Author Archive | John Stoltenberg

Madeleine Rogers as Desdemona and Faran Tahir as Othello in Shakespeare Theatre Company's Free For All production of Othello. Photo: Jennifer Reiley.

Review: Free For All ‘Othello’ at the Shakespeare Theatre Company

Every great play by Shakespeare takes on altered shades of meanings depending on a production’s directing, design, and acting. That’s a theater truism. Also well-known to practitioners is that audience reaction can influence actors’ performances. But less recognized is how an audience’s response can shift a play’s thematic focus, making the play their own, by […]

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Magic Time!: ‘Big Fish’ at The Keegan Theatre

The musical Big Fish is by any measure a feel-good show for the whole family, as evidenced by the buoyant and beautiful production now playing at The Keegan Theatre. But the main narrative arc in Big Fish has particular resonance for sons, a specific emotional current that touches anyone who grew from boy to man […]

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Magic Time!: Sweet Spot Aerial Productions’ ‘Smoky Mirrors’ at Atlas Performing Arts Center

No sooner did some aerial apparatus drop from the fly space—ropes, straps, silks, hoops, trapezes—but what some artist-athletes would take hold of it and make acts of suspended animation. These performances—as balletic as they were muscular, as subtle as stupefying, as mesmerizing as sometimes shocking—were my introduction to DC’s robust circus scene. They are folks […]

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Review: ‘The Mark of Cain’ at Synetic Theater

Fans of Synetic Theater’s music-and movement-based works derived from classic texts will find a surprise twist in the company’s latest offering. Typically, a Synetic extravaganza creates a vivid other world, someplace unto itself, visually voluptuous, aurally luscious, always a trip to somewhere fantabulous. But with The Mark of Cain, Synetic’s first wholly original devised work […]

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Review: ‘Wig Out!’ at Studio Theatre

The world of  Wig Out! is a glittering fantasia on house ballroom culture. Tarell Alvin McCraney’s ingeniously metatheatrical 2006 script sets this play with music in the urban underground that came to mainstream attention with the 1990 documentary Paris Is Burning. It’s a subculture that offers safe space where refugees from white cis heteronormativity—mostly black […]

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Review: ‘The Gun Show’ at 1st Stage

Among the issues polarizing America (and degrading public discourse) is the hot-button question of what to do about guns. Proponents of positions right and left talk past each other. Both camps have unassailable certitude on their side. Playwright E.M. Lewis set out to see if she could bridge the divide. She chose to tell autobiographical […]

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2017 Capital Fringe Review: ‘Help Me, Wanda!’

Toni Rae Salmi is an actor seen frequently on DC stages, most recently “enjoyably grand” in Perfect Arrangement at Source Festival. In Help Me, Wanda!, she belts out a rockin’ song list—much of it tunes made famous by the “Queen of Rockabilly,” Wanda Jackson. Backed by a four-member band upstairs at Solly’s Tavern, Salmi also weaves through her […]

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2017 Capital Fringe Review: ‘The Heroes’ Tale’

Four black men in their forties sit around a chess game in Dupont Circle park in 1980. They open the show singing barbershop-quartet style, an upbeat song about themselves: They are the 1342 Dupont Circle Heroes. (“White folks pretended we didn’t exist so we started calling ourselves Heroes.”) They’ve been friends for more than 20 […]

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2017 Capital Fringe Review: ‘This Too Comes By Hard’

No way around it, this is a dark, harsh, and gritty domestic drama. For some, it may be too dark, too harsh, too gritty, perhaps a partner violence trigger. A fun, frothy, feel-good frolic this show is decidedly not. But it’s got a riveting story structure, creditable acting and direction, and cutting, high-tension dialogue that […]

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2017 Capital Fringe Review: ‘Lazarus’

The notion that medical technology will one day enable human beings to live indefinitely is not just science fiction. Preventing the aging process (or “ending aging”) is an actual field of scientific research. The possibility of living forever is also the sort of plot device that could well be made into a play. It would […]

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2017 Capital Fringe Review: ‘Constructive Fictions’

Was ever a jailed sex offender more self-righteous and self-pitying than Rabbi Barry Freundel in this brilliantly disturbing new play by A. J. Campbell? Were ever such a predator’s’ victims—in Freundel’s case the women he surreptitiously photographed undressed for his own private spank bank—given more eloquent voice to state how he hurt and violated them, to […]

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Magic Time!: ‘Broken Glass’ at Theater J

Arthur Miller’s 1994 Broken Glass does not rise to the stature of his greatest works (Death of a Salesman, The Crucible, The Price, and others). But even lesser Miller can be arresting, as the smart and sharp production now playing at Theater J demonstrates. Directed by Aaron Posner with precise attention to each pulse beat, […]

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Tantalizing Tastes from a Boffo Buffet: A Report on the 2017 Capital Fringe Festival Preview Night

Fifteen of the 80-plus shows in the 12th Annual Captial Fringe Festival presented five-minute teaser scenes to a packed house Thursday night at Logan Fringe Arts Space. Act after act, the house was alive with laughs, cheers, and applause. The evening left no doubt that a hot midsummer of alt-entertainment lies ahead. Interspersed throughout the […]

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Magic Time!: ‘The Return’ at Mosaic Theater Company of DC

Inside this taut and provocative two-character play—which vividly evokes the political tension between the Israeli state and its Palestinian citizens—there is a startling sex scene, one that vividly evokes the sexual tension between a woman and a man. It is an explicit, erotic hookup with shocking consequences. To the best of my recollection, it is […]

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Magic Time!: ‘Still Life with Rocket’ at Theater Alliance as Voyage to a New Form: A Q&A with Director Mollye Maxner

Still Life With Rocket is greater than the sum of its arts. The diverse forms of installation, choreography, and character-driven drama come together in this collaboratively devised experience in what seems a wholly new way. It happens on the entire first floor of the Anacostia Playhouse, including hallways, dressing rooms, and a mobile-home structure on the loading […]

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