Theodore Bikel stars in Shylock
(© Stan Barouh)
Theodore Bikel stars in Shylock
(© Stan Barouh)
Theater J kicks off the month with the world premiere of Either Or (May 2-June 3), a new historical drama by Thomas Keneally, the author of Schindler's List. The drama is based on the true story of Kurt Gerstein (played by Paul Morella), an SS officer who was repulsed by the horror being unleashed by the Nazis and tried to alert the world to the Holocaust.

International star Theodore Bikel will be at Theater J briefly in Arnold Wesker's Shylock (May 13-15), a "reimagining" of the three stories that inspired Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice. Bikel has the title role and local favorite Edward Gero is Antonio in this staged concert reading.

Charter Theatre opens a heady new play by Chris Stezin, the company's artistic director. Sleeping and Waking (Arlington's Theatre On the Run, May 4-June 2) is set 60 years from now, when science embarks on a new adventure as a professor becomes the first person to successfully have his head transplanted onto a fresh, healthy body. However, he soon finds it's difficult to reconnect with his old life.

Blue/Orange (May 11-June 3), which won London's prestigious Olivier Award for Best Play, makes its Washington premiere at The H Street Playhouse, courtesy of Theater Alliance. Joe Penhall's fast-paced but philosophical comedy exploring race, madness, and survival of the fittest is set in a London hospital.

Solas Nua offers an Irish import, Owen McCafferty's Scenes from the Big Picture (May 17-June 24), which depicts a 24-four hour period in a Belfast community. It's a non-political play, and it squeezes 21 actors and 40 scenes into two and three quarter hours.

We're deep into the Potomac region's spring allergy season, but Catalyst Theatre Company seeks to distract us from our ills with The Flu Season (Capitol Hill Arts Workshop, May 2-June 2). Will Eno's love story is a meditation on hope vs. fate. Out in Maryland, that banging you hear is the sound of doors slamming at Olney Theatre Center: George Feydeau's wacky farce 13 Rue de L'Amour (May 16-June 10) has a philandering husband, a vengeful wife, a love-starved countess, befuddled policemen, a saucy maid, and others frolicking through a maze of mistaken identities.

If you missed Shakespeare Theatre Company's psychedelic, Beatles-inspired take on Love's Labor's Lost last summer, take heart. It's back, and it's this year's "Free For All" offering under the stars at the Carter Barren Amphitheatre, May 24-June 3. Shakespeare Theatre Company's Michael Kahn won a Helen Hayes Award this year as Outstanding Director for his work on the production, going all out with eye-popping scenic design and sonnets revved up with pretty decent 60s-style rock and roll.

Folger Theatre is celebrating the Bard's 443rd birthday with his final play, The Tempest (May 9-June 17), an epic tale of forgiveness presented at the Folger Elizabethan Theatre. Studio Theatre takes us behind the scenes of Hamlet (sort of) with Tom Stoppard's modern comic classic Rosencrantz and Guilderstern Are Dead (May 16-June 24). The Killer Angels (May 17-June 30) go al fresco as Heritage Theatre Company sets up at its warm weather home in Cabin John Regional Park in Bethesda. This sweeping drama is an adaptation of the Pulitzer Prize winning Civil War novel.

African Continuum Theatre Company has an offering that they suggest you might wish to take the kids to see. The Oracle (May 10-June 3) is Ed Shockley's tale of a young African princess on a long journey; she meets magical characters, faces serious challenges, and returns home with a new understanding of her role in the world. Live actors and puppets tell the story at the Atlas Performing Arts Center.