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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.

Magic Time!: ‘Blank’ at Theater Alliance

"There are holes in the script!" would be the deathblow for any more conventional work of theater, but in Nassim Soleimanpour's Blank, the gaps...

Magic Time!: A Love Letter to ‘Dear Evan Hansen’

When Dear Evan Hansen debuted at Arena Stage four years ago, I was so moved by the show I wrote it a love letter,...

Magic Time!: Why ‘A People’s History’ Is “Painful”: A Q&A With...

John: Before you brought A People’s History to DC, you performed all 18 parts three times—once through in Minneapolis and twice through in Seattle....

Magic Time!: ‘The Boy from Troy’ (DC Black Theatre & Arts...

One looks for hope where one can find it. And sometimes hope pops up on its own, unexpected. That kind of hope, not sought...

Magic Time!: The Mind-Blowing Stagecraft in ‘Twisted Melodies’ at Mosaic Theater

Twisted Melodies is a spectacular finish to Mosaic's fourth season. Written by and starring Kelvin Roston, Jr., the show sweeps us into Donny Hathaway's...

Magic Time!: ‘A Doll’s House, Part 2’ at Round House Theatre

How do I love this play? Let me count the ways. My colleague David Siegel's review heaps accolades on the Round House Theatre production of...

Magic Time!: ‘The Oldest Boy’ at Spooky Action Theater

Sara Ruhl's The Oldest Boy tells a gut-wrenching story serenely, almost gently. At the heart of it is the bond between mother and child, a...

Magic Time!: ‘The Chibok Girls: Our Story’ at Georgetown University

One night five years ago, a horror happened in Chibok, North Eastern Nigeria. The Boko Haram—Islamicist terrorists who believe that Western education is evil—abducted...

Magic Time!: ‘God of Carnage’ at Keegan Theatre

The set foreshadows the coming fracas.  There's a fault line down the middle where this living room seems sliced in two. And something's out...

Magic Time!: ‘Oslo’ by Round House Theatre

It is rare that theater seriously asks us to believe something far beyond itself. Typically we are asked to suspend disbelief about let's-pretend that...

Magic Time!: 10 Questions for the Brains Behind ‘The Tarot Reading’

Even in this theater town abounding in innovation, The Tarot Reading stands out as an original. I can’t think of anything it’s quite like....

Magic Time!: Disrupting the White Comfort Zone: A Q&A about ‘P.Y.G.’...

I have an ongoing interest in how theaters in DC with predominantly white audiences raise and represent the issue of race. And one of...

Magic Time: ‘Les Deux Noirs: Notes on Notes of a Native...

The splashy opening is spectacularly preconception-smashing. We know we're about to see a play premised on a 1953 meeting in a Paris café between...

Magic Time!: Inside the DC Jail with Liza Jessie Peterson and...

Actor and Playwright Liza Jessie Peterson is an extraordinary artist/activist. Tucked inside her uproarious one-woman show, The Peculiar Patriot—which she performs through April 20,...

Magic Time!: ‘Native Son’ at Mosaic Theater Company

When one has an overwhelming experience in the theater—as I did watching Native Son at Mosaic—it can take some time to process. This is...

Magic Time!: ‘Queen of Basel’ at Studio Theatre

Queen of Basel by Hilary Bettis, now on the boards at Studio, is scathingly brilliant. One walks out gobsmacked. (I completely concur with my...

Magic Time!: ‘Limits’ by Cirkus Cirkör at The Kennedy Center

The circus I fell in love with as a kid is gone. It was touted at the time as the greatest show on earth:...

Magic Time!: ‘Crying Hands’ by Teater Manu at George Washington University

We like to think that the Holocaust could never happen here. We want to believe that it shouldn't so it couldn't. And then comes...

Magic Time!: ‘The Brothers Size’ at 1st Stage

"You fucked up! You fucked up! You fucked up!" rails the older brother, berating the younger. "You fucked up! You fucked up! You fucked...

Magic Time!: ‘Twelve Angry Men’ at Ford’s Theatre

Cross-racial casting can be totally wrongheaded—as when white actors impersonate characters of color. It can also be speciously universalizing—as when actors of color play...

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