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Posted at 4:44 PM ET, 07/29/2010

On stage in August

By Stephanie Merry

Area stages welcome a mix of old-timers and newcomers next month, as two Washington institutions of free Shakespeare balance fresh seasons at Woolly Mammoth, Signature and Theater J, among others.

But first, be more than a theatrical spectator by checking out Open Source, part of Midcity's Dog Days of August, 14th Street's late-summer sidewalk sale and neighborhood festival. The Source theater space, which hosts such companies as Constellation, the In Series and Washington Improv Theatre, is offering a full schedule of activities, including workshops on stepping, improv and light sabers, free performances and the chance to meet local artists.

With all the Russian spies in the news lately, now may be the perfect time for Signature Theatre to kick off its season with the Cold War-themed "Chess," about a Russian and an American who are rivals in both the game and love. The production, which features music by Abba alums Bjorn Ulvaeus and Benny Andersson, stars a trio of accomplished actors: Jill Paice from Broadway's "The 39 Steps"; Euan Morton, the Tony-nominated star of "Taboo"; and Jeremy Kushnier, who garnered a Helen Hayes Award nomination for "The Rhythm Club."

Shakespeare Theatre Company's new season begins with an old tradition: the Shakespeare Free for All, which will mark its 20th anniversary. For the second year, the performance will be indoors, which may be a blessing this steamy summer. This year's production is "Twelfth Night," a reprise of the version that won over audiences in late 2008.

Before judging Woolly Mammoth's season-opener based on title alone, it's worth noting that "In the Next Room, or the Vibrator Play" was nominated for the 2010 Pulitzer Prize for best drama. Aaron Posner, the director of such well-received local plays as Folger's "Arcadia," will direct the production about a questionable early remedy for female "hysteria."

Shakespeare Theatre isn't the only place to get your Bard fix. For Olney Theatre's 21st annual Summer Shakespeare Festival, the National Players stage "A Midsummer Night's Dream." The fantastical action takes place outdoors on the Root Family Stage; so pack a picnic and make a family-friendly evening of the event.

Theater J begins its season with "Something You Did," a play about a reformed radical from the 1960s trying to earn her parole. Artist-in-residence Rick Foucheux stars as her one-time accomplice turned uber-conservative talking head, a far cry from his recent roles in Arena Stage's "R. Buckminster Fuller: The History (and Mystery) of the Universe" and "The Rivalry" at Ford's Theatre.

-- Stephanie Merry

By Stephanie Merry  | July 29, 2010; 4:44 PM ET
Categories:  Theater  
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