Michael Hayden in Henry V
(© Scott Suchman)
Michael Hayden in Henry V
(© Scott Suchman)
February may be the shortest month, but there's still a long list of theater openings on DC area stages, with the spotlight on the classics. The Shakespeare Theatre Company kicks things off with a twin-bill they're calling the "Leadership Repertory," showcasing the Bard's Richard II (February 2 - April 10) and Henry V (February 4 - April 10), with Michael Hayden playing both of the title characters. Shakespeare's dramas imagine the monarchs considering choices which define their eras as they deal with civil war and power struggles. Both plays are at Sidney Harman Hall.

Washington Shakespeare Company is putting a contemporary spin on Moliere's The Miser (Arlington's Clark Street Playhouse, February 2-28). A ruthless man tries to protect his fortune, as Moliere fashions a well-timed bailout to keep this precursor of today's CEOs from catastrophe. It's a different sort of classic, but Stephen Sondheim's Sweeney Todd (February 9 - April 4) is full of obsession, betrayal, madness, and murder. Signature Theatre is staging the lush, melodramatic musical to celebrate their 20th anniversary. The show was Signature's first musical and sparked their long association with Sondheim's work.

Orestes, A Tragic Romp (through March 7) is a new translation/adaptation of the Euripedes' drama at Folger Theatre on Capitol Hill. Obie Award winner James Sugg has composed original music to be performed by a female chorus to accent the story of Electra awaiting judgment after a great war is over. If that doesn't satisfy your craving for Euripides, hop on over to Tysons Corner near McLean for 1st Stage's presentation of the comedy/tragedy By the Bog of Cats (February 5-28), Marina Carr's loose retelling of Euripides' Medea, set in Ireland and full of misfits, witches, and ghosts. The troupe, now in its sophomore season, was just cited by the Helen Hayes Awards as "Outstanding Emerging Theatre Company."

Actor and director Austin Pendleton is in town from New York to direct the William Inge classic Bus Stop (February 17 - March 14) at Olney Theatre Center. Set in the 1950s, the romantic comedy/drama finds a busload of passengers holed up in a remote roadside diner in a blizzard. Keegan Theatre is busy with a couple of shows which have had their openings moved back to accommodate extensions of their recent production of the musical Rent. The world premiere of Liam Heylin's dark and poignant Gdirl from Gdansk (February 11 - March 7) and the regional debut of Ronan Noone's one-hander about a reporter discovering dirt on a Congressman, The Atheist (February 16 - March 3), are at DC's Church Street Theater. Bethesda's Round House Theatre opens the month with Thomas Gibbons' stylish but intense drama about art, race, and journalism, Permanent Collection (February 1 - February 21). Inspired by events which occurred at Philadelphia's renowned Barnes Foundation, it scrutinizes how space...literally on a museum's walls and figuratively in society...is available to African-Americans.

There are a couple notable works in Spanish, with English surtitles. DC's GALA Theatre has Beauty of the Father/La belleza del padre (February 4-28) by Nilo Cruz. Set in Spain, it explores alienation, reconciliation, and romantic rivalry as a father and daughter forge a familial bond. Meanwhile, Teatro de la Luna stages Chumbale (El Casado Casa Quiere / Every Love Bird Needs a Nest) (February 18 - March 13) by Oscar Viale. At Arlington's Gunston Arts Center's Theater Two, it "showcases the familiar countryside of South American middle class life, struggling mightily to reconstruct itself."

Elsewhere around town: Studio Theatre 2ndStage shows us what all the excitement over in England was about with That Face (February 17 - March 14). London playwright Polly Stenham was just 19-years-old when she wrote a controversial play about a violent encounter at an all-girls school. Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company is bringing back Chicago's Second City for another version of Barack Stars (February 10-21), subtitled "The Wrath of Rahm." Forum Theatre & Dance Company is opening Amazons and Their Men (February 25 - March 20) at Round House Theatre's annex in Silver Spring. It's a thinly-veiled, but amusing and provocative, look at Nazi film-maker Leni Riefenstahl. And "American Idol" winner Taylor Hicks is Teen Angel in the latest tour of Grease (February 9 - February 21) to roll through town, this time at the National Theatre.

Kids will enjoy Peter and the Wolf (February 6 - March 21), Imagination Stage's new musical based on Sergei Prokofiev's story and music. Recommended for ages 5 and up, it's at the Lerner Family Theatre at Imagination Stage's Bethesda complex.