2 - Or, Round House Theatre
Delightful fanfic about Aphra Behn. Three hander in which only the actress playing Aphra has only one role, so it's total farce, and the major supporting characters are King Charles and Nell Gwynne. Holly Twyford as Aphra, Greg Linington in the male roles, and Erin Weaver in the female roles. Including Nell Gwynne in boydrag hitting on Aphra Behn. The whole play is fanservice. Loads of fun, but also looking honestly at what a woman trying to get ahead must give up - Aphra is singleminded because she has to be and mindful of the risks she takes because there is no safety net. You can be the king's mistress, or you can be successful in your own right, but you cannot be both. (You might be able to share Nell Gwynne, though.)
6 - Ragtime, Ford's Theatre
Third time! From good seats this time, with Kristin. So glad I could bring her to see this production because my god, that cast!
6 - Fun Home, National Tour
And since I was downtown, I walked over to the National to lotto Fun Home. They do "lotto losers" $35 tickets if the show isn't a sell out, which is hella useful info. It was nice to sit further back once in order to get more of the panorama of the staging, and this performance really confirmed for me that I was attached to this cast. And then I got to talk up Ragtime to Robert and make sure he messaged Tracy for tickets.
8 - Demetrius, ReDiscovery Reading, Shakespeare Theatre Company
New Peter Oswald translaptation of an unfinished Schiller about the False Dmitri. Important thing here: Oswald is fabulous. I loved his Mary Stuart, so this was a must-see, and I wasn't disappointed. It's a weird play, but a great and moving central performance by McKinley Belcher as Dmitri. Schiller's conceit is that Dmitri doesn't know he's not Dmitri - the ID is made because he's the right age and has an imperial medallion, but the man he thought was his tutor was really the assassin, who hedged his bets by killing the true heir but keeping a false spare in a monastery on the chance it might prove useful. There's a great scene where this poor young man - his name turns out to be Yuri - is debating what identity even is. As a monk, he took the name Grigory, but unlike the other monks, he had not put off a former identity but instead found himself without any identity at all. There's a lot going on, but it's a really fascinating look at meanings of identity and loyalty and power.
12 - Fun Home, National Tour
Back to the front row! This time, Caroline Murrah was on as Joan, which was fascinating. She's double cover for Joan and Middle Allison, so as you can imagine, she's wide-eyed and cute and not the walking sex object that Karen Eilbacher is. (Every time Karen smiled at me at the stage door, I wanted to melt into the sidewalk because I felt absolutely unworthy to have been on this earth with her.) What this means is that Caroline's Joan is only a little further ahead on the road than Allison - her confidence is the only thing that separates them, and even that is somewhat put on, in that way that freshman year of college is where you can try on identities because you have no history with any of these people. It makes the first dorm room scene work better, honestly, and it makes the Joan/Allison relationship feel more real, that it's not (admittedly one of my favourite) slash tropes of the extremely hot and rather louche older one playing the erastes to the adorable, naive eromenos. Roberta Colindrez and Karen Eilbacher are older, hot, louche, far too amazing to be legitimately in a love relationships with dorky Allison; they are an avatar of education into the lesbian world. Caroline is just another college student. It really fits more with the way this cast feels thoroughly lived in and neighbourly.
14 - Kaleidoscope, Creative Cauldron
Matt Conner and Stephen Gregory Smith's new show, a vehicle commissioned by Florence Lacey to explore some of what her family went through in living with her mother-in-law's Alzheimers. It's a hard sit that doesn't explain what's going on - it goes in circles and lets the audience get as confused as the main character. She's a retired actress, and her daughters have found that as she gets worse, she only relates to them as if they are her director and stage manager. They take on roles in order to keep her calm and moving. I was halfway through before I realised the cast is all female, which shows there should be more cross-gender casting in other things because it can be so damned seamless. Flo is excellent, and while I was feeling rather detached and lucky to be so, watching her decline really got to me. She is very, very good, and the boys have put together a show that is disorienting but also funny and at times joyful. But it is a hard sell and a hard sit.
