Arena Stage jumps right in January 1 with Lydia R. Diamond's contemporary family comedy Stick Fly (January 1 - February 7), performed at Arena's temporary home in Crystal City. Race and privilege are studied over a summer weekend on Martha's Vineyard, as a well-off African-American man invites his less privileged fiancée to meet his parents at their luxurious summer home. Diamond examines African-American social aristocracy in this work, directed by Kenny Leon, the Tony-nominated director of A Raisin in the Sun.
Another playwright developing into an important new voice gets local exposure with The Four of Us (January 20 - February 21). Theater J is staging Itamar Moses' new comic drama exploring the friction created when friendship and professional rivalry intersect. A longtime friendship between two young writers undergoes a shock when one of them sells a book for two million dollars. Studio Theatre's Secondstage is bringing back hot new playwright Tarell Alvin McCraney with his In the Red and Brown Water (January 6 - February 14), a companion piece to his The Brothers Size, which Studio presented in 2008. This coming-of-age tale is set in the Louisiana projects where a promising young female runner is confronted with devastating choices.
A couple of one-handers merit a look this month. Signature Theatre has the winner of the 2004 Pulitzer Prize and the Tony Award for Best Play, I Am My Own Wife (January 12 - March 7). This is the real-life story of Charlotte von Mahlsdorf, a German transvestite who survived both Nazi rule and the repressive East German Communist regime, and it gives Helen Hayes Award winner Andrew Long a chance to play 33 characters. And "gonzo journalist" Mike Daisey performs his own work, The Last Cargo Cult (January 11 - February 7) at Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company. Daisey takes us to a tiny South Pacific island to meet worshippers of cargo left behind by American G.I.'s.
Back in the mainstream, but with a sharp point to make amid the 1950s-style comedy is Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? (January 15 - February 6), George Axelrod's witty Faustian spoof combining romance, slapstick comedy, and a duel with the Devil. It's presented by The American Century Theatre at Gunston Arts Center's Theater Two in Arlington. Another duel comes from Ford's Theatre. It's a look at the Lincoln-Douglas debates with The Rivalry (January 22 - February 14), Norman Corwin's examination of the seven debates between Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas on state's rights, slavery, and the intent of the Constitution.
Constellation Theatre Company takes up residence at DC's Source Theatre for Chekov's Three Sisters (January 21 - February 21). They're using the Lanford Wilson adaptation of the story mixing comedy and drama as sisters hope to escape their isolated, rural home for meaningful lives in Moscow. MetroStage in Alexandria continues its rerun season with another showing of Mahalia (January 21 - March 14), the musical biography of Mahalia Jackson starring Bernardine Mitchell, who won a Helen Hayes Award for this role.
Stages are still popping at month's end with Synetic Theatre, which has offerings for both adults and kids. For the grownups, there's a new adaptation of Antony and Cleopatra (January 28 - February 28). Synetic promises to explore Shakespeare's great tragedy with their haunting "art of silence" sensuously blending music, movement, and dance at Shakespeare Theater Company's Lansburgh Theatre. For kids four and older, Synetic's Family Theatre series has Puss 'n' Boots (January 23 - March 14), the classic fairy tale about a clever cat who dons a pair of human boots and leads his poor homeless master to a life of luxury.
And finally, Taffety Punk Theatre Company takes over Flashpoint's Mead Theatre Lab in DC for suicide.chat.room (January 28 - February 14). It's a new piece composed from actual text found on Japanese and American suicide internet groups, which press notes say are "dovetailed in an elaborate Punk Theatre Dance Concert." Um, Happy New Year?