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: ‘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...

Magic Time!: ‘Admissions’ at Studio Theatre

"Some of my best friends are white men," says Sherri, the very liberal white woman who handles admissions at a small New England prep...

Magic Time!: ‘Jeffrey’ at Rainbow Theatre Project

If there's such a thing as gay wit, Paul Rudnick's got a load of it. Imagine Oscar Wilde and Noël Coward if they could...

Magic Time!: ‘Washington Magic’ at the Arts Club of Washington

When I was a kid, magic tricks and puppet shows were forerunners to my love of theater. They were like my gateway drug. I...

Magic Time!: ‘Kings’ at Studio Theatre

"Laws are like sausages," goes the adage. "It’s better not to see them being made." As it happens, I have a good mental picture...

Magic Time!: On Acting with a Conscience: A Q&A with Lianne...

The character Lianne Harvey plays in J.B. Priestley's An Inspector Calls, Sheila Birling, really fascinated me. Sheila stands out as no ordinary ingenue. During the...

Magic Time!: ‘How to Keep an Alien’ by Solas Nua

I can't recall seeing another play by someone who came to playwrighting from standup, but I'll not soon forget how I laughed my feckin...

Magic Time!: ‘An Inspector Calls’ at Shakespeare Theatre Company

J. B. Priestley's classic An Inspector Calls—a drawing-room drama set in England in 1912 and written there in 1944—has landed in DC with uncanny...

Magic Time!: Mike Daisey’s 18-Part, 30-Hour ‘A People’s History’ at Seattle...

I remember being so bored by my high school American history class that I got a D in it. This was not normal. My...

Magic Time!: ‘Cry It Out’ at Studio Theatre

Cry It Out—an exhilaratingly funny and touching comedy about new parenthood—is a joyous reminder that when a playwright of Molly Smith Metzler's skill and...

Magic Time!: ‘The Fever’ at Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company

If you've ever been in an acting class, a group-encounter session, a sensitivity training, or  kindergarten, you'll feel right at home in The Fever....

Magic Time!: ‘Actually’ by Theater J at Arena Stage

The vexing concept of consent in sex gets a seductively smart parsing in Anna Ziegler's Actually. Now playing in an electrically well-acted Theater J...

Magic Time!: ‘The Fall’ at Studio Theatre

There is so much to be blown away by in The Fall, the powerful and thrilling performance piece devised and performed by seven South...