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Archive | Magic Time!

This column is named after that magical moment between life and art just before a show begins. In it John Stoltenberg explores how art makes sense of life—and vice versa—as he reflects on meanings that matter in the theater he sees.

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Magic Time!: ‘Sotto Voce’ at Theater J

Among the revelatory dimensions of this lyrical play is one that caught my attention by surprise. I knew going in that Sotto Voce, by Pulitzer Prize–winning playwright Nilo Cruz, would resonate with the contemporary plight of refugees because it references a tragic historical event: the voyage of the S.S. St. Louis, which set sail in 1939 […]

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Magic Time!: ‘An Act of God’ at Signature Theatre

Rarely have I enjoyed such a perfect union of comic writing, acting, and staging with such non-stop hilarity. Just opened in the intimate Ark theater at Signature. An Act of God, had me doubled over laughing so hard it could count as an abs workout. The intelligent design of the show is everywhere—in the kitch-celestial set […]

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Magic Time!: ‘Love and Information’ at Forum Theatre

This is a most peculiar play, but in a very good way. It’s more about its form than its content. And that’s what makes it one of Forum Theatre’s most fascinating offerings. The famously unorthodox British playwright Caryl Churchill has in Love and Information defied just about every theatrical convention you can name: Be it […]

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Magic Time!: ‘The Arsonists’ at Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company

In a recent satire published on Medium, the San Francisco writer/actor/comedian Alison Page listed five dozen “Honest Theatre Awards.” Among them was one that struck me as an apt accolade for the production of The Arsonists I had just attended at Woolly Mammoth: “The This-Play-Isn’t-About-Trump-But-It-Kind-Of-Is-Now Award.” As if to underscore The Arsonists‘ earnest eligibility in […]

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Magic Time!: Refinding the Soul of ‘Word Becomes Flesh’ at Theater Alliance: A Q&A With Director Psalmayene 24

Winner of five Helen Hayes Awards last season, Theater Alliance’s production of Word Becomes Flesh is now playing at Anacostia Playhouse in an encore presentation that is garnering even more acclaim. Having seen both productions, I sensed something in it had now changed—something I could not find words for but something powerful and significant. I […]

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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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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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Magic Time!: “Never Fear Your Own Radical Ideas”: A Q&A with Malic White, Who Plays Max in ‘Hir’ at Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company

The young performer, playwright, and self-described gender warrior Malic White is in town from Chicago making a singularly significant debut on a DC stage playing Max, a whip-smart radical queer resister to heteronormativity. The play—Taylor Mac’s Hir—is a seditious celebration of gender liberation. It is also, as I wrote in my column, one of the funniest and profoundest farces I’ve […]

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Magic Time!: ‘Hir’ at Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company

The absurdity and grim reality of gender get a scathing going-over in this extraordinary play by Taylor Mac. Inside the hilarity of Hir (pronounced “here”) is a tragedy howling to get out. Taylor Mac, author of Hir, has a reputation for outrageous originality as a playwright, actor, singer-songwriter, performance artist, director, and producer. I’ve been […]

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Magic Time!: ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’ at Signature Theatre

There’s an extraordinarily tender and touching moment in Signature Theatre’s ebullient Jesus Christ Superstar when Mary Magdalene (Natascia Diaz), after singing her gorgeous ballad “I Don’t Know How to Love Him,” snuggles alongside the sleeping body of Jesus (Nicholas Edwards), her backside to his front, and wraps his arm around her shoulders. OMG Mary and […]

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Magic Time!: ‘The Father’ at The Studio Theatre

There are reasons aplenty not to miss The Father now playing at The Studio Theatre, and Ted van Griethuysen’s performance in the title role is foremost among them. Recently the recipient of a Helen Hayes Tribute award, van Griethuysen commands the stage with incomparable expressivity of body and voice and presence of mind—even as the […]

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