music, all set in the Roaring ‘20s, which
seems almost perfect for the Bard’s story about
disguised twins, mistaken gender identities, bad
pranks and a sot named Toby Belch. Through
Feb. 16 at Synetic Theatre.

Now is the (horrible) winter of our discontent,
which kicks off a new production
of “Richard III” at the Folger Library. It’s
Elizabethan Theatre has been reconfigured into
a theater-in-the-round seating plan, for the first
time in the Folger’s history. Now through
March 9.

The folks at Constellation Theatre are
always fresh and new, even when they’re telling
old tales. This time it’s a new adaptation
of “Scapin” by Moliere—the Neil Simon of
his day, which would be the time of Louis XIV.
This production, adapted by Bill Irwin and Mark
O’Donnell, nicely blends Irwin’s dry contemporary
humor (and a song called “The Schener’s
Boogie”) with Moliere’s irreverent, sardonic
view of man in his times — at the Source
Theater on 14th Street through Feb. 16.

As for Peter Pan, he’s part of a new, musical
re-telling of the story of how Peter became the
boy who never grew up. well, you’ll have to see
“Peter and the Starcatcher,” a musical tale that
won five Tonys on Broadway, now on a national
tour in the Kennedy Center’s Eisenhower
Theater through Feb. 16. It’s called a grownups
prequel to “Peter Pan”, based on a novel by
Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson.
Speaking of music, there’s “Violet,” with a
blend of gospel, country and rock, a talent-heavy
show set in the 1960s about a scarred young girl
in search of a miracle traveling to Oklahoma.
It’s at the Ford’s Theatre, it features the Ton
Award-nominated composer Jeanine Tesori (of
“Caroline or Change” fame) and is directed
by Jeff Calhoun (“Newsies,” “Big River”) —
through Feb. 23.

Drama-wise, you should catch the new play
“Tribes” by English playwright Nina Raine,
directed by David Muse at the Studio Theater.
It’s presented in cooperation with Gallaudet
University, a play about a deaf member of an
academic family who wants to communicate in
his own way. Through Feb. 23.

At Arena Stage, Daniel Beaty, playwright,
actor and singer, gives a stirring one-man show
performance as Paul Robeson—athlete, all-
American, actor, singer, activist and civil rights
leader—in “The Tallest Tree in the Forest”
through Feb. 16.

At Metro Stage in Alexandria, Ella
Fitzgerald is revived in “Ella, First Lady of
Song,” conceived and directed by Maurice
Hines, through March 16.

Oscar Wilde’s most popular play is being
staged by the Washington Shakespeare Theatre
Company. That would be “The Importance of
Being Earnest,” which features one of the juiciest
roles for men or women, Lady Bracknell.
Keith Baxter—known for his genius for staging
Wilde—returns to direct. Sian Philips is Lady
Bracknell through March 2 at the Lansburgh
Theater.

As for politics, “The Best Man,” arguably
one of the best plays ever written about
American politics (not counting “1776”) was
penned by Gore Vidal—who could probably
have matched wits with Wilde—and staged on
Broadway in 1960. It’s a tale about principles
and their loss during the course of a tough campaign
for a presidential nomination. It’s been
revived often and was made into a terrific film,
starring Henry Fonda and Cliff Robertson. It’s
at the Keegan Theatre, Jan. 30 through Feb.
22.

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