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Posted at 11:45 AM ET, 12/30/2010

On stage in January

By Stephanie Merry

Mary Zimmerman's adaptation of "The Arabian Nights" lands at Arena Stage. (Kevin Berne Images)

January promises a parade of visionaries on area stages. Inventive directors Mary Zimmerman, Aaron Posner and Rebecca Bayla Taichman put their imaginations on display, the National Theatre of Scotland gives new life to the war play genre and up-and-coming playwrights get a voice at Arena Stage.

Speaking of promising young playwrights, Studio Theatre unveils the third and last installment of Tarell Alvin McCraney's Brother/Sister Plays trilogy after acclaimed runs of "The Brothers Size" and 2010's "In the Red and Brown Water." "Marcus; or the Secret of Sweet" also takes place in the South -- this time in the dangerous housing projects of New Orleans at a housing project based on those in New Orleans -- and keeps the infusion of African mythology that made the first two plays in the series so unique. (Jan. 5-Feb. 13)

When a famed playwright tells you to sit down and start writing, it's wise to listen. Author G.K. Chesterton did just that when his good friend and verbal sparring partner George Bernard Shaw urged Chesterton to write a play about the interplay of faith and reason. The result was "Magic," which will be performed by Washington Stage Guild. (Jan. 6-30)

Chicago-based Mary Zimmerman will be wasting no time getting back on the boards in Washington. Fresh off directing "Candide" at Shakespeare Theatre Company's Harman Hall, the Tony Award-winning director will be taking on "The Arabian Nights" for Arena Stage. An adaptation of Scheherazade's wild tales -- stories heart-pounding enough to save her life -- seems like the perfect project for the woman behind other epic plays with stunning visual elements, including "Metamorphoses" and "Pericles." (Jan. 14-Feb. 20)

The last time Cameri Theatre came to Washington, the Tel Aviv-based company performed a politically relevant "Hamlet" in Hebrew. This time, the group arrives with "Return to Haifa," a drama about a Palestinian boy, who meets his birth parents after being raised by Holocaust survivors. (Jan. 15-30)

Arena Stage gives a platform to promising playwrights with the NEA New Play Development Project Festival, which throws the spotlight on seven up-and-comers. The performances and staged readings were penned by such buzzed-about names as Tarell Alvin McCraney (see above) and Rajiv Joseph, the man behind the Pulitzer finalist "Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo" and "Gruesome Playground Injuries," which was staged at Woolly Mammoth last summer. (Jan. 17-30)

After two successful outings with the Shakespeare Theatre Company, director Rebecca Bayla Taichman is trying her hand at the Bard's rarely-performed genre mash-up "Cymbeline." The dark fairy tale of a plot lends itself to Taichman's lush, creative aesthetic (remember all those rose petals from "Twelfth Night"?). This will be the first time STC stages the play. (Jan. 18-March 6)

After bringing a much-loved standard to town in 2010 with "Romeo and Juliet," American Ballet Theater is mixing things up with something totally fresh. The company will perform one program of mixed repertory, along with its new evening-length work, "The Bright Stream," set to music by Shostakovich. (Jan. 18-23)

Director Aaron Posner has brought a Mark Twain-inspired musical to Round House, vibrators to Woolly Mammoth and his own adaptations of Chaim Potok novels to Theater J. But no matter where he goes, he always seems to end up back at the Folger, doing wild takes on classics from Euripides to "Measure for Measure" (with puppets, no less). This month, "The Comedy of Errors" gets the distinctive Posner treatment. (Jan. 25-March 6)

Plays about war are nothing new, but "Black Watch," presented by the National Theatre of Scotland, has created all kinds of buzz since its debut at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe a few years back. Based on Scottish soliders' experiences in Iraq, the show uses a blend of storytelling devices, including film of war's devastation, haunting visual spectacles, ballads and a choreographed military march. (Jan. 26-Feb. 6)

By Stephanie Merry  | December 30, 2010; 11:45 AM ET
Categories:  Theater  
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