Chita Rivera in The Visit
(© Goodman Theatre)
Chita Rivera in The Visit
(© Goodman Theatre)
Leading lady Chita Rivera and leading man George Hearn bring the glamour of multiple Tony Award wins with them for Signature Theatre's east coast premiere of The Visit (May 13-June 22), the finale of the four-month-long celebration of the work of John Kander and Fred Ebb. The tuner has its origins in the 1956 play by German playwright Friedrich Dürrenmatt that delves into themes of retribution, avarice, revenge, and honor. Rivera is Claire Zachanassian, driven from her hometown in disgrace at age 17. She returns decades later as the richest woman in the world, only to find her hometown suffering hard times. Terrence McNally provided the book, and director Frank Galati and Ann Reinking (also Tony winners) have been re-tooling the show, which they helmed for its 2001 debut at Chicago's Goodman Theatre.

Also rising from humble beginnings is King David, in Theater J's world premiere production of David in Shadow and Light (May 6-June 22). Created by Yehuda Hyman and Daniel Hoffman, this is a musical retelling of King David's transition from young shepherd to "superstar" ruler and, eventually, aging king. Director Nick Olcott promises a highly visual style incorporating extensive dance sequences.

The increasingly active Keegan Theatre presents the American debut of Irish playwright Owen McCafferty's poignant play, Closing Time (May 15-June 7). Belfast is the setting for a run-down pub/hotel that acts as a refuge for the damaged souls who gather there. Described as "a tender and comic portrait," it's at Arlington's intimate Theatre on the Run. Studio Theatre has its take on Anne Washburn's The Internationalist (May 14-June 22) which borrows from film noir style in a fish-out-of-water tale of an American businessman involved in a mysterious, multilingual romance.

Several smaller troupes are also staging interesting new works in May. Active Culture has local playwright Jacqueline E. Lawton's Mad Breed (Joe's Movement Emporium in Mt. Ranier, May 2-June 1), which examines what happens when "the offbeat teenaged siblings of John Wilkes Booth" decide to put on a play. It's billed as a romantic comedy. Catalyst Theatre has the area's first staging of Crumble (lay me down Justin Timberlake) (May 7-June 7) at Capital Hill Arts Workshop. The somewhat surreal one act has been described as whimsically eloquent in rave West Coast and Chicago reviews. Journeymen Theatre presents the DC premiere of Neglect (May 28-June 21) at Church Street Theatre, in which elderly Rose and her young neighbor, Joseph, try to escape an unbeararable heat wave and their own feelings of loneliness.

It's "Free For All" time again, as Shakespeare Theatre Company takes Michael Kahn's "re-imagining" of Hamlet (May 22-June 1) outside for its highly popular under-the-stars performances at DC's Carter Barron Amphitheatre. Constellation Theatre Company also goes way back for The Oresteia (May 9-June 1), the only surviving trilogy of Greek tragedies, at Arlington's Clark Street Playhouse. It's another oldie-but-goodie at Folger Theatre with The School for Scandal (May 7-June 15), Richard Brinsley Sheridan's witty comedy of manners from 1777.

It's in Spanish, with English surtitles, but Teatro de la Luna hopes the laughs are universal in Volvió una Noche (She Returned One Night) (May 8-31), a comedy from Argentinean playwright Eduardo Rovner at Gunston Arts Center's Theater II in Arlington. A young man is visited by the ghost of his late mother, who thinks he's not living up to his potential.

Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company ends its season with Measure for Pleasure (May 26-June 29), David Grimm's take on naughty restoration comedy. Bethesda's Round House Theatre brings back Ed Gero to star in Nixon's Nixon (May 28-June 22), a smash hit for them a number of years ago, as President Nixon and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger hilariously come to terms with their legacy on the eve of Nixon's resignation. And Synetic Theatre briefly goes back to the Kennedy Center's Family Theater for their movement-based adaptation of Prosper Mérimée's Carmen (May 29-June 15). The company promises a "fresh and sexy dynamism" and an unusual design placing the story in, over, and around a giant cage.

You can drop the kids off at Adventure Theatre for Goodnight Moon (May 15-June 1 at Adventure Theatre in Glen Echo Park, and June 6-22 at DC's Atlas Performing Arts Center). The favorite bed-time book is now a musical for kids 1 to 12.