It's been a few years in the making, but DC's legendary Arena Stage is finally set to open its brand new campus, the Mead Center for American Theater. The $135-million expansion of the theater company's SouthWest DC stage complex will open to the public Saturday, October 23 with a variety of free performances, special events, demonstrations and lectures. Highlights include a glittering Gala Celebration October 25 and a two-month run of the Rodgers and Hammerstein classic musical Oklahoma! (October 23 - December 26), directed by Molly Smith in the refurbished Fischhandler.
The Opera House at the Kennedy Center will be rocking like it's 1968 as the 2009 Tony Award Winner for Best Musical Revival blows into town. Hair (October 26 - November 21) was the first hit rock musical, defining a generation and scaring parents four decades ago. Now parents and grandparents are taking the kids (providing they can handle the language and brief nudity) to enjoy the rousing hit score, including "Let the Sun Shine In," "Good Morning Starshine," "Aquarius, and the title song.
Washington Stage Guild offers a two-sided look at a thorny issue, with the comic fantasy Darwin in Malibu (Undercroft Theatre, October 28 - November 21). Playwright Crispin Whithall has Charles Darwin sipping banana smoothies in a Malibu beach house as his old friend Thomas Huxley, and his old nemesis the Bishop of Oxford, argue over the origins of life. Ford's Theatre opens its season with Sabrina Fair (October 1-24), Samuel A. Taylor's tale of true love hindered by class, race and social conventions. The story is better known for its incarnation as the Audrey Hepburn-Humphrey Bogart film classic Sabrina.
Round House Theatre has the area premiere of Ameriville (October 20 - November 7) at its Bethesda mainstage. Written, created, and performed by the performance ensemble UNIVERSES, the piece blends storytelling, jazz, Gospel, and hip-hop to examine the country in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Meanwhile, Solas Nua presents its first musical. Improbable Frequency (October 1-24) is set in World War II Dublin, where a mad scientist and a host of spies and saboteurs threaten the neutrality of the fledgling Irish Free State.
Washington Shakespeare Company moves into its new home this month, marking the debut of Arlington County's "Art Space for Everyone" in the old Newseum site in Rosslyn. To celebrate, WSC is offering a rep presentation of Richard III (October 21 - December 12) and Mary Stuart (October 2 - December 12). The former shows us one of Shakespeare's most complex and fascinating characters engaging in ambitious political maneuvering. The latter focuses on a fierce rivalry between Queen Elizabeth I and her cousin, Mary, Queen of Scots in German playwright/poet Friedrich Schiller's story. WSC is using the new version by Peter Osvald, which played the West End and Broadway recently.
If that doesn't satisfy your taste for English history, Folger Theatre has Henry VIII (October 12 - November 21). Shakespeare's final history play reverberates with power struggles as Henry's advisors, his paramour Anne Boleyn, and Queen Katherine all vie for the favor of the King. He was one of the Bard's contemporaries, and Constellation Theatre Company is staging Thomas Middleton's revenge tragedy Women Beware Women (October 14 - November 14). Three wealthy couples engage in a dangerous game of power and lust in this provocative dark comedy at Source Theatre on 14th Street.
Philip Barry's sophisticated comedy, Holiday (October 22 - November 14) was written just before the stock market crash of 1929 and remains timely. It's a whirlwind romance exploring the clash of love and money on the eve of financial doom, staged by 1st Stage in McLean. Theater J is opting for the familiar this month with Neil Simon's classic comedy The Odd Couple (October 23 - November 28). Two of DC's best character actors, Rick Foucheux and J. Fred Shiffman, take on slobby Oscar and neatnik Felix.