Capital Fringe, “Oklahoma!” Returns, and “Visit to a Small Planet”: July Theater Preview

Plan your month in Washington theater

By: Sophie Gilbert

American Idol alum Constantine Maroulis stars in "Rock of Ages," which opens at the National Theatre later in July. Photo courtesy of the National Theatre
Oh, July. Ordinarily you offer little to us avid local theatergoers beyond touring musicals, a reliable three-day run of Mamma Mia!, and a quirky festival or two. This year, however, things are definitely looking up, particularly in the rerun category. Two acclaimed local productions get a second run this month—Arena Stage’s Helen Hayes Award-winning production of Oklahoma!, and Woolly Mammoth’s staging of the Pulitzer Prize-winning Clybourne Park—while Scena Theatre’s gender-bending interpretation of Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest gets a summer revival. There’s also a new musical at Studio Theatre’s 2ndStage, new David Mamet in West Virginia, and, yes, an obligatory touring musical starring an American Idol alum.

July 5 through 24, the Reduced Shakespeare Company presents The Complete World of Sports in the Kennedy Center’s Terrace Theater. The two-hour takeoff of almost every great moment in sports history condenses swaths of time into a formulaic but fun show. Tickets ($39 to $49) available at the Kennedy Center’s Web site.

The quirky and eclectic Capital Fringe Festival returns July 7 through 24 with over 100 groups and solo performers presenting new works of theater, dance, music, comedy, and more in venues across town. Look out for Faction of Fools, DC’s commedia dell’arte company, at Mount Vernon Methodist United Church July 7 through 23, and Happenstance Theatre’s Manifesto! at Studio Theatre July 8 through 23. A full schedule and tickets—$17 per show plus a one-time $7 charge for a Fringe button—are available at the festival’s Web site.

Gore Vidal’s 1956 science-fiction satire, Visit to a Small Planet, runs at the American Century Theater July 8 through August 6. In the show, an alien intending to come to Civil War-era America instead lands in 1950s Manassas and attempts to spark World War III. Tickets ($16 to $35) available at American Century Theater’s Web site.

July 8 through August 7, Scena Theatre revives its 2010 production of The Importance of Being Earnest, where men play female roles and vice versa. Scena artistic director Robert McNamara directs. Tickets ($25 to $35) available at Scena’s Web site.

Arena Stage’s production of Oklahoma! returns July 8 through October 2, following a fall run which inaugurated the Mead Center for American Theater and smashed Arena’s box office records. Tickets ($61 and up) available at Arena’s Web site.

Rock of Ages stops at the National Theatre July 12 through 24. The jukebox musical debuted in Los Angeles in 2006, is still running on Broadway, and is being adapted into a film starring Julianne Hough and Tom Cruise. The show—which features songs by Bon Jovi, Pat Benatar, Styx, Journey, and more—stars American Idol alum Constantine Maroulis, who was nominated for a Tony for his role as Drew. Tickets ($26.50 to $96.50) available at telecharge.com.

Pop!, a musical murder mystery based on the 1968 shooting of Andy Warhol, comes to Studio Theatre July 13 through August 7. Maggie-Kate Coleman and Anna K. Jacobs’s play won three Connecticut Critics Circle Awards when it debuted at Yale Repertory Theatre last year. Tickets ($38 to $43) available at Studio Theatre’s Web site.

Bruce Norris’s Pulitzer Prize-winning comedy, Clybourne Park, returns to Woolly Mammoth July 21 through August 14. The play—about racial tensions in a Chicago neighborhood during the 1950s and the present—received a Helen Hayes Award for outstanding resident play for its 2010 run, as well as an award for Howard Shalwitz’s direction. Tickets ($30 to $60) available at Woolly Mammoth’s Web site.

Before Steel Magnolias was a feel-good Southern comedy with Dolly Parton, it was a stage play written by Robert Harling to deal with the grief he felt after the death of his sister, a diabetic. The show gets a run at the Keegan Theatre July 23 through August 21; tickets ($35) available at Keegan’s Web site.

The Contemporary American Theatre Festival returns to Shepherd University July 8 through 31, with five new plays by David Mamet, Kyle Bradstreet, Sam Shepard, Tracy Thorne, and Lucy Thurber. The festival is dedicated to staging innovative works by contemporary playwrights; this year’s roster touches on faith, family, and friendship. Tickets ($30 to $52, or $225 for all five shows) available at the festival’s Web site.

Two family-friendly offerings this month: Wind in the Willows, which comes to Imagination Stage through August 14, and Charlotte’s Web, which runs at Adventure Theatre through September 5. The former is a musical by Richard Hellesen and Michael Silversher; the latter is adapted by Joseph Robinette. Tickets ($10 to $22 for TWITW, $17 for Charlotte’s Web) available at imaginationstage.org and adventuretheatre.org.

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