Definitely deep in Dixie are the three women at the center of Crimes of the Heart (March 26-April 19), Beth Henley's warm-hearted and occasionally zany look at the lives of a trio of three Mississippi sisters coping with their passions. Firebelly Productions mounts the play at Arlington's intimate Theatre on the Run.
Olney Theatre Company's New Play Initiative is up and running this month with the world premiere of Leslie Epstein's King of the Jews (Mulitz-Gudelsky Theatre Lab, March 11-April 12), adapted from the book of the same name, and exploring the moral dilemma of the Judenrat, the group of Jewish officials in the ghettos of Europe who were forced to collaborate with the Nazis.
Shakespeare Theatre Company also has something new for us, with the American premiere of Ion (March 10-April 12). This is the tale originally written by the ancient Greek playwright Euripides as a romance of loss and reconciliation. Abandoned by his parents, Ion grows up as an orphan at Apollo's temple. But when his mother appears in search of a prophecy, Ion must confront both his painful past and his unexpected destiny. David Lan authored the new stage adaptation, which performs at the Shakespeare's Sidney Harman Hall.
Actor and director Susan Marie Rhea is directing the latest from Keegan Theatre, an offbeat but uplifting look at Queen Elizabeth I called Elizabeth Rex (Church Street Theater, March 19-April 18). Playwright Timothy Findley explores the 1601 incident in which the Queen was forced by duty to condemn to death a man widely believed to be her former lover. On the night before the execution, she demanded that William Shakespeare's acting troupe perform a play to distract her. Findley uses this factual base to spin off into an examination of fantasy, death, and love.
Here's how Laurel, Maryland's Venus Theatre describes Not Such Stuff (Venus Theatre Play Shack, March 5-29), by Chris Wind: "Lady MacBeth kill herself? Please. And Portia - you don't think someone that intelligent would be a little pissed at being booty? And Juliet, well, she just wants to have sex." Eight of Shakespeare's women (Lady MacBeth, Kate, Portia, Regan, Juliet, Ophelia, Marina, and Miranda) protest the roles Shakespeare has given them with "contemporary feminist consciousness."
Back in town, Theater J is offering a limited engagement of Benedictus (March 14-29), an "Iran-Israel-U.S. collaboration" written by Motti Lerner and described as a "diplomatic nail biter." With the clock ticking before a scheduled U.S. attack on Iranian nuclear sites, two estranged friends from Tehran, one Jewish and one Muslim, agree to a secret meeting in an attempt to avoid war. They are joined by an American ambassador who is pursuing his own agenda.
Finally, there's a host of old favorites showing up on DC stages this month. Forbidden Broadway (March 12-29), the long-running and ever-changing revue-style parody of Broadway shows is at the Bethesda Theatre. Arena Stage is trotting out Crowns (March 27-April 26) yet again. One of Arena's biggest hits ever, the piece is a joyously musical look at the "hat queen" ladies of the South. A Chorus Line (March 10-22) hopes to be singularly sensational at the National Theatre, and Chicago The Musical (March 31-April 12) squeaks in at month's end, also at the National.