On Stage in October
October is upon us and there is music in the air. From a pre-"Rent" Jonathan Larson musical to a world premiere, music-filled look at the women of a housing project, this is a tuneful month on local stages. If fall has you wanting to get back into the classroom, check out "Catechism" or get a ticket to a "Spelling Bee."
" (Scott Suchman)
Signature Theatre hosts the world premiere of "The Word Begins," a genre-busting (think music, video, slam poetry, drama) look at love, race, religion, sexual relations and the power of language. Oprah fans should appreciate that stars Steve Connell and Sekou performed at Winfrey's fundraiser for Barack Obama. (Oct. 2-Dec. 2)
Catalyst Theatre kicks off its new season with the omnipotent, untouchable government in "The Trial," Franz Kafka's tale of alleged crimes. The law is put under the strictest scrutiny when a man is arrested, tried and executed for crimes that are never disclosed. The production will be adapted and directed by the company's Helen Hayes Award-nominated artistic director, Christopher Gallu, at Capitol Hill Arts Workshop. (Oct. 3-Nov. 3)
Just in case you have a hankering to go back to school -- parochial school -- Olney Theatre Center for the Arts takes audiences into the knuckle-rapping excitement of "Late Night Catechism." The audience members become students in this one-woman show, performed by Nonie Newton-Breen. Those who misbehave could end up on stage. Prizes will be awarded to achievers and attention should be rewarded with an amusing production. (Oct. 4-Nov. 11)
This month marks the start of Teatro de la Luna's 10th annual International Festival of Hispanic Theater at Gunston Arts Center. Troupes from throughout South America, Spain and the Dominican Republic will celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month with performances that include a mime, comedies, dance and theatrical realism. Most productions will be performed in Spanish with live dubbing in English. (Oct. 9-Nov. 17)
" (Colin Hovde )
Before writing iconic '90s musical "Rent," Jonathan Larson penned the autobiographical "Tick Tick ... Boom!" Helen Hayes Award-winning actor Gregory Smith takes the lead at MetroStage as Jon, a struggling composer/playwright searching for a breakthrough in New York. His dance teacher girlfriend and sell-out best friend pressure him to find success as he turns 30 and shows his newest musical in a workshop. Set to the same style of upbeat chorus tunes you'd expect from "Rent: The Early Years," he views the pressures of work and love as the ticks leading up to his possible explosive meltdown. Pay-what-you-can on Thursday, Oct. 11. (Oct. 11-Nov. 25)
"Caligula" storms to life at Clark Street Playhouse with a bit of help from the Washington Shakespeare Company. The play, by Albert Camus, traces the reign of the tyrannical Roman emperor, played by Alexander Strain, up through his assassination.
(Oct. 11 - Nov. 11)
Theater Alliance explores the ambitions behind the immigrant experience in "Ambition Facing West." This story follows three generations of a family in their homeland of Croatia around 1910, Wyoming during World War II and Japan in the '80s at H Street Playhouse. (Oct. 12-Nov. 4)
From David Mamet, the playwright and screenwriter behind "Glengarry Glen Ross" and "Wag the Dog," comes "Speed-the Plow" at Theater J. The greed of Hollywood is put under a microscope when two ruthless producers debate the benefits of art films versus big money blockbusters with the help of a temping secretary. Random trivia: Madonna played the secretary role in the Tony Award-nominated Broadway debut in 1988. The Material Girl won't be in this production, but you will get venerable Broadway actors Danton Stone and Peter Birkenhead. (Oct. 18-Nov. 25)
Take a lesson in survival, dreams and friendship when Arena Stage produces the world premiere of "The Women of Brewster Place." Based on the novel by Gloria Naylor, the musical revolves around 10 black women living in a '70s-era housing project. Directed by Arena's artistic director Molly Smith, the show stars a strong cast of women performing a diverse score that includes funk, gospel and R&B. (Oct. 19-Dec. 9)
" (Joan Marcus)
I could get all clever and ask if you can spell fun, but my emotional scars from losing the 4th grade spelling bee still haunt me. In any case, remedial spellers and connoisseurs alike should rejoice in the D.C. debut of "The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee." Styled in the model of pre-teen musical "Breakfast Club," you'll find the boy scout, the overachiever, the allergy-prone dweeb, the activist and the other kids who were left behind in dodgeball. The songs, like "My Friend, the Dictionary" are catchy enough to make this one a must-see at National Theatre. (Oct. 23-Nov. 4)
There's still time to enter the polyester, tongue-in-cheek swankiness of Shakespeare Theatre Company's "The Taming of the Shrew." The production does a masterful job of dispensing fun that every shrew, wench, suitor and servant should appreciate. It keeps up with "Kiss Me Kate," "10 Things I Hate About You" and all of the other contemporary adaptations without sacrificing the integrity of Shakespeare's text or his arguably chauvinist humor. Costumes, body language and innuendos infuse the show with the bawdiness that Shakespeare's contemporaries would have experienced. (Through Nov. 18)
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