Washington, D.C. Spotlight: November 2004
A Full Plate
Pulitzer Prize-winning satirist, cartoonist, author and playwright Jules Feiffer has been a familiar presence lately at Theater J, which is running a double-barreled program of his work. Feiffer's latest play, A Bad Friend, is playing through November 28 in its first production outside New York. Combining suspense and comedy, it's a look at the struggle of a young woman dealing both with adolescence and with growing up in a family of U.S. Communists during the 1950s. Feiffer was on hand through the rehearsals, as director Nick Olcott put his mostly local cast through their paces. "He's been very involved in the process," said the theater's Yael Meirovich. "He's been giving excellent feedback; he loves it and he's thrilled to see it onstage. It could have been a recipe for disaster, but it hasn't been. It's been really great having him here." The DC Jewish Community Center, home to Theater J, is concurrently running a multi-disciplinary retrospective of work from Feiffer, an artist perhaps most famous for his four decades of cartoons in The Village Voice and syndication. The exhibit runs through January 30, 2005.
While Arlington's Signature Theatre features the world premiere of the first musical they've ever commissioned, John Strand and Michael John LaChiusa's The Highest Yellow, running through December 12, downtown theatergoers have more familiar fare with National Theatre's presentation of the national tour of Movin' Out, featuring 24 classic tunes from Piano Man Billy Joel. Joel and choreographer Twyla Tharp both won Tonys for this tale of five friends living through two turbulent decades encompassing the post-World War II era and Vietnam and its aftermath. Joel hits such as "Uptown Girl," "Movin' Out," "We Didn't Start the Fire," and "Why Judy Why?" are worked into the show, which runs November 19 through December 19.
Keegan Theatre is back from their sixth annual tour of Ireland, where they performed Sam Shephard's study in Americana, True West, in nine cities. And they're returning to become the resident theater company in a new home base for them, the historic Old Town Theater in the heart of Old Town Alexandria. Originally a vaudeville house, where such performers as the Marx Brothers strode the boards, and later a movie theater, the Old Towne was recently retro-fitted back to a live performance venue for a now-failed comedy troupe. It's a traditional proscenium-based venue, unlike the black box spaces Keegan is used to, but managing director Carol Baker says the company won't change its emphasis on intimate, character-based dramas. "We're used to playing in spaces such as this; in fact, it reminds us a lot of the Town Hall Theatre in Galway where we just performed," she said. "We might have to make some modifications of the stage, such as bringing it closer to the audience, and we won't use the huge balcony, so we can keep our audience close." Keegan is reprising True West for theatergoers on this side of the Atlantic November 18 through December 19, adapting the portable sets from the Irish tour into more substantial structures on their new stage.
- New York playwright and actor Wallace Shawn's black comedy The Fever runs at Warehouse Theater November 21 through January 3.
- The American Century Theater, which specializes in "important but neglected" American plays of the last century, stages Clifford Odets's Paradise Lost November 17 through December 18.
- And the African Continuum Theatre Company follows last season's popular production of August Wilson's Joe Turner's Come and Gone with Two Trains Running, as Wilson continues his account of 20th-century African-American life through the lives of the patrons of a small diner in Pittsburgh's Hill district in 1969. This stunning chronicle plays in the Kennedy Center's film theater November 6 through 28.
- Alexandria's Metrostage continues with the American premiere of Canadian playwright Sean Reycraft's very dark, existential comedy One Good Marriage, which electrified Toronto audiences last season. (The first words of the play: "Everybody died.") The play runs through November 21, and audiences seem to enjoy the daring look at one couple's first wedding anniversary, but be warned: the play runs less than an hour, so go ahead and plan on earlier-than-expected dining when making those post-show dinner reservations.