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Arts and Culture (Theatre Reviews)

Three surprising sources combine to make comedy

Theater starts with the written word, comes to life in the voices of actors and endures in the memory of its audiences. Sometimes, as with Carl Sternheim’s The Underpants, written in 1910, it gets forgotten until someone rediscovers it, reimagines it and breathes life into it — as comedian Steve Martin did for The Underpants in 2002.
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Playing thru Mother’s Day, this study in maternal dysfunction should be required viewing for everyone but childless orphans

Can an estranged grandmother, mother and daughter find grace in time to rebuild their family? This is the question Compass Rose Theater poses in their promotion for Lee Blessing’s Eleemosynary, an award-winning play that takes its name from an obscure word in a spelling bee dictionary. Appearing now through Mother’s Day, this study in maternal dysfunction should be required viewing for everyone but childless orphans....

You’ll laugh until you ache, then laugh some more

Four affluent couples gathered in a posh suburban residence for a dinner party to honor friends’ 10th anniversary celebration find mischief surrounding the event.
    There are no servants: How can the party continue? The hostess is missing. So is the host — the deputy mayor of New York City — who has reportedly shot himself through the earlobe.
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See a Congress of courage and passion, theater of vision and great musical entertainment

In 1969, Peter Stone and Sherman Edwards created 1776, a compelling historical musical. (Have those three descriptive words ever before been used together?) Their play depicts the debates, passions and courage it took to craft the Declaration of Independence and start along the path to creating this new country, the United States of America.
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This Night is so dark that you strain to see the actors

Bowie Community Theatre is up to its rafters in shady business again. The troupe that brought you Murder By Misadventure and Who Dunit? now turns to the segregated South for a crime drama with the twisted face of bigotry. Matt Pelfrey’s 2010 stage adaptation of In the Heat of the Night is based on the John Ball novel that inspired an Oscar-winning film and an Emmy-winning TV series.
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Laugh your way out of winter with this play

The British have been stereotyped as stodgy. The truth is that they are quite bawdy and irreverent. The plays of Ray Cooney — including It Runs in the Family, now playing at 2nd Star Productions — are typical British humor.
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Colonial Players’ two-person show Trying will surprise you in a good way

Trying will surprise you in a good way. Colonial Players is promoting this delightful two-person show as a work rich in history and contrasts, and it is. It is also a love story, refreshingly sweet and platonic.
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In Sister Mary Ignatius and in The Actor’s Nightmare are plights you’ll remember from your past and in your dreams

Winter has a way of boxing us into our insular realities. Bay Theatre unfolds them with mind-bending comedy in a double bill of one-acts: the Obie Award-winning satire Sister Mary Ignatius Explains It All for You! and The Actor’s Nightmare. Both are by Christopher Durang, sometimes referred to as Christopher Deranged.
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Passionate singing electrifies ­scripture with personal resonance

When two 20-somethings recorded a musical version of the Passion of Jesus Christ in 1971, rock opera was an innovation. Then Norman Jewison turned Andrew Lloyd Webber’s score and Tim Rice’s lyrics into the iconic 1973 film Jesus Christ Superstar, slapping audiences awake with an electrified take on the scriptures.
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Opposites not only attract, they also repel, making for a timeless comedy

Neil Simon’s 1963 romantic comedy Barefoot in the Park was a box office smash on stage and screen, not merely because it starred dreamy Robert Redford but because it’s packed with hilarious moments. What’s not to get about newlyweds learning the hard lessons of why opposites not only attract but also repel?...