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On Stage in April: The Month in Washington Theater

Beckett, Stoppard, the Neo-Futurists and much more

In his seminal 1968 book, The Empty Space, director Peter Brook declared that there were four types of theater: deadly, holy, rough, and immediate. The productions on Washington stages this month, however, might be somewhat harder to categorize. Brook comes to the Kennedy Center this month for the first time in almost four decades with his production of Fragments, a staging of short plays by Samuel Beckett which was called “revelatory” by the London Telegraph. If elaborately staged shows are more your cup of tea, the national tour of Oprah Winfrey’s The Color Purple comes to the National Theatre this month, while other offerings include a British farce, a Pulitzer Prize-winner, and a world-premiere musical about baseball.

March 23 through April 24, Theater J stages Photograph 51, a recent play by Anna Ziegler. The show explores the life of Rosalind Franklin, the British biophysicist, and is named after the diffraction X-ray that she took in 1952 that helped discover the structure of DNA. Tickets ($25 to $60) are available at Theater J’s Web site.

Yasmina Reza’s Art has been translated into more than 30 languages and has won Tony and Laurence Olivier awards. The comedy about three Paris friends who fall out over an expensive white painting is at Signature Theatre through May 22, and it’s directed by Matthew Gardiner. Tickets ($61 to $81) are available at Signature’s Web site.

Following the Druid Theatre Company’s March production of Enda Walsh’s Penelope, Studio Theatre presents two more works by the Irish playwright: The Walworth Farce (April 6 through May 1, $44 to $57) and The New Electric Ballroom (April 13 through May 1, $35.50 to $57). The first play, described by the New York Times as “a Hibernian Three Stooges routine, directed by a drunken Dadaist,” is about a playwright and his two sons in London; the second features three Irish sisters recalling a dance hall from their youth. Tickets for both are available at Studio Theatre’s Web site.

Plays about plays are all the rage in Washington at the moment. April 6 through May 7, American Century Theater takes on the self-referential theme with Stage Door, a classic comedy by Edna Ferber and George S. Kaufman about 16 young actresses living in a New York boarding house. Tickets for the show ($30 to $35) are available at American Century Theater’s Web site.

April 9 through May 15, Keegan Theatre stages the premiere of National Pastime, a musical by Tony Sportiello and Al Tapper. When a radio station in 1933 Iowa faces bankruptcy, management responds by inventing a fictional baseball team and broadcasting its “games.” Tickets ($40) are available at the Keegan Theatre’s Web site.

The Oprah Winfrey and Quincy Jones–produced musical adaptation of Alice Walker’s novel The Color Purple comes to the National Theatre April 12 through 24. The original production ran two years on Broadway and was nominated for 11 Tony Awards. Local R&B singer and radio host Lil’ Mo joins the cast in the role of the church soloist, and two members of the ensemble—Allyson Kaye Daniel and Ashley Ware—are graduates of DC’s Duke Ellington School of the Arts. Tickets ($26.50 to $151.50) are available at

Few directors have had as big an impact on theater as Peter Brook, whose honors include two Tony Awards. The 86-year-old veteran of London’s Royal Shakespeare Company and the Royal Opera House comes to the Kennedy Center with Fragments, a collection of five short plays by Samuel Beckett, running April 14 through 17 in the Eisenhower Theater. Tickets ($25 to $85) are available at the Kennedy Center’s Web site.

April 14 through May 22, MetroStage presents Tom Stoppard’s endlessly complicated detective farce, The Real Inspector Hound, about two theater critics who end up getting sucked into a production themselves. The show is a play on old-fashioned, Clue-esque murder-mysteries. Tickets ($45 to $50) are available via MetroStage’s Web site.

Theater of the First Amendment, George Mason University’s professional theater company, presents Live Wire April 15 and 17, at the Hylton Center and the Center for the Arts respectively. The production, directed by Rick Davis, performs original radio programming commissioned during the Great Depression and taken from the university’s archives. Tickets ($18 to $36) are available at the Hylton and CFA’s Web sites.

The Neo-Futurists, Chicago’s experimental theater/comedy troupe, returns to Woolly Mammoth April 20 through May 1 with Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind, the company’s signature 30-plays-in-60-minutes production. The largely improvisational show has run in Chicago for more than 20 years. Tickets ($30 to $45) are available at Woolly Mammoth’s Web site.

The Alliance Française of Washington presents Pierre Notte’s comedic family drama, Me Too, I Am Catherine Deneuve, at DC’s Source theater April 22 and 23. The production, translated from French and directed by Parisian import Valéry Warnotte, tells the story of a frustrated and neglected daughter who adopts the persona of a film star to escape reality. Tickets ($20) are available at the Alliance Française Web site.

Arena Stage presents Lynn Nottage’s 2009 Pulitzer Prize–winning play, Ruined, April 22 through June 5. The story of a brothel in war-torn Congo presided over by a larger-than-life businesswoman has drawn comparisons to Bertolt Brecht’s Mother Courage and Her Children. Tickets ($55 and up) are available at Arena Stage’s Web site.

The Folger Shakespeare Theater’s last play of the season, April 26 through June 5, is Edmond Rostand’s Cyrano, translated by Michael Hollinger and directed by Aaron Posner. The romantic comedy stars Eric Hissom as the nasally challenged romancer. Tickets ($30 to $60) available at the Folger’s Web site.

April 27 through May 29, Olney Theatre Center stages Farragut North, Beau Willimon’s off-Broadway hit loosely based on his experiences working for the 2004 Howard Dean campaign. The New York Daily
called the 2008 New York production starring Chris Noth “smart, unbiased, and told with an insider’s eye.” Tickets ($26 to $54) are available at Olney’s Web site.

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