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.


dog & pony dc’s ‘Toast’ (a Workshop Production) by John Stoltenberg

“Audience integration” is a buzzword that has been flying around awhile but only recently landed in my brain. In live theater, it means going beyond removing the fourth wall; it means erasing the line between spectator and performer altogether. It’s different from “audience participation” because it’s not a rehearsed performance into which audience members are […]

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‘Man in a Case’ at Shakespeare Theatre Company by John Stoltenberg

It is one thing to amble through a modern art gallery and appreciate an innovative multimedia installation—some videos and audio here, some projections and lighting effects there, perhaps some human performers moving and speaking with random disjunction and non sequitur connotation. One is at liberty in such esoteric circumstances to  interpret free-associatively, to mentally assemble […]

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‘If/Then’ (Revisited) by John Stoltenberg

The first time I saw If/Then, I knew I would be seeing it again. The show’s beauty, originality, and heart won me over, and that experience increased all the way through. I wrote a review for DCMetroTheaterArts in which I called If/Then “an inspiration to fall back in love with one’s own life.” Days after, […]

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The cast of 'The Laramie Project.'

‘Magic Time!’ ‘The Laramie Project’ at Ford’s Theatre by John Stoltenberg

If you’re a theater buff who’s worried that the shutdown’s shuttering of Ford’s Theatre and the shunting of The Laramie Project to a nearby church means audiences there must be getting something second rate, I have a news flash: The show temporarily onstage at the First Congregational United Church of Christ is not only first rate; it’s a once-in-a-lifetime […]

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‘The Velocity of Autumn’ at Arena Stage at The Mead Center for American Theater by John Stoltenberg

For $64,000, the funny thing about aging is…? Funny like strange or funny like—? Like LOL. Oh, okay, lemme think. [Thinks a long time; lame music plays.] Haven’t got all day. Please, I need more time! Come on, clock’s ticking. No, wait! Nope. Time’s up. Your final answer. Now. Um…um…lemme guess— [Over sound of nasty buzzer:] The […]

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‘Inventing “Bell” at National Geographic: A Q&A with Rick Foucheux and MJ Jacobsen’ by John Stoltenberg

National Geographic has been thinking outside its trademark yellow box a lot lately. The Society’s mission is “Inspiring people to care about the planet.” Adventure and exploration are its DNA. Still, that doesn’t explain how in the world National Geographic got into producing top-tier-talent live theater—which is exactly what it’s venturing to do, for the […]

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Reporting from The Page-to-Stage Festival: ‘The Good Devil, In Spite of Himself’ and ‘Aural Sex’ by John Stoltenberg

If you’ve never made your way to The Kennedy Center’s Page-to-Stage fest, let me let you in on a few pleasures that await you even before the pleasures packed into this annual Labor Day weekend of staged readings. First off is the odd exhilaration of experiencing this grand architectural edifice—which at times feels designed on […]

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Claire Lebowitz.

Magic Time! ‘Now That ‘Bradass87’ Is Chelsea: A Q&A With Playwright Claire Lebowitz’ by John Stoltenberg

Claire Lebowitz conceived a documentary theater piece called Bradass87 and crafted the script from primary sources—including Bradley Manning’s own online chats and instant messages, in which he used the handle Bradass87. Because of recent news events that amplify the currency of Lebowitz’s already fresh-from-headlines play, I invited her to join me in an in-depth Q&A by email […]

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‘Bradass87’ at Universalist National Memorial Church by John Stoltenberg

Who is the real Bradley Manning? Does anyone know? Can anyone know? These pressing and compelling questions ricochet today even in mainstream news media, which—more beholden to elites than to accuracy—filter reality but rarely sift out truth. Even among ostensibly progressive pols, Bradley Manning looms as an enigma—because they cannot shake the chastening fact he puts their compromised […]

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Magic Time! Keegan Theatre’s ‘A Few Good Men’ by John Stoltenberg

Exploding onstage like a fusillade of biting wit and badinage, A Few Good Men is getting a crackling-good production that makes this power-packed 1991 play feel like it was ripped from today’s headlines. Doesn’t matter whether you’ve seen the Hollywood movie version. Over at the The Keegan Theatre, it’s all brand-new again. So be forewarned: It could get […]

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Peter Sarsgaard (Chuck Traynor), and Amanda Seyfried (Linda Lovelace). Photo courtesy of Radius-TWC.

Magic Time! Film Review: ‘Lovelace’ by John Stoltenberg

In 1972 some men made a film that did her wrong. Unspeakably and indelibly wrong. The film was named Deep Throat. Now some men—with two women producers—have made a film that does right by her. It’s called simply Lovelace.  And cinematic justice has never been so bittersweet. “Linda Lovelace” was the nom du porn of Linda née Boreman (played luminously […]

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Magic Time: ‘The Third Breast’ by John Stoltenberg

The Third Breast is a gritty play, produced by a gutsy company. The three actors are arresting; the music and visuals, appealing. But for some interesting reasons, the challenging script by Polish writer Ireneusz Iredyński (1939–1985) can be an effort for a U.S. audience to comprehend. On the surface the story is a naturalistic drama […]

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'The Book of Mormon' First National Tour Company. Photo by Joan Marcus.

Magic Time!: ‘Holy Joseph Smith! Lessons Learned From The Book of Mormon’ by John Stoltenberg

The Book of Mormon… CONTAINS HERESY. That’s not a preshow advisory you’ll find posted at The Kennedy Center where The Book of Mormon is playing to standing-room houses. No, it’s my alert to you, dear reader, about what follows. Because instead of rehashing what most everyone knows—that this show is outrageous, hilarious, and the best Broadway musical in years—I’m […]

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