Author Archive | John Stoltenberg

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Review: ‘Well’ at 1st Stage

“Social ills” is a term often used to name a problem without caring about the people affected by it—as in the phrase “racism and other social ills.”  It’s a way of keeping one’s distance by making the problem somebody else’s. It’s like the way one can hear said of someone chronically and inscrutably sick, “They […]

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Review: ‘Mnemonic’ at Theater Alliance

Just now when the world is wracked with wave upon wave of ethnic  animus—just now when our country has succumbed to xenophobia not seen on these shores for decades—there comes a work of theatrical art so richly imagined and so radically transformational that it causes a healing hush to fall over the audience. This happens […]

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Review: ‘No Sisters’ at The Studio Theatre

A shout-out to Studio Theatre co-founder Russell Metheny, who designed the complex on 14th Street, for installing a backstage stairway connecting the dressing rooms of the second-floor Milton and the ground-floor Mead. Were it not for that architectural passageway, there could be no No Sisters, and DC would be deprived of Writer-Director Aaron Posner’s latest […]

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The Subplot Quickens: A Q&A with Michelle Beck About Her Remarkable Role in ‘King Charles III’ at Shakespeare Theatre Company

I greatly admired both the writing and the acting in Shakespeare Theatre Company production of Mike Bartlett’s King Charles III, but to be honest it was the character of Jessica and Michelle Beck’s performance in it that knocked me out most of all. I remember walking out of the Sidney Harman Hall wanting to see […]

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Magic Time!: ‘The How and the Why’ at Theater J

The very title poses a puzzle. How what? Why what? Yet the definite articles assert certitude. The what. The how. Turns out in this brainy play about two smart women, perplexity and uncertainty unspool like two coiled strands of a double helix. Just opened in a solid production at Theater J directed with penetrating precision […]

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Review: ‘The Freshest Snow Whyte’ at Imagination Stage

Far off the radar of most grownup theatergoers, the writer/director Psalmayene 24 has been creating an extraordinary body of work for children. I’ve been an admirer of the trenchant work he has directed for mature audiences—the plays Not Enuf Lifetimes and The Shipment knocked me out. But until The Freshest Snow Whyte—his fourth creation for Imagination […]

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Magic Time! ‘Watch on the Rhine’ at Arena Stage

Whatever this play meant to Broadway audiences when it debuted in 1941, just prior to America’s entry into a war of resistance to fascism abroad, what matters now is what it means to audiences just as America has entered a war of resistance to fascism here at home. Does Lillian Hellman’s principled script—now in a […]

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Magic Time! ‘I Wanna Fucking Tear You Apart’ at Studio X

Friendships between fat girls and gay boys really are a thing, practically a cliché actually—or a trope, as Playwright Morgan Gould dignifies them when referring to just such a queer pairing in her audacious new play, I Wanna Fucking Tear You Apart. You can find commentary and confessions about the familiar phenom online—conjectures, for instance, […]

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Magic Time! ‘Silent Sky’ at Silver Spring Stage

Lately the news has been resignifying theater more than usual. To resignify is not a commonly used verb but it’s a commonly understood thing. It means “to give new signification to,” to alter what something means. In the case of a play, it’s when life makes art betoken more than the artist imagined. Case in […]

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Review: ‘Roe’ at Arena Stage

The title of Lisa Loomer’s riveting play Roe refers to both the pivotal Supreme Court case Roe v. Wade and the person known as Jane Roe who was the plaintiff in it. Loomer dramatizes both stories—why and how the case came to be and who the person was and what happened to her. The play […]

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Magic Time! ‘The Hard Problem’ at The Studio Theatre

I love when a play starts out as a fascinating head trip—a smart, high-concept exhilaration of ideas—then propels me headlong into an overwhelming flood of emotion. It’s like being transported along a neural pathway from brain to heart that the playwright has turned into a thoroughfare of theatrical euphoria. Tom Stoppard scripts that extraordinary excursion […]

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Review: ‘[gay] Cymbeline’ at Theatre Prometheus

Queering Shakespeare may be gilding the lily. And if so DC these days has seen quite a few such embellished flowers. Like, golden nosegays for days. One of the best and freshest in the bunch is Theatre Prometheus’ [gay] Cymbeline. It’s a two-hour gender adventure that’s as fun, funny, and touching as a romp in […]

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