Onstage, Georgetown: June’s Cool Entertainments

By Mark Edelman

Now that summer’s almost here, why not enjoy these plays and musicals in air-conditioned comfort (except for Wolf Trap, of course, which offers its own natural pleasures).

Cast of “Hair” at Signature. Photo by Christopher Mueller.

HAIR       Signature Theatre    Now through July 7

Matthew Gardiner hits the nail on the head once again with this spot-on revival of America’s tribal love-rock musical. As he did to open the season with a fine production of “Ragtime,” the adroit Signature Theatre artistic director delivers a cast that acts, sings and dances the hell out of the show. More important, Gardiner tells us a touching, ultimately tragic story we can follow—not a mean feat for this often disjointed piece. 

Gardiner focuses on story from the opening notes, as Berger (a sexy, riveting Mason Reeves) narrates the travails of his merry band of misfits, especially the forlorn Claude (Jordon Dobson in a touchingly understated performance), who longs to be part of the gang. It’s Claude’s arc Gardiner leads us through, a dark journey beneath all the psychedelia and Top 40 hits.  

Production values are Signature’s usual first-rate affair. As we enter the space, Patrick Lord’s video projections return us to the 1960s of “Leave It To Beaver” and Crisco ads, then whisk us to hippiedom in a breathtaking scenic move. Ashleigh King’s choreography uses the multi-level space cleverly, keeping the pace brisk. And yes, they doff their colorful, spot-on period Kathleen Geldard-designed rags at the end of Act One.

“Hair” directors often stage the finale—“Flesh Failures/Let the Sun Shine”—as a jubilant celebration, like the Fifth Dimension cover. Here, Gardiner keeps the ensemble in a tight, almost military phalanx, emotionless and cold. It’s a choice that makes for a chilling coda to Claude’s tragic tale. Tickets at www.sigtheatre.org

“Metamorphoses” at the Folger Theatre. Photo by Brittany Diliberto.

METAMORPHOSES        Folger Theater      Now through June 16

Mary Zimmerman’s adaptation of Ovid’s mythological tales of joy and heartbreak gets a colorful rendition from busy director Psalmayene 24, choreographer Tony Thomas and a talented cast of actors and designers. Mike Eubanks’ costumes dazzle and Nick Hernandez’s tasty new compositions place the piece squarely in the African diaspora, from reggae to R&B with hints of juju, mbaqanga and other musical tropes thrown in for good measure. There’s no swimming pool this time, but you won’t be disappointed with this “Metamorphoses.” Tickets at www.folger.edu

“Mexodus” stars Brian Quijada and Nygel D Robinson. Photo by Chris Banks.

MEXODUS     Atlas Theatre           Now through June 15

With all of the great theater out there, this Mosaic Theatre production may just be the one to see this month. Actors/musicians/composers/lyricists/authors Brian Quijada and Nygel Robinson use hip-hop to tell the fascinating story of post-Civil War slaves who sought freedom in Mexico on an Underground Railroad heading south instead of north. The blues and gospel meet Tejano and mariachi in this ever-entertaining new musical that’s bound to go on to big things. See it while you can. Tickets at www.mosaictheater.org

PROBLEMS BETWEEN SISTERS       Studio Theatre      Now through June 16

Two pregnant sisters—one a visual artist, the other an artist of the con variety—converge on a remote family cabin in Vermont. If you’re familiar with Sam Shepard’s “True West,” you won’t be surprised when trouble ensues. Tickets at www.studiotheatre.org 

THE MATCHBOX MAGIC FLUTE    Shakespeare Theatre     Now through  June 16

Adapted from Mozart’s comic opera, Prince Tamino and Princess Pamina consort with dragons, a man who is a bird, trials by fire and water and a battle between Day and Night. Tickets at www.shakespearetheatre.org

TOPDOG/UNDERDOG    Round House Theatre    Now through June 23

Suzi Lori-Parks’s Tony- and Pulitzer Prize-winning tragedy about two brothers locked in a cycle of love and resentment compounded by the challenges of poverty and racism. In a devastating climax, the brothers’ lifelong tug-of-war raises an age old question—can we ever really change the cards we’re dealt?  Tickets at www.roundhousetheatre.org

