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DC Metro Spotlight: February 2008

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Mari Natsuki in The Impressionist
(© Joshua Lieberman)
There's hardly time for Valentine's Day this month, as DC stages are crammed with openings. The sun is rising at the Kennedy Center during the first two weeks of the month with a celebration of Japanese performing arts. Among the highlights, internationally recognized director Yukio Ninagawa helms the American premiere of Shintoku-Maru (February 7-9) in the Opera House. Based on an ancient Japanese noh play, it blends drama and music, and hot young Japanese film star Tatsuya Fujiwara. (Performed in Japanese, with a printed English synopsis.) Kyogen is a style of spoken drama based on laughter and comedy. The Mansaku-no-Kai Kyogen Company under artistic director Mansaku Nomura, designated a Living National Treasure of Japan, presents two productions in the Terrace Theater, Traditional Kyogen Works (February 11) and The Kyogen of Errors (February 13 & 14), the company's take on the Shakespeare classic, performed in Japanese with English surtitles.

Tokyo's singer/dancer/actor Mari Natsuki -- whose works explore "words, body, and space" -- debuts the eighth version of her show The Impressionist (February 13) in the Family Theater. The special series also has something for the kids, Amon Miyamoto's Up in the Air: The Story of Boonah, the Tree-Climbing Frog (February 7-10), in the Family Theater. Miyamoto, often described as Japan's foremost director of musicals, conceived and directs this world-premiere musical. (The grownups will appreciate that the music is by composer Henry Krieger, a Tony and Academy Award nominee for Dreamgirls).

Alan Ball, the creative mind behind TV's Six Feet Under and the film American Beauty penned the play All That I Will Ever Be, which is being presented by Studio Theatre Secondstage (February 13- March 9). Ball focuses on ethnicity and the search for belonging via a romance between two men, one white and one Middle Eastern.

Local playwright Karen Zacarias' new comedy, The Book Club Play (February 6-March 2) gets its premiere at Round House Theatre in Bethesda. Zacarias gives us a group of thirty-somethings who invite a new member into their beloved book club. The question is whether either the club or the friendships will survive the new member. And making its American premiere is Frida Kahlo, la pasión (Frida Kahlo, the Passion) (February 7-March 1), another view of the life of the great Mexican painter, from Teatro de la Luna at Gunston Arts Center's Theatre 2 in Arlington.

It's often called George Bernard Shaw's greatest play, and Shakespeare Theatre Company has Major Barbara (February 19-March 23) in their new Sidney Harman Hall. Shaw wittily explores timeless tensions between wealth and charity, government and religion. The cast is led by Vivienne Benesch as the title character and Ted van Griethuysen as her arms factory-owning father. Ethan McSweeny directs.

Around town, briefly, The Folger Theatre has a version of Macbeth (February 28-April 6) conceived by Teller, the silent half of magicians/iconoclasts Penn & Teller, along with Aaron Posner. In a more traditional vein, Washington Shakespeare Company in Arlington opens Ibsen's 1890 potboiler Hedda Gabler (February 7-March 9) at the Clark Street Playhouse. Rorschach Theatre has Thornton Wilder's Pulitzer Prize-winning comedy about the end of the world, The Skin of Our Teeth (February 1-March 2), at The Sanctuary Theatre of DC's Casa del Pueblo Methodist Church. Keegan Theatre has a similarly ecclesial setting for The Hostage (February 21-March 29) at DC's Church Street Theatre. Brendan Behan's play examines Irish politics as the IRA takes a British soldier hostage in a bawdy Irish bar. Olney Theatre Center stages Doubt: A Parable (February 13-March 9), John Patrick Shanley's Pulitzer and Tony winner studying moral uncertainty, set in a Catholic school. And Catalyst Theatre Company goes Swimming in the Shallows (February 6-March 8), by presenting Adam Bock's quirky comedy at the Capital Hill Arts Workshop.

Tours coming through this month include Annie (February 26-March 2) at the Warner Theatre, High School Musical (February 5-17) at the National Theatre, and My Mother's Italian, My Father's Jewish, and I'm in Therapy (February 21-March 26) at the Bethesda Theatre.

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