Author Archive | John Stoltenberg

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Review: ‘The Beckett Trio’ at Scena Theatre

Nanna Ingvarsson is so phenomenal in these three harrowing short plays by Samuel Beckett that one can easily imagine the Nobel Prize-winning minimalist—notoriously persnickety about his stage directions—rising from the grave (center stage, a six-by-two rectangular hole, in nearly no light) and exclaiming (in a hoarse whisper): “Yes, yes, that’s precisely what I meant.” And […]

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Magic Time!: ‘Nat Turner in Jerusalem’ at Forum Theatre

By coincidence, Nat Turner in Jerusalem opened at Forum Theatre the day that The Raid closed at Theater Alliance. The two plays seen in succession are powerfully connected. Idris Goodwin’s The Raid imagines John Brown, the white Abolitionist who attempted to arm blacks for a revolt against slavery by leading a raid on Harper’s Ferry in […]

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Review: ‘Chicago’ at The Keegan Theatre

With its snappy-saucy take on Chicago, The Keegan Theatre shows it knows how to give an audience the ol’ razzle-dazzle. And Keegan has done the durable musical proud. In fact in Keegan’s mounting of the quasi-naughty musical on a bare wood set in a decommissioned church, a case can be made that Chicago’s vaudeville-based storytelling works even […]

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Review: ‘Breathe: The Musical’ at THEARC

Breathe is a brilliantly conceived and beautifully executed gospel musical that celebrates black resilience even as it revisits the traumas endured by the black family in a nation built on slavery. At times soaringly transcendent in its evocation of hope and faith, at times searingly explicit in its depiction of anguish and grief, Breathe in […]

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Review: ‘The Tarot Reading (IV)’ at Anacostia Arts Center

Despite its occultish name, The Tarot Reading is not a cabalistic rite for mystics. It is actually an ingenious theater game for hipster questers who are psyched to play along. To be sure, the trappings of the participatory performance evoke the arcane realms of ritual, invocation, and revelation. But the reality is a spellbinding actor-instigated […]

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Review: Taylor Mac’s ‘A 24-Decade History of Popular Music (Abridged)’ at The Kennedy Center

I doubt the Eisenhower Theater was ever more queered than the night Taylor Mac came to town. The outrageously gifted and fabulously attired theater artist brought “a radical fairy realness ritual sacrifice” to a cheering sold-out crowd—who at one point were persuaded to pair off in same-sex couples and slow dance. Whatever Taylor Mac bid, […]

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Review: ‘That Part Is True’ at Rabble Crew Productions

Wouldn’t it be fun to be a young urban radical and cohabit with other young revolutionaries—in a cheap walk-up apartment that you all share—eating fast food, having polyamorous sex, doing recreational drugs—in between planning direct actions that will tear down oppressive systems like for sure, you know? Wouldn’t that just be a blast? to hang […]

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Review: ‘Hold These Truths’ at Arena Stage

There is a dramatic moment in Hold These Truths that comes as no surprise yet comes as a heart-stopping shock. We know going in that this moment is going to happen. We know that the U.S. Supreme Court is going to uphold young Gordon Hirabayashi’s conviction for refusing to comply with federal orders that during […]

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Review: ‘The Raid’ at Theater Alliance

Can social justice happen without militancy? Can ideals of equality become real without resort to violence? These questions gnaw at the mind during Theater Alliance’s powerfully eloquent staging of Idris Goodwin’s The Raid, an imagined confrontation between two icons of Abolitionist history—John Brown and Frederick Douglass. Both those men dedicated their lives to ending slavery, but […]

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Review: ‘Translations’ at The George Washington University

There’s a lovely scene just before intermission that is both heartwarming and heartbreaking. It is 1833 in agricultural County Donegal Ireland, and two star-crossed lovers—Maire (Samantha Gonzalez), a young woman who speaks only Irish, and Lieutenant George Yolland (Trevor LaSalvia), a British soldier who speaks only English—have met in the woods in the heat of […]

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Review: ‘Peepshow’ at dog & pony dc

“Who here is a feminist?” asked the Ring Announcer (Amelia Hensley). As she signed, wearing a bright red pantsuit and standing on a thick padded mat as used for a contact-sport match, a nearby hearing actor translated. “Who here fights for gender equality?” As if on cue, hands went up in the audience. We were […]

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Review: ‘Familiar’ at Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company

When the 2018 Women’s Voices Theater Festival comes to a close and the hits to emerge from it are tallied, Danai Gurira’s comedy Familiar will surely be on the shortlist. Gurira’s play Eclipsed—a brutal story about a Liberian rebel war lord’s sex slaves and a female Liberian freedom fighter’s attempt to rescue them—had a hugely […]

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Review: ‘Character Building’ at American Ensemble Theater

There is something heart-stirring and inspiring about this new one-man musical. In between excerpts from glorious hymns and spirituals, the great African American educator and orator Booker T. Washington gives us a pep talk about how to live an honorable life—exhorting us to lift ourselves up, to be productive, to be of service—thus the title, […]

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Magic Time!: Katie Kleiger on Bonding and Being a Warrior in ‘The Wolves’ at Studio Theatre (Women’s Voices Theater Festival)

The reason I asked to interview Katie Kleiger is that after I saw her in Sarah DeLappe’s The Wolves at Studio Theatre, I realized I had seen her on the same fourth-floor stage in Lucy Prebble’s The Effect. But the contrast between Kleiger’s performances in The Effect and The Wolves was so great I didn’t make the association […]

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Magic Time!: Gloria Steinem Talks About ‘Sovereignty’ at Arena Stage (Women’s Voices Theater Festival)

“What Mary Kathryn Nagle has given us on stage tonight is the history we don’t learn,” said renowned feminist author and activist Gloria Steinem during one of the most buzzed-about talkbacks of the theater season. The occasion was a  Sunday night performance of Nagle’s Sovereignty, the electrifyingly illuminating new play now at Arena Stage directed by […]

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Magic Time!: ‘The Trial’ at Synetic Theater

Kafka’s nightmare novel about a man named Joseph K—who is arrested, detained, and tried but never told what he has done wrong—would seem perfect for Synetic Theater’s magic touch. A promising opportunity to use its magnificent design, choreographic, and musical talents in service to a surreal story with unmistakable relevance today. A potential parable about […]

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