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DC Metro Spotlight: September 2009

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Dominic Cooper and Helen Mirren
in Phedre
(© Catherine Ashmore)
The 2009-2010 theater season gets underway in September with a packed schedule of notable opening nights. From across the pond comes Helen Mirren starring in the National Theatre of Great Britain's production of Jean Racine's Phèdre (Shakespeare Theatre Company's Sidney Harman Hall, September 18-26). Dame Helen has been wowing English critics and audiences with her portrayal of one of the most complicated figures in Greek mythology, a woman who is obsessed with passion for a stepson (played by Dominic Cooper) after mistakenly believing her husband to be dead.

Signature Theatre presents the world premiere revue First You Dream: The Music of Kander & Ebb (September 10-27), a tribute to Broadway's celebrated songwriting team (and Signature supporters) Fred Ebb and John Kander. Heidi Blickenstaff, James Clow, Eleasha Gamble, Norm Lewis, Julia Murney, and Matthew Scott will star, backed by a 19-piece orchestra and all-new orchestrations. The show spotlights 35 songs from the duo's musicals, from Cabaret to Chicago, and several films.

Emmy Award-winning writer Jane Anderson's The Quality of Life (September 11-October 18) is a new drama that puts together two very different couples who confront grief and survival with honesty and humor. It's a revised version of the play, which has had several west coast outings. Johanna Day, Annette O'Toole, Kevin O'Rourke, and Stephen Schnetzer star in the piece, at Arena Stage's temporary Crystal City venue. Bethesda's Round House Theatre has a new take on Oscar Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray (September 9-October 4) from Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, set in 1988 London for a "provocative contemporary spin" on the thriller about a man who sells his soul for eternal youth and beauty.

Jim Brochu's Zero Hour (September 1-27) is at Theater J, directed by Piper Laurie. The one-hander explores the late actor Zero Mostel's struggle with being blacklisted. Billy Crystal is also here this month, "in one," bringing the tour of his autobiographical Broadway smash 700 Sundays (September 9-17) to the National Theatre for ten performances.

Danai Gurira's Eclipsed is making its world debut at Woolly Mammoth, September 1-27. The play exposes how much an individual may sacrifice in order to survive wartime atrocities. Olney Theatre Center presents a revival of Emlyn Williams' psychological thriller Night Must Fall (September 30-October 25), starring Rosemary Prinz. Studio Theatre opens its season with the late, great Harold Pinter's Moonlight (September 9-October 18) starring the estimable Ted van Griethuysen as a dying patriarch. GALA Hispanic Theatre explores some of that same ground with Lúcido/Lucid (September 17-October 11), the darkly humorous tale of a dysfunctional family suspended between lucidity and dreams.

Eclectic offerings fill other stages in September. Washington Shakespeare Company opens its final season in the crumbling old warehouse in Crystal City called The Clark Street Playhouse with a campy drag version of Camille (through September 27). Not to be outdone, Taffety Punk's "all-girl Shakespeare" is back for Measure for Measure (September 18-October 10), which they promise will be both "sexually-charged" and "shadowy" at Capitol Hill Arts Workshop. The American Century Theater, in residence at Arlington's Theater II of the Gunston Arts Center, resurrects Shirley Lauro's A Piece of My Heart (September 9-October 10). It's is the story of six women -- before, during and after the Vietnam War -- and is based on Keith Walker's book of the same name. The Roslyn Spectrum will be full of surreal imagery and dance as Synetic Theatre gives A Midsummer Night's Dream (September 17-October 10) an extension following its recent sold-out run at the Kennedy Center. At the end of the month, Ford's Theatre opens Black Pearl Sings! (September 25-October 18), as music unites strangers in a story illuminating America's racial divide.

If you prefer the suburbs, there's plenty to choose from. Heritage-O'Neill Theatre Company has a new venue on Old Georgetown Road in Bethesda, where they're presenting Eugene O'Neill's A Touch of the Poet (September 24-October 17). 1st Stage, with a lovely theater out near Tyson's Corner in McLean, opens its sophomore season with Marivaux's 17th century classic farce The Game of Love and Chance (September 12-October 4) transported to the 1930s. The Venus Theatre Play Shack in Laurel will be full of playwright Vanda's Why'd Ya Make Me Wear This, Joe? (September 3-27), about two women who fall in love while their men are away during World War II.

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