19 - Timon of Athens, Folger Shakespeare
Robert Richmond directly Ian Merrill Peakes in the title role. I was so excited the moment it was announced, and this time it actually surpassed my expectations. Weird play, but a deeply moving production. Modern dress, with Katie Tkel playing a couple roles that were certainly originally male and Antoinette Robinson as Timon's steward. Some additions that are making it more heartbreaking - Timon has some OCD tendencies and a horror of being touched, so flinging bitcoin into people's accounts is really the only way he can express his love. And his decline is heartrending. Ian is so good. SO GOOD. Also, this thing is sort of a remix of Coriolanus - Timon runs off into the wilderness holding a grudge against the city that did not appreciate him, while the soldier Alcibiades is exiled on bullshit reasons and comes back with an army to sack the city. And there is no happy ending, nor tragic one - Richmond cuts it off at the end of Timon's last speech, so we know he is like to die, but not how, nor do we know if Alcibiades takes the city or if the city repulses him. A weird play, but not especially because of this cut. I kind of want to go back because I really felt this one.
20 - Building the Wall, Forum Theatre
This one I did not feel. The problem was almost certainly that this was an "event" - a series of theatres are rushing this into production as a response to Trump's election. (there's a reason plays go through a development process, maybe.) Also, that I already saw this play: it was call A Human Being Died that Night. Seriously, both plays are about a black academic talking to a white supremecist in prison in an attempt to understand his crimes. They are also staged the same way, only you'd think Eric Messner, not being chained down stage left, would have an easier time of it than Chris Genebach, who was chained the floor stage left. The trouble is that this "future history", to quote Mike Bartlett on his King Charles III, doesn't work, while the real past does work. The references in Building the Wall are ripped from the headlines last year, but they don't feel like references these characters would use a year in the future. The timelines don't work. The justification doesn't line up. And the character Rick is supposed to be an everyman who ends up doing unspeakable things because he feels trapped in a system that says to do unspeakable things. But Eugene de Kock was an everyman - also with a father with a drinking problem who gave him the belt when he deserved it - who found a role that society wanted him to take and deeply regrets that his role turned out to be in the service of evil. De Kock is compelling because his apologies appear sincere and he wants most that the decision makers be punished too, not that he get off the hook for any of the atrocities he committed. Rick isn't really there. And the details don't line up. The whole thing does build to a decent payoff, but I feel like that payoff was written first and the play constructed around it. The construction is flawed. I had to come home and watch American Gods to get some actual decent drama after this mess.
21 - Jesus Christ Superstar, Signature Theatre
Joe Calarco directed, so it was going to be interesting. Joe's work tends to have a distinct point of view - he's definitely more in the auteur model. His Assassins is still one of the best things I've ever seen. His JCSS basically throws out any previous staging ever and goes back to the bare bones of a concept album that got out of control, allow him to construct the story he wants to tell, which is the story of a movement. We start by watching a functioning religious community - the priests accept offerings and bless their parishoners of all ranks in life. And then a member of the Jesus cult drops his hood and throws a punch and the whole thing collapses into chaos. We're watching a Jesus who is in way over his head while this cult is being run by Mary Magdalene and Judas, and Mary isn't getting any of the credit she deserves. Everything's All Right is Mary preaching to the faithful, anointing them and calming them. And Jesus at several points just grabs the microphone from her without even noticing that she's stopping a riot. I Don't Know How to Love Him is her commiseration with Judas, shared, about how difficult Jesus is but that at least they're all finding a life in service to each other. She is holding the whole cult together, and getting no respect for it. Crazy well done. Got to see Vinny Kempski go on as Judas, which was great - Vinny is still my favourite Melchior in Spring Awakening, and his Judas was excellent. Fun extra staging is that one of the priests (not Annas or Caiaphas - an unnamed one where there's usually a council) is actually fascinated by Jesus breaking up the most convincing market in the temple I've ever seen (the priests are fully involved - it's religious commerce, not a lease agreement with cock fighters) and sneaks away to watch him further and take part in the Last Supper. She's been uncertain since Annas and Caiaphas decided Jesus must die, and she gets a visual story contrasting with Judas' story. The visual that there's no easy answers, but that Jesus is certainly compelling and that makes him dangerous. Also adored Sherri Edelen as Herod - a middle-aged white lady is not who you wish to displease when you're working customer service. Why are you not turning her water into wine?! She wants a talk with your manager right now.
Joe is also wrestling with what the script means. If Jesus goes to his death because the end is foretold, everything is foretold, then WTF does that mean for our world? His Christ is tormented on the cross by images of what has been done since, both in his name and in his lands: Klan, ISIS, Westboro, soldiers with guns aimed at women in hijab. If he dies to redeem the sins of the world, we have a lot of sins, and he should be tormented by the depth and breadth of them. And so he is.
I was surprised how much I loved this one. Joe can be really hit or miss, sometimes between scenes in the same show, but this one really hit me.