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! ‘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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Magic Time! ‘How To… Sex Education’ (Weekend Two)

Having enjoyed the first weekend of Rabble Crew Productions’ How To… Sex Education, I went back for seconds—another set of four short plays on the ever popular theme of sex…and the never popular topic of sex education. The cheeky conceit that connected the grab bag of two shows is that sex education can be fun […]

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Magic Time! ‘The Last Schwartz’ at Theater J

What is it that’s so tried and true about plays about siblings? Must be something universal, because there are so gosh darn many of them. Structurally they obviously make for auspicious cast lists, characters with built-in back stories of tensions and lingering resentments. A playwright has only to put the brothers or sisters in the […]

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Magic Time! ‘Cloud Nine’ at The Studio Theatre

Caryl Churchill’s Cloud Nine, which premiered in London in 1979, is rightly considered a landmark play. It is pivotal for me personally as well, ever since I saw the legendary Tommy Tune production off-Broadway in 1981. At the time I was immersed in counter-cultural people’s theater, which tended to be wildly experimental in form but […]

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Page-to-Stage New Play Festival: Brave Soul Collective and African-American Collective Theater

Two of DC’s most important independent theater collectives bearing witness as black artists to #BlackLivesMatter are Brave Soul Collective and African-American Collective Theater (ACT). Both commemorated milestones Saturday with bills of new short plays in Kennedy Center’s Page-to-Stage Festival. In the afternoon, Brave Soul marked its tenth anniversary with Tenfold: An Evening of Brave Soul Performances,  […]

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Magic Time! “I Think About How Badly I Can Break a Heart Today”: A Q&A with Audrey Cefaly, Author of ‘The Gulf’ at Signature Theatre

John: I first discovered your writing when I saw Maytag Virgin during the Women’s Voices Theater Festival, and as I said when I interviewed you back then, “it was one of those experiences of an artist’s work that make me want to see everything they do.” So when I learned that that Signature Theatre would […]

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Magic Time! Kathleen Akerley’s ‘Fear’ at Longacre Lea

There’s a good chance that watching FEAR—Kathleen Akerley’s playfully subversive new comedy at Longacre Lea about a troupe of actors in the throes of performing Shakespeare—will change your perception of the next play of the Bard’s that you see. For theater makers, FEAR is a deliciously insider backstage romp sure to tickle the funny bone […]

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Magic Time! ‘The Lonesome West’ at The Keegan Theatre

In real life, when we are spectators to two grown men facing off in dead-serious combat—right in front of us; with words, fists, lethal weapons, whatnot; unmediated by movies and such—our natural response is fright, for fear that the fight will get out of hand and include us. The more the conflict turns violent, the more urgently […]

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Magic Time! ‘Notes on My Theatergoing in London’

My four days in London last weekend offered time slots to see six plays—four evenings and two matinees. My strategy was to seek intriguing, fresh writing in a mix of West End, Off West End, and Fringe productions. After poking around to learn what would be playing during my stay, I picked the following six […]

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Magic Time! A Report on ‘Double X’ at Schools Without Walls

S. Ann Johnson’s Double X—an exquisitely crafted choreopoem exploring the multicultural distinctions and connections among seven women—had its DC debut Saturday after appearances in Baltimore, New York, and Philadelphia. In a review of the Baltimore production two years ago (when the play was titled XX Chromosome Genome Project and directed by the playwright), DCMetroTheaterArts writer […]

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