Author Archive | Robert Michael Oliver

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Spine: ‘A Human Being Died That Night’ at Mosaic Theater Company

About midway through Mosaic Theater’s A Human Being Died That Night, Eugene de Kock, serving two life sentences for murder and assassination, turns to his interviewer, Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela, and says, in effect, that the privileged people of South Africa knew all along what he and the South African Special Forces were doing: the kidnapping, the torturing, the […]

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The Cast of 'Back to Methuselah Part 3.' Photo by C Stanley Photograph.

Review: ‘Back to Methuselah Part 3: As Far as Thought Can Reach’ at Washington Stage Guild

George Bernard Shaw loves words. Even his stage directions are wordy. He also loved ideas, philosophy, aesthetics, politics… In Back to Methuselah Part 3: As Far as Thought Can Reach, Shaw reaches that love’s zenith. The words roll, the ideas thunder, the philosophy rains, the aesthetics flood, the politics drown. And with it, The Washington […]

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Photo courtesy of The Kennedy Center.

Review: ‘Battlefield’ at The Kennedy Center

In The Empty Space Peter Brook declared that the stage has “two rules: (1) Anything can happen and (2) Something must happen.” In Battlefield, his collaboration with Marie-Hélène Estienne, those two rules are shown the exception. And the effect could not be more powerful. If not for the applause, I’d be sitting there still, absorbing […]

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Review: ‘What Every Girl Should Know’ and ‘Dry Land’ in Rep at Forum Theatre

One hundred years separate the young women in What Every Girl Should Know and Dry Land, now playing in rep at Forum Theatre. In Monica Byrne’s What Every Girl Should Know, the four teenage girls are housed in a pre-suffrage Catholic reformatory where their capacity to dream is limited to fantasies of romance and murder. In Ruby Rae Spiegel’s Dry Land, the three […]

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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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