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Posted at 12:24 PM ET, 08/30/2007

On Stage in September

By Erin

With September comes the start of several exciting new seasons, notably Studio Theatre's 30th anniversary season. Trends in the month include two shows addressing the afterlife, a few comedic looks at family bonding (both mother/daughter and father/son) and several heart-wrenching looks at tolerance. It's busy and full of diversity, so even picky theater-goers should find something entertaining.

Signature Theatre rolls into its 18th season singing Stephen Sondheim's "Merrily We Roll Along." This will be 17th work Signature's artistic director Eric Schaeffer has tackled by the prolific contemporary composer. Schaeffer is considered a master at directing Sondheim and served as artistic director for the Kennedy Center's 2002 Sondheim Festival. Though the show flopped in its 1981 Broadway debut, it features classic music and the kind of possibilities that Schaeffer can make soar. The story begins in the present with three friends and follows them back in time along their separate roads and life-changing choices. (Sept. 4-Oct. 14)

Studio Theatre commences its 30th anniversary season with Athol Fugard's "My Children! My Africa!" The story follows an interracial school-age friendship in Apartheid-era South Africa. To prepare for the show, director Serge Seiden and set designer Debra Booth traveled to South Africa to speak with people about their Apartheid experiences and learn firsthand about the country's townships, schools and ways of life. (Sept. 5-Oct. 14; Pay-what-you-can: 2 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 8)

Helen Hayes Award-nominated singer and actress Amy Ziff probes life and what happens beyond it in "Accident," the inaugural show in Theater J's Incubator series of workshops and readings. Using her cello, a bathtub and an array of characters and diatribes, Ziff's one-woman show weighs her own prospects in the afterlife. The show takes place on Studio Theatre's 2ndStage. (Sept 6-23; Pay-what you can: 8:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 6)

"Opus" (C. Stanley Photography/Washington Stage Guild)

Washington Stage Guild bids farewell to its current performance space at 14th and T streets, NW with a reprisal of last season's popular "Opus." The production follows an award-winning, though quarrelsome, quartet that fills a vacant spot just prior to a televised performance at the White House. The show comprises last year's acclaimed cast in the production that critic Celia Wren praised as "remarkably harmonious." (Sept. 6-30)

American Century Theater opens its 14th season with a rare comedy by Eugene O'Neill. "Ah, Wilderness!" tracks a father and his hormonal son on a wilderness bonding trip to test their love and strength. The theater encourages families to attend this kid-friendly show at Gunston Arts Center in hopes of promoting family values. All children accompanied by adults are admitted free. (Sept. 7-Oct. 6)

If you love the circus, treat yourself to the visual candy of "Cirque Dreams: Jungle Fantasy" at Warner Theatre. This relatively new show bends and dances its way into the whimsy of dreams. The production has invested millions in a special dark ultra-violet stage as the setting for its acrobats, gymnasts, aerial artists and other talents. As always, Cirque shows are perfect for the younger set. You won't impress them with elephants, but they will see enough trapeze artists and clowns to inspire them to run away and join the Cirque. (Sept. 11-16)

Audiences will find out if "hell is other people" when Scena Theatre takes to the Warehouse stage with "No Exit," Jean-Paul Sartre's existentialist masterpiece. This is not for the claustrophobic: The play features three people trapped in a windowless room, destined to exist together probing each other for memories, stories and knowledge for eternity. It's the ultimate look at relationships, responsibility and true desires. (Sept. 14-Nov. 20)

"Well" (Raul Colon)

Family takes center stage in Arena Stage's regional premiere of "Well." The autobiographical show by Lisa Kron follows Kron as she tells the ups and downs of her life, consistently interrupted and corrected by her omnipresent mother, played by the incomparable Nancy Robinette. From the mortifying to the profound, through sickness and health, the mother and daughter tromp through life's amusing memories. Though this is the first production of "Well" not starring Kron herself, lead Emily Ackerman was the Broadway understudy and will bring a fresh take to the role in what should be a winning production. (Sept. 14-Oct. 14)

To promote the launch of its new season, Round House Theatre is offering a block of $10 tickets for every performance of "A Lesson Before Dying." To get in on this deal, call 240-644-1100. The play is set in '40s-era Louisiana and is based on the popular Oprah's Book Club selection. It tells the story of a black man wrongly convicted of murder and sentenced to death. A local school teacher agrees to meet with the convict to help him face death like a man, wherein he confronts prejudice, inequality and justice. It's the kind of show that will and should knock a little tolerance into everyone. (Sept. 19-Oct. 14)

Pulitzer Prize-winning author Lawrence Wright performs his one-man "My Trip to Al Qaeda" as part of the Kennedy Center's Prelude Series. While reporting on Al Qaeda for New Yorker Magazine, Wright interviewed more than 600 people and traveled throughout the Middle East. This show derives from his subsequent bestselling "The Looming Tower: Al Qaeda and the Road to 9/11" and his interest in adding to the story. Through multimedia and monologues, he shares his struggles with maintaining journalistic objectivity while showcasing real stories from the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks. (Sept. 22-24)

Synetic Theater dives into the Gothic darkness of Edgar Allan Poe with "The Fall of the House of Usher." Helen Hayes Award-winning director Paata Tsikurishvili modernizes the show, which fittingly ends on Halloween. If it lives up to Synetic's recent adaptations of works like "Frankenstein," expect the company to infuse dreamy dance movement, music and passion into Poe's gripping drama about the delusions of Roderick Usher at Rosslyn Spectrum Theatre. (Sept. 22-Oct. 31; Pay-what-you-can 8 p.m. Thursday-Friday, Sept. 20-21)

Domesticity charges the stage of Shakespeare Theatre with the season opening "Taming of the Shrew," the ultimate predecessor of "The Stepford Wives." In this materialistic comedy, women are objectified and love takes a backseat to money. When the suitors of Padua are told that they cannot woo the lovely Bianca until her wild sister Katherine is married off, the egomaniacal Pertruchio accepts the matrimony for its hefty dowry. He carts off his wife, only to present Shakespeare's most spirited dame in the end reshaped as the perfect role model for every '50s housewife. Don't be surprised to see acclaimed director Rebecca Bayla Taichman -- in her debut with Shakespeare Theatre -- take a few liberties here. After all, the promotional poster does show a bride wearing boxing gloves. (Sept. 25-Nov. 18)

John Steinbeck's classic "Of Mice and Men" comes to life at Olney Theatre Center. The story follows the devoted friendship of two migrant workers during the Great Depression as they try to assimilate and pursue their shared ill-fated dream of owning a farm. (Sept. 26-Oct. 21)


By Erin  | August 30, 2007; 12:24 PM ET
Categories:  Theater  
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Dear editor:
Why not mentioning "Pangs of messiah" with great reviewes doing by popular demand another 15 performances in Theater J?

Posted by: ronnie | August 31, 2007 5:07 AM | Report abuse

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