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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!: ‘The Last Night of Ballyhoo’ at Theater J

The production is lushly beautiful; the pacing, impeccable; the music between scenes, splendid; the acting, a delight in every detail. And the warm, piquant humor in this Jewish family drama has a comforting old-timey feel—like the fun pleasure one could have watching a family comedy series on television back in the day when there were […]

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Magic Time!: “My Job Is to Crack Open My Soul”: A Q&A with Justin Weaks, Now Appearing in ‘Curve of Departure’ at Studio Theatre

Justin Weaks was recently named by the Washington Post one of DMV’s 12 “stage dynamos,” one of “the best of an emerging cadre of younger regional talent.” He would have been on my short list too. I’ve been impressed with his work in the seven plays I’ve seen him in, and I can now add to that list his […]

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Magic Time!: ‘Vicuña & The American Epilogue’ at Mosaic Theater Company

“Even monsters need clothing,” says the bespoke tailor Anselm, an Arab Jew and immigrant, defending why he will sew a vicuña suit for a Republican presidential candidate whom his intern Amir, a first-generation Iranian American, finds deplorable and dangerous. The fictional candidate is a thinly disguised proxy for a certain wannabe winner with an evident emperor’s […]

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Magic Time!: ‘Hello, My Name Is…’ at The Welders

Having heralded five* Welders productions, I approached Deb Sivigny’s Hello, My Name Is… with both eagerness and wariness. Knowing that Sivigny had chosen as her subject a fact of her own biography—international adoption—I went aware that sometimes the very personal works onstage and sometimes it doesn’t, and saying so when it doesn’t can be awkward […]

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Magic Time!: ‘Judge Me Not’ at DC Arts Center

Strong writing, passionate acting, and a meaningful purpose combined to make Judge Me Not a gem of a show. An assemblage of monologues around a common theme, the show came with a message: Do not pass snap judgment on others whose life story you know nothing of. As staged two nights only in the DC Arts […]

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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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