Author Archive | Robert Michael Oliver

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Review: ‘Needles and Opium’ at The Kennedy Center

Sometimes the viewer of a theatrical experience can only sit in wonder at the spectacle, not because elephants dance on soccer balls or trapeze artists spiral on silken threads, but because actors sit on ceilings while quoting Sartre’s Nausea and dialing 911 (metaphorically). Such a theatrical experience is Robert Lepage’s Needles and Opium, the first of The Kennedy Center’s Spotlight on […]

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Review: ‘Watch on the Rhine’ at Arena Stage

Lillian Hellman’s Watch on the Rhine came to DC for a command performance on January 25, 1942. The occasion: Franklin Roosevelt’s 60th birthday. America had just entered World War II and the fight against fascism. Hellman’s 1941 masterpiece came to DC again last night, opening at the Mead Center’s Fichandler Stage. The occasion: a heightened debate […]

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Spine: Consciousness, Conscience, and ‘The Hard Problem’ at The Studio Theatre

Tom Stoppard’s The Hard Problem isn’t so much about consciousness and the existence of subjectivity, “the hard problem” elucidated by contemporary Australian philosopher David Chalmers, as it is about conscience and the human capacity to construct an ethical framework, a truly “impossible problem” (my own quotation marks). The fact that Tom Stoppard can take such […]

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Spine: ‘Silent Sky’ at Silver Spring Stage

On occasion, a play comes along with a bit of history, a bit of uncovered history, and that history changes the nature of the universe. Silent Sky is that sort of play. Lauren Gunderson’s biography play, Silent Sky, reveals the life and career of one Henrietta Leavitt (Marnie Kanarek), who in 1895 joined the Harvard […]

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Review: ‘The Gabriels’ at the Kennedy Center

For those who are familiar with Richard Nelson’s 4-play cycle, The Apple Family Plays, his The Gabriels: Election Year in the Life of One Family, now on stage at the Kennedy Center’s Lab Theatre, will sound and appear familiar. Rhinebeck (New York), a “slice-of-life” dramatic structure, an older family member in need of comfort and […]

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Review: Handel’s ‘Messiah’ by NSO at The Kennedy Center

Messiah is perhaps the best known of the German-born but London-settled composer George Frideric Handel. Profoundly religious, the three-part Oratorio moves from the prophecy of Christ to his death and resurrection. For this Christmas season, it’s the perfect event to solemnly rejoice the birth of a savior. The National Symphony Orchestra’s yearly production of the classic […]

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Spine: Pointless Theatre’s ‘King Ubu’—No, That’s Not Donald Trump You See Sitting on That Crapper

Ironically, and full of unintended consequences, while watching Pointless Theatre’s production of Alfred Jarry’s King Ubu  (yes, that’s who wrote this play, translated afresh by Google), I couldn’t help but think of President-elect Donald Trump. Not the real Donald Trump, perhaps (but who knows), but at least the Donald Trump that inhabits our media’s worst […]

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Review: ‘Picnic’ at The Catholic University of America

Picnic comes to Catholic. And by the time it’s over, lives are overturned, dreams are rekindled, and who knows what will happen next. William Inge, master playwright of the heartland, captured middle-America’s pent-up and seething sexuality perhaps better than any other. In Picnic Hal, a self-described piece of Arkansas White Trash, comes to town to visit his ex-fraternity […]

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