1

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.

the-return-200x200

Magic Time!: ‘The Return’ at Mosaic Theater Company of DC

Inside this taut and provocative two-character play—which vividly evokes the political tension between the Israeli state and its Palestinian citizens—there is a startling sex scene, one that vividly evokes the sexual tension between a woman and a man. It is an explicit, erotic hookup with shocking consequences. To the best of my recollection, it is […]

Continue Reading
rocket 3

Magic Time!: ‘Still Life with Rocket’ at Theater Alliance as Voyage to a New Form: A Q&A with Director Mollye Maxner

Still Life With Rocket is greater than the sum of its arts. The diverse forms of installation, choreography, and character-driven drama come together in this collaboratively devised experience in what seems a wholly new way. It happens on the entire first floor of the Anacostia Playhouse, including hallways, dressing rooms, and a mobile-home structure on the loading […]

Continue Reading
Malic White square

Magic Time!: “Never Fear Your Own Radical Ideas”: A Q&A with Malic White, Who Plays Max in ‘Hir’ at Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company

The young performer, playwright, and self-described gender warrior Malic White is in town from Chicago making a singularly significant debut on a DC stage playing Max, a whip-smart radical queer resister to heteronormativity. The play—Taylor Mac’s Hir—is a seditious celebration of gender liberation. It is also, as I wrote in my column, one of the funniest and profoundest farces I’ve […]

Continue Reading
unnamed-2

Magic Time!: ‘Hir’ at Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company

The absurdity and grim reality of gender get a scathing going-over in this extraordinary play by Taylor Mac. Inside the hilarity of Hir (pronounced “here”) is a tragedy howling to get out. Taylor Mac, author of Hir, has a reputation for outrageous originality as a playwright, actor, singer-songwriter, performance artist, director, and producer. I’ve been […]

Continue Reading
Nicholas Edwards (Jesus) and Natascia Diaz (Mary) 
in Jesus Christ Superstar at Signature Theatre. Photo by C. Stanley Photography.jpg

Magic Time!: ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’ at Signature Theatre

There’s an extraordinarily tender and touching moment in Signature Theatre’s ebullient Jesus Christ Superstar when Mary Magdalene (Natascia Diaz), after singing her gorgeous ballad “I Don’t Know How to Love Him,” snuggles alongside the sleeping body of Jesus (Nicholas Edwards), her backside to his front, and wraps his arm around her shoulders. OMG Mary and […]

Continue Reading
The-Father-800x533-6 square

Magic Time!: ‘The Father’ at The Studio Theatre

There are reasons aplenty not to miss The Father now playing at The Studio Theatre, and Ted van Griethuysen’s performance in the title role is foremost among them. Recently the recipient of a Helen Hayes Tribute award, van Griethuysen commands the stage with incomparable expressivity of body and voice and presence of mind—even as the […]

Continue Reading
download (25)

Magic Time!: ‘Outside Mullingar’ at The Keegan Theatre

How does a play that starts out about real estate for gosh sake—adjacent farms in rural Ireland—become a heart-wrenching story of adjacent lost souls who fall in love late in life? How does a play that starts out prosaically about inheritance rights of all things—who gets one of those two farms after its paterfamilias passes—become […]

Continue Reading
Laura_Bush_Killed_Starring_Lisa_Hodsoll_Photo by Chelsea Bland square

Magic Time!: ‘Laura Bush Killed a Guy’ at The Klunch

Who’da thunk that our current administration’s dysfunction would prompt nostalgia for our eight years worth of W.? But that indeed is the curious takeaway from watching Lisa Hodsoll’s poignant impersonation of Laura Bush in a surprisingly touching comedy by Ian Allen, now playing in a world premiere production by The Klunch at Caos on F. […]

Continue Reading
Jaysen Wright. Photo by Kristina Sherk.

Magic Time!: On Being Seen as “Angry Black Man”: A Q&A with Jaysen Wright About His Role in ‘Smart People’ at Arena Stage

I remember thinking after I first saw Lydia R. Diamond’s Smart People at Arena that the character Jaysen Wright plays, Jackson Moore, has an important and particular role in how whole the play plays, especially as Wright interpreted him. Despite being a very funny comedy, Smart People is built on a serious subject: how human brains are […]

Continue Reading
Holly Twyford as Aphra Behn. Photo by Grace Toulotte.

Magic Time!: ‘Or,’ at Round House Theatre

As play titles go, Or, is one of the most ungoogleable. It is a search engine dead end. And as an original mashup of past and present, prose and poetry, and performative purposes, Liz Duffy Adams’s  Or, is also one of the most unpeggable. My colleague David Siegel, in his rave review, called the production […]

Continue Reading
Off the Leash

Magic Time!: ‘Off the Leash: A Journey Into Reality One Black Life at a Time’ at Woolly Mammoth Rehearsal Hall

After I watched eleven B.F.A. candidates in Howard University’s Class of 2017 perform a program of self-scripted audition pieces—character-rich monodramas, actually—I had one overwhelming urge: I wanted to see every next play these actors get cast in after they graduate. Because they each knocked my socks off. Off the Leash: A Journey Into Reality One […]

Continue Reading
003_press_Well-(ZF-0164-76930-1-001)

Review: ‘Well’ at 1st Stage

“Social ills” is a term often used to name a problem without caring about the people affected by it—as in the phrase “racism and other social ills.”  It’s a way of keeping one’s distance by making the problem somebody else’s. It’s like the way one can hear said of someone chronically and inscrutably sick, “They […]

Continue Reading
unnamed (3)

The Subplot Quickens: A Q&A with Michelle Beck About Her Remarkable Role in ‘King Charles III’ at Shakespeare Theatre Company

I greatly admired both the writing and the acting in Shakespeare Theatre Company production of Mike Bartlett’s King Charles III, but to be honest it was the character of Jessica and Michelle Beck’s performance in it that knocked me out most of all. I remember walking out of the Sidney Harman Hall wanting to see […]

Continue Reading