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Posted at 8:00 PM ET, 12/31/2009

On stage in January

By Stephanie Merry

It seems like every theater is unveiling a new show this month, so I'm here to help you sort through the possibilities. There are one-man shows, history-inspired dramas, tales of ancient Greece and modern-day Louisiana and two dance versions of Shakespearean tragedies.


Andrew Long stars in "I Am My Own Wife" at Signature Theatre. (Chris Mueller)

The first show to open this month is Arena Stage's "Stick Fly." The play follows two well-off men who bring their significant others home to Martha's Vineyard for a parental meet-and-greet. Slightly comical uneasiness abounds when both women end up feeling a little out of place, one because of her social class and the other because of her race. (Jan. 1-Feb. 7)

Studio Theater's "In the Red and Brown Water" tells a painful story, but it has a big payoff. The beautifully written work about a talented Louisiana girl who just can't catch a break is part of a trilogy by rising playwright Tarell Alvin McCraney. (Jan. 6-Feb. 14)

More picks and a list of pay-what-you-can performances after the jump.

No one likes to be on the receiving end of a crazed rant -- unless monologist Mike Daisey is the one doing the yelling. The uninhibited actor, who has turned the history of homeland security, among other topics, into a one-man show, is back at Woolly Mammoth with "The Last Cargo Cult." The always insightful Daisey targets materialism by weaving together the recent financial crisis with the tale of a group of people in South Asia who worship objects left behind by American soldiers after World War II. (Jan. 11-Feb. 7; pay-what-you-can performances on Jan. 11 and 12.)

Signature Theatre has a very different historically inspired one-man show: "I Am My Own Wife." The play, which garnered both a Tony and a Pulitzer in 2004, tells the incredible story of East German transvestite Charlotte von Mahlsdorf and explores how far someone will go to survive -- even if it requires becoming an informant for the Stasi secret police. (Jan. 12-March 7)

Health care, schmealth care. If you think we're living in a time of extreme political partisanship, Ford's Theatre has a little reality check; it turns out things used to be way more heated. "The Rivalry" dramatizes the debates between Stephen Douglas and Abraham Lincoln when both were vying for the Illinois state senate seat in 1858. What were the hot button topics? Slavery, racial equality and popular sovereignty. (Jan. 22-Feb. 14)

New York City's American Ballet Theatre returns to the Kennedy Center with two days showcasing a mixed-repertory program followed by five performances of "Romeo and Juliet." Anyone who caught the company's lovely "Swan Lake" in February knows that these dancers have a knack for conveying tragedy through dance; the production of Shakespeare will no doubt be a showstopper. (Jan. 26-31)

Oh, the soap opera-style storylines of ancient Greek theater. Euripides's "Orestes" picks up as the title character awaits judgment after killing his mother to avenge the murder of his father. And if shocking plot points aren't enough, this Folger Theatre version co-stars the always fabulous Holly Twyford as Orestes's sister, Electra. (Jan. 27-March 7)

Synetic Theater has proven that Shakespeare can work even without the clever dialogue. The movement-based company has had success with wordless Shakespeare, from "Othello" to "A Midsummer Night's Dream," and now the movers and shakers are back with a tale of love and politics, "Antony and Cleopatra." (Jan. 28-Feb. 28)

Here are some other plays worth checking out, especially if you can hit them on these pay-what-you-can nights:

• Theater J's "The Four of Us," a story of competition among friends, Jan. 20 and 21.
• Constellation Theatre's version of Chekhov's "Three Sisters," Jan. 21 and 22.
• The world premiere "suicide.chat.room" from Taffety Punk, Jan. 26 and 27.
• Washington Shakespeare Company's staging of Moliere's "The Miser,"Jan. 28 through 30, Feb. 1 and all Saturday matinees.

-- Stephanie Merry

By Stephanie Merry  | December 31, 2009; 8:00 PM ET
Categories:  Theater  
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