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DC Metro Spotlight: April 2009

Friendly Giant

Lewis Cleale, Betsy Morgan, and
Ashley Robinson star in Giant
(© Joan Marcus)
April showers us with enough world premieres and new adaptations to keep DC area theatergoers super-busy all month. Arlington's Signature Theatre has the world premiere of Giant (April 28-May 31), by composer Michael John LaChiusa and playwright Sybille Pearson. Planned as epic in scope, the musical focuses on a Texas cattleman, his naïve young society wife, and their family. Power, love, lust, and bigotry toward the Mexican-Americans who work for the oil tycoons round out the story based on the novel by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Edna Ferber, and the iconic 1956 film. The musical stars Lewis Cleale, Betsy Morgan, and Ashley Robinson. Signature also presents the Washington area premiere of LaChiusa's innovative See What I Wanna See (April 7-May 31), an exploration of lust, greed, murder, faith, and redemption told in three stories based on the work of Japanese writer Ryunosuke Akutagawa. LaChiusa's jazz-infused score and book have been described as intense and thought-provoking.

A new production of the smash musical Ragtime (April 18-May 17) debuts at the Kennedy Center this month. It's based on E.L. Doctorow's novel, with book by Terrence McNally, music by Stephen Flaherty, and lyrics by Lynn Ahrens. The story takes us back to the turn of the twentieth century, when New York was a land of opportunity for rich and poor alike. The stories include a poor Jewish immigrant selling wares on the street, a wealthy Victorian couple offering aid to a runaway, and a Harlem jazz pianist out for justice. Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company presents the world premiere of Antebellum (April 1-26) by Robert O'Hara, which unfolds on two continents during the momentous years leading up to WWII.

Olney Theatre Center takes us northward for the world premiere of a musical version of classic adventure stories by Jack London. Call of the Wild (April 8-May 3) looks at life during the Klondike Gold Rush. Dogs and their human companions discover that while it is hard going into the Yukon's untamed territory, it can be even more difficult coming back. The tuner comes from Olney's New Play Initiative, with book and lyrics by Jon Lipsky and music by Bill Barclay. GALA Hispanic Theatre takes us to warmer climes south of the border for The True History of Coca Cola in Mexico (April 2-26), Patrick Scott and Aldo Velasco's politically charged comedy about how American pop culture has invaded Mexico, performed in English with Spanish surtitles.

Theater J is going urban and very contemporary with the area premiere of The Rise and Fall of Annie Hall (April 15-May 24), a comedy by hot playwright and screenwriter Sam Forman. The story has an enterprising librettist and his writing partner trying to create a musical adaptation of Woody Allen's classic film Annie Hall, with complications in their personal lives. Theater Alliance promises their world premiere production of The Bread of Winter (H Street Playhouse, April 16-May 9) by Victor Lodato "will leave you breathless." Their enigmatic description says, "Libby lives in a world where the sun don't shine, a terrible angel encircles the earth, birds fall from the sky and the maternal instinct has all but gone extinct."

The rarely seen Tennessee Williams play Small Craft Warnings (April 9-May 10) is being presented by Washington Shakespeare Company in the lobby of their about-to-be-demolished home, Arlington's Clark Street Playhouse. The play, about people dealing with the emptiness and loneliness of their existence, is set in a bar, so WSC has turned the condemned building's lobby into a downscale watering hole. Literary adaptations on area stages this month include One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (April 1-26), at Bethesda's Round House Theatre; and Richard Wright's searing novel Native Son (April 14-May 9), performed by The American Century Theater at Arlington's Gunston Arts Center's Theater II.

The stories began as oral histories, and have been woven into Blue Door (Atlas Performing Arts Center, April 16-May 3) by Tanya Barfield, in which a contemporary professor is visited in his dreams by four generations of ancestors, helping him understand what it means to be black, then and now. African Continuum Theatre Company stages the project, with original songs. And fans of Tom Stoppard can get a double hit in April. His latest play, Rock 'N' Roll (April 22-May 31) is at Studio Theatre. The legendary playwright takes a fantasy journey through the life he might have had if he lived in his native Czechoslovakia. Then the Stoppard-translation of Gerald Sibleyras' Heroes (April 23-May 24) -- a comedy described as "Waiting for Godot meets Art" -- performs at Alexandria's MetroStage.


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