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New and Noteworthy


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CurtainUp/DC/ New & Noteworthy, March 2015 by Susan Davidson

Every now and then there is a performance so perfect, so memorable that it is hard to accept that theater is ephemeral. Angela Lansbury as Madame Arcati, the medium who meddles, in Noel Coward's 1941 comedy Blithe Spirit, gives the part everything she's got which is even more remarkable given her age, 89. Although Coward's play creaks a bit -- 21st century patience with repetition and slow pacing is tested -- Ms. Lansbury makes it lively with her razor sharp diction, physical agility, and spot on timing. Her little dance to summon the ghosts of wives past is very funny indeed. There's no scenery chewing or mugging for the back row -- none of the annoyances one encounters in 21st century comedies.

Director Michael Blakemore is as agile at light comedy (Noises Off) as he is at dead serious drama (Copenhagen.) His name of a marquee is a guarantee of good theatre. Sadly this tour ends in Washington next week, having played London and Toronto. Fingers crossed that someone will realize that Angela Lansbury can still deliver the goods and that this show is well worth taping for re-play on tv. Almost 75 years after Blithe Spirit opened in London during World War II, many of Washington's theaters are producing world premieres. That so many theaters are doing this at the same time makes one wonder whether there is something in the air, the water, the cherry blossoms peaking through rain and snow.


At Studio Theatre, Beth Henley's new play, Laugh, directed by David Schweizer, lampoons movies of the 1920's with pie-in-the-face jokes and slapstick comedy. In May, at Studio, Jumpers for Goldposts, a dramedy by British playwright, Tom Wells, makes its US premiere.


Not to be outdone, Woolly Mammoth is about to give Lights Rise on Grace, by Chad Beckim II, its world premiere -- the play, about race and sexuality, was work shopped at the last New York Fringe Festival.


Antonin Scalia might seem like an unlikely subject for a play but John Strand, a talented writer who is well known and liked in Washington theater circles, meets the challenge as the ultra-conservative Justice parries with his liberal clerk. Titled The Originalist is now having its world premiere at Arena Stage. Molly Smith directs. Another world premiere is scheduled at Arena. Katori Hall's dramedy The Blood Quilt, is scheduled for mid-April.


And yet another .... Signature's world premiere of a Nick Blaemire's new musical, Soon, is in previews. Its theme, that during the hottest summer ever, the earth's water will evaporate, may not be too far from the truth as California braces itself for a massive water shortage. Matthew Gardiner directs. A new show, Simply Sondheim, a compilation of the great artist's songs, opens in April. It too is a world premiere. =================
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