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! ‘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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Magic Time! ‘Someone Is Going to Come’ at Scena Theatre

Someone Is Going to Come is a comedy of menace with a roiling undercurrent of sexual tension. It evokes ominous noirish goings-on in a scary remote locale told in stark idiosyncratic dialogue. And it’s funny as all get out. Scena Theatre’s impeccably perturbing production of the Norwegian dramatist Jon Fosse’s biting three-hander had me howling […]

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Magic Time! ‘Trans Lives and Theater as Change Agent: A Q&A with Dane Figueroa Edidi and Natsu Onoda Power’

Theater in DC has begun only recently to tell stories that attempt to be faithful to trans experience. Despite progress on local stages toward accurate portrayals of the lives of other populations marginalized on account of “difference”—those who are women, black, Latinx, Asian, queer, Deaf, or disabled, for instance—the lives of transfolk have been conspicuously […]

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Magic Time! ‘Into the Woods’ at The Kennedy Center

The acclaimed Fiasco Theater production of Into the Woods has come to the Eisenhower Theater at Kennedy Center for the holidays—I am tempted to say for a spell, because the show is enchanting as a magic elixer—and I completely concur with my DCMTA colleague Andra Abramson, who gushed that it “deserves to be gushed over.” […]

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Review #1:’Copenhagen’ at Perisphere Theater

The storytelling in Michael Frayn’s Copenhagen—which won the 2000 Tony Award for Best Play—is ingeniously done. The play’s three characters are deceased. They are actual historical figures whom Frayn extensively researched then imagined conversing in an afterlife on a circular stage space that has no specific time but three actual chairs. They speak sometimes to […]

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Magic Time!: ‘The Christians’ at Theater J

A debate about the existence of hell is combusting in the nation’s preeminent Jewish theater. And that particular drama in that particular venue could not be more anomalous. There is in Judaism no eternal damnation after death—no conception of it, thus no controversy over it. Not that there’s a shortage of guilt among Jews; there’s […]

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Magic Time! ‘Straight White Men’ at The Studio Theatre

Playwright Young Jean Lee’s audacious title refers to the particular—the white widowed father (Ed) and his three grown sons (Drew, Jake, and Matt) who are on stage for most of this naturalistic comedy—as well as the generality of straight white men (as in Jake’s mention of “people like us…privileged white dickheads”).  So one might reasonably […]

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Magic Time! ‘Rameau’s Nephew’ at Spooky Action Theater

There comes a scene in Rameau’s Nephew at Spooky Action Theater when Robert Bowen Smith playing He (the titular character) coughs an aria. Literally. Just like an opera singer except without music or lyrics. He goes on and on wordlessly, hackingly, raspingly, inflecting cough after ridiculous cough with a sincere and silly musicality that had […]

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