Archive | SPINE: Theatre, History & Culture in the Belly of the Beast

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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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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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Spine: ‘Milk Like Sugar’ at Mosaic Theater Company

America is but an expensive iPhone. If you’ve got that, and its Pink with a sexy ringtone, then you’re in, as in the “in” crowd. Now, all you need is a baby. Or so seems the mind-set of Margie, Talisha, and Annie (Ghislaine “Gigi” Dwarka, Renee Elizabeth Wilson, and Kashayna Johnson), three young African-American high […]

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Spine: ‘Rameau’s Nephew’ at Spooky Action Theater

The 18th century French playwright and philosopher Denis Diderot is known best among theatre folk for his theoretical writings: on the actor, the 4th Wall, and the emergence of scenography as an aesthetic element. With Rameau’s Nephew, now playing at Spooky Action Theatre, we see the cultural critic and the playwright merge, and with it the birth […]

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Spine: Anguish, Angels, and the Reagan Revolution: ‘Angels in America’ at Round House Theatre

Round House Theatre and Olney Theatre Center have teamed up for a truly remarkable Washington event: Parts 1 & 2 of Tony Kushner’s Pulitzer-Prize winning Angels in America. On Monday, September 12th, Part 1, Millennium Approaches, opened–to a standing ovation with angels, rising from beneath, soaring from above, or simply walking amongst us. Part II, […]

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Spine: ‘We Know How You Die’ and an Oracular Upright Citizens Brigade

We Know How You Die, the Upright Citizens Brigade’s improvised, audience participation exploration of the Oracle, its predictive methodology, and its impact on the American political—STOP! You will find no soothsaying from Woolly Mammoth’s July visitors, no deep ring-side analysis of the Hillary/Trump face-off–NO! And the only raw emotion present anywhere near this stage is […]

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Spine: The 26th Contemporary American Theater Festival: Ed Herendeen’s 26th Snapshot of America’s Theatrical Culture

The Contemporary American Theater Festival at Shepherd University in Shepherdstown, West Virginia, is approaching its second quarter of a century of new American plays. This year’s rotating repertory includes: Christina Anderson’s pen/man/ship Allison Gregory’s Not Medea Chisa Hutchinson’s The Wedding Gift Susan Miller’s 20th Century Blues Ronan Noone’s The Second Girl Ed Herendeen remains the […]

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Spine: ‘An Octoroon,’ ‘The Octoroon’ at Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company

An Octoroon, Branden Jacobs-Jenkins’ re-imagining of Dion Boucicault’s pre-Civil War classic The Octoroon, opened last night at Woolly Mammoth. Postmodern, hip, sardonic, farcical–An Octoroon deals with that most funny of phenomena, sexual slavery. Not really “funny”, of course, but then we have war, as in Oh, What a Lovely War, Joan Littlewood’s satiric take on […]

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Spine: Becoming Leila Buck’s ‘Hkeelee’ at Mosaic Theater Company

In The Protean Self, Robert Jay Lifton explores the wonders of human resilience in times of profound disturbance and change. In Hkeelee (Talk to Me), a theatrical memoir of sorts, writer and performer Leila Buck embodies that wonder, that resilience, and those dramatic changes through her real life relationship with her Teta, her Lebanese grandmother, Jeanne Lababidi. The final […]

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