LONG WAY DOWN   Olney Theatre     Now through June 23

Based on the Newberry Medal Honor-winning Young Adult novel by area native Jason Reynolds, this powerful story of family honor turns a sharp and deadly light on gun violence. What happens on the long way down is an emotional hip-hop journey that brings our hero face to face with the ghosts of his past as he tries to make the biggest decision of his life. Tickets at www.olneytheatre.org

THE ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM    Keegan Theatre    June 1 to 23

What happens when your typical Indian software-engineer defies her family, quits her IT job and moves to the U.S. to pursue an acting career? Things don’t turn out quite like she imagined in Priyanka Shetty’s autobiographical one-hander about conflicting cultures, unforgettable love and the desperation of not belonging anywhere. Tickets at www.keegantheatre.com

THE HATMAKER’S WIFE      Theatre J     June 5 to 25

Magic and realism collide in this modern fable about learning to love. A cross between ghost story and a Yiddish fable, this moving and whimsical new play redefines home, family and love. All this plus talking walls and a golem with a taste for Cheetos. Tickets at www.edcjcc.org/theater-j

BYE BYE BIRDIE       Kennedy Center    June 7 to 15

In this light-hearted satire of the music industry, teen idol Conrad Birdie is drafted into the Army, much to the chagrin of his songwriter Albert. In one last money-making effort, Albert and his long-suffering girlfriend Rosey arrange for Birdie to perform Albert’s song on “The Ed Sullivan Show” and give one last kiss to a lucky fan. Once again, Jeffrey Finn and his team at the KenCen have conscripted an all-star cast from Tony Award winner Christian Borle as Albert and firecracker Krysta Rodriguez as Rosey  to scene grabbers Caroline Aaron (Mrs Maisel’s mother-in-law) and Broadway vet Richard Kind to pilot this fun-filled flight. Tickets at www.kennedy-center.org

LETTERS TO KAMALA/DANDELION PEACE  Universalist National Memorial Church   June 8 to 20

Ari Roth’s Voices Festival Productions presents this double bill by Yale playwright Rachel Lynett, a spiritual visitation from three trailblazing women lost to history in act one and the ridiculous turf warfare of a community garden in act two. Should audiences leave feeling both inspired and infuriated, that’s the point. Tickets at www.voicesfestivalproductions.com

IS GOD IS    Constellation Theatre     June 13 to July 14

In this fierce and funny drama, twin sisters embark on a journey across America to exact righteous revenge on the man who betrayed their family. Constellation concludes its winning 17th season with this epic Afropunk adventure.  Tickets at www.constellationtheatre.org

FUNNY GIRL    Kennedy Center   June 25 to July 14

The bittersweet story of the indomitable Fanny Brice, a plain-looking Jewish girl from the Lower East Side who became of the funniest and most beloved performers in Broadway history. Her love life didn’t go quite as well as her routines for the legendary Florenz Ziegfeld: therein lies the pathos in this Broadway hit, featuring the Streisand chestnut “People” and a load of great Jule Styne- Bob Merrill showstoppers. Tickets at www.kennedy-center.org

THE KITE RUNNER    Kennedy Center   June 25 to 30

Based on the international best-selling novel, this powerful play follows one man’s journey to confront his past and find redemption after a childhood torn apart in Afghanistan. Told across two decades and two continents, “The Kite Runner” shows us all that, against all odds, we can be good again. Tickets at www.kennedy-center.org

BROADWAY IN THE PARK  Filene Center at Wolf Trap    June 29, 8 p.m.

Signature Theatre’s fourth annual alfresco tribute to musical theater stars Tony Award winner Laura Benanti and Jordan Fisher, he from the Broadway casts of “Sweeney Todd” and “Hadestown,”    along with a whole host of Washington area’s best and brightest talent. With any luck, Ms. Benanti will reprise her Melania Trump, a not in-frequent role she assays on Stephen Colbert’s Late Nite show. Tickets at www.wolftrap.org

The writer is a playwright who loves writing about theater. He is a lifetime member of the Broadway League and a Tony voter. 



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