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!: 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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Danielle Davy and Nanna Ingvarsson. Photo by Jae Yi Photography.

Magic Time!: ‘Guilt’ at Scena Theatre

Sex and guilt were linked in superstition before institutional Christianity came on the scene, but thanks to the medieval Catholic Church they got hooked up with theology too. It was in the runup to the church’s crackpot Inquisition that three senses of the word possession—as carnal, religious, and demonic—got all mushed together. And western civilization […]

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Erika Rose in Caleen Sinnette Jennings' Queens Girl in Africa at Mosaic Theater Company, Women's Voices Theater Festival 2018. Photo by Stan Barouh.

Magic Time!: “Claim All of Your Selves”: Caleen Sinnette Jennings on Her ‘Queens Girl’ Plays (Womens’ Voices Theater Festival Productions)

Erika Rose’s performance in Queens Girl in Africa is awesome to behold. She plays the playwright’s teenage self, named Jackie, plus her parents, school friends, and others, with an incandescence that won’t stop. The coming-of-age story tells of the time in the 1960s she and her family lived in Nigeria. It picks up the storyline that […]

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Magic Time!: ‘The Birds and the Bees: Unabridged’ at Mosaic Theater Company

“Let’s rethink sex” has suddenly become a thing. Well, not suddenly maybe. But it certainly has new pertinence in this era of full-frontal disclosure. Which made the  themes of The Birds and the Bees: Unabridged all the more tantalizing. According to advance publicity, Through dialogue, movement, song, humor, and multimedia, the performance examines such themes […]

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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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