Euan Morton, Jill Paice, and Jeremy Kushnier star in Chess
(© Chris Mueller)
Euan Morton, Jill Paice, and Jeremy Kushnier star in Chess
(© Chris Mueller)
The music's been updated, but the moves are the same in Signature Theatre's new production of Chess (August 10 - September 26), the 1980s musical showing that all's fair in love and the Cold War. Two international chess masters, an American and a Russian, battle each other for both the world championship and the heart of a woman against a backdrop of political intrigue. David Holcenberg is providing new charts of the rock score from Björn Ulvaeus and Benny Andersson which features the hit single "One Night in Bangkok." Eric Schaeffer directs a cast led by Broadway veterans Euan Morton, Jill Paice, and Jeremy Kushnier.

If you like your musicals in the out-of-doors, Legally Blonde The Musical (August 12 -15) breezes through the Filene Center at Wolf Trap, stopping just long enough to tell the tale of a perky sorority girl who lands at Harvard Law School in an attempt to win back her boyfriend.

Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company kicks off its new season with the 2010 Tony and Pulitzer Prize nominated comedy In the Next Room or the vibrator play (August 23 - September 19). Playwright Sara Ruhl, who has had great luck at Woolly Mammoth with her hits The Clean House and the world premiere of Dead Man's Cell Phone, takes us back to the 1880s and the use of a new medical device being prescribed to calm "hysterical women." It, uh, has an unexpected side effect. Behind the laughs, though, are some serious thoughts about communication barriers between the sexes and the role of science in suppressing women.

If it's hot and sticky outside, it must be time for Shakespeare Theatre Company's annual "Free For All," offering Shakespeare to the public without charge. This year, STC has scheduled 22 free performances of Twelfth Night (August 19 - September 5) at Sidney Harman Hall. If it seems familiar, that's because the Shakespeare comedy was a smash hit just two seasons back for the troupe. It's a tale of losing and finding love, as a shipwreck separates twins Viola and Sebastian, who wash up in a land turned upside-down by love.

It will be occasionally hot and sticky inside, too, at Olney Theatre Center, which continues its exploration of the work of playwright Donald Margulies by staging his bittersweet drama Dinner with Friends (August 25 - September 26). This Pulitzer Prize-winning play explores what happens to decades of friendship between two married couples when one couple is about to divorce.

The American Century Theater is also focusing on two couples facing midlife regrets with Serenading Louie (Arlington's Gunston Theatre Two, July 23 - August 21), a relatively obscure but beautifully written drama from Lanford Wilson, who is better known for such hits as Talley's Folly, Burn This!, and Fifth of July. Old friends look back at their younger selves in this 1970 play, moving through nostalgia and resentment.

If you're of a certain age, you probably read Kurt Vonnegut's novel Cat's Cradle back in college. It made Vonnegut a permanent literary fixture in the 1960s as the writer who theorizes that science may be promising to improve our lives, but is actually pushing mankind to a cataclysmic finale. Local actor/director Kathleen Ackerly adapted Cat's Cradle (August 11 - September 5) for the stage, and Longacre Lea is staging the world premiere at Catholic University's Callan Theatre.

Finally, Separated at Birth (Mead Theatre Lab @ Flashpoint, August 11 - August 29) is a seven-person clown show set in a location that bears a striking resemblance to Washington's Metro. Anyone who has ridden the subway are sure to recognize some of the archetypes depicted!