DCMTA 2018 Staff Favorites: Outstanding Professional Theater Productions

From dramas in church basements to high-budget musicals, the DMV produced an impressive array of theater in 2018, propelled by skilled, talented artists. Here are some of the productions that made an indelible impression on our writers this year. Did we overlook a favorite of yours? Let us know in a comment!

As the year draws to a close, we asked DCMTA writers to think back on the shows that left an indelible impression on them in 2018. In this category, Outstanding Overall Production, we recognize:

  • Productions that stood out for their comprehensive artistry
  • Theaters that took risks or pushed boundaries through their programming choices
  • Productions by locally-based playwrights whose work elevated our stages

Here are the professional productions that left the biggest impression on our writers in 2018.

Ahmad Kamal (Malik) and MJ Casey (Bud Abramson) in 4,380 Nights. Photo by C Stanley Photography.
Ahmad Kamal (Malik) and MJ Casey (Bud Abramson) in ‘4,380 Nights.’ Photo by C Stanley Photography.

4,380 Nights, Signature Theatre (Women’s Voices Theater Festival)
4,380 Nights is a raw, emotionally charged and just plain gutsy production that makes the movie Zero Dark 30 look timid. An original script by Annalisa Dias and confident, focused direction by Kathleen Akerley make this a compelling “in your face” production about the effects of endless war and xenophobia. – David Siegel
David Siegel’s Review
Natalie Tucker’s Interview with Playwright Annalisa Dias

Actually, Theater J
Actually, by Anna Ziegler addresses issues surrounding sexual consent. It was directed with a caring touch by Johanna Gruenhut so that each “side” received the opportunity to make its points. A terrific two-hander with genuinely nuanced performances by Sylvia Kates and Jaysen Wright that did not come off as another “hot” polemic theater experience. – David Siegel
Beatrice Loayza’s Review
John Stoltenberg’s Column

Alabama Story, Washington Stage Guild
Southern humor, gentle charm, and the awkward silences of discussions about race—Alabama Story was a reminder that, even during the terrible injustices of Jim Crow, some residents of the South exhibited character and compassion. Alabama Story, by Kenneth Jones, is based on a real incident which occurred in Montgomery, Alabama, in which a state librarian, Emily Wheelock Reed defied a bigoted Senator’s order to remove a book which supposedly advocated race-mixing. Julie-Ann Elliott was superb as librarian Reed. – Sophia Howes
Sophia Howes’ Review

An American in Paris, Hippodrome Theatre
An American in Paris raised the bar on what is possible on stage, even when out on the road. Watching those charcoal renderings of narrow Parisian streets take on color and detail to become sidewalk cafes and open parks and vaulted train stations was a show in itself. But there was also an unending depth of talent at the Hippodrome. The night I attended, alternate lead Kyle Robinson stepped in as the male lead with a ballet master’s strength, grace and focus, while pixieish Allison Walsh more than proved his match through every spin and flourish. This national touring production reminded everyone why Director and Choreographer Christopher Wheeldon won the 2015 Tony Award. – John Harding
John Harding’s Review

Animal Farm, Baltimore Center Stage
Animal Farm is the best show Baltimore Center Stage has done in a couple of seasons and an outstanding overall production. Baltimore Center Stage has injected new life into this literary classic. – Cassandra Miller
Gina Jun’s review

Breathe: The Musical opening night photo by Kevin Thompson.
‘Breathe: The Musical’ opening night photo by Kevin Thompson.

Breathe: The Musical, SoulFree Enterprises at THEARC
Breathe is a brilliantly conceived and beautifully executed gospel musical that celebrates black resilience even as it revisits the traumas endured by the black family in a nation built on slavery. At times soaringly transcendent in its evocation of hope and faith, at times searingly explicit in its depiction of anguish and grief, Breathe in performance is a rapturous ceremony of shared healing. Breathe evokes and distills the collective trauma of an extended black family whose scars reopen still. Yet Breathe’s intent to help heal from that shared history is ever present and ever vigilant. Breathe takes a deep breath and moves the family on. And it’s a beautiful thing. Cleavon Meabon IV (writer, director, composer, music director) —John Stoltenberg
John Stoltenberg’s Review

Bold New Works Series, Creative Cauldron
Featuring original musicals by local composer/lyricists/book writers Matt Conner and Stephen Gregory Smith, the Bold New Works Series brings interesting, mostly overlooked topics to life through music and story. Laura Connors Hull, Creative Cauldron’s producing artistic director, not only supports original works but finds the financial resources to produce them. – David Siegel
David Siegel’s Interview with Artistic Director Laura Connors Hull
David Siegel’s 2017 Interview with the Bold New Works’ Creative Team

Camelot, Shakespeare Theatre Company
This Camelot was one of the finest productions I have seen. An inspired cast, led by Ken Clark as a thoughtful King Arthur, with support from Alexandra Silber as Guenevere, Nick Fitzer as Lancelot, Patrick Vaill as Mordred, Ted van Griethuysen as Merlyn, and Floyd King as King Pellinore made every moment riveting. Director Alan Paul modernized the script and enhanced the inherent magic of the story. – Sophia Howes
Geoffrey Melada’s Review

Dave, Arena Stage
The idea to bring back Dave as a musical was beyond brilliant and the creative team assembled is a galaxy of genius: the musical they’ve made far surpasses the original movie: It’s live and it’s us. We the audience are in it together. We want to believe in a country that many of us fear doesn’t exist anymore. What Dave does is restore our faith in that country by restoring our faith in ourselves. Thomas Meehan and Nell Benjamin (book and lyrics), Tom Kitt (music), Tina Landau (direction), Sam Pinkleton (choreography), and Rob Berman (music direction) —John Stoltenberg
David Siegel’s Review
John Stoltenberg’s Column

Declassified: Ben Folds Presents, National Symphony Orchestra, The Kennedy Center
Curated by Ben Folds at The Kennedy Center, this series is notable for bringing in diverse audiences and making classical music interesting to a wider audience. Billed as “part concert, part party,” in 2018, the Declassified Series hosted pop singers, classical composers, tap dancers and more to perform with the National Symphony Orchestra. Oh, and there’s a free karaoke party after the show. – David Siegel
David Siegel’s Report on the July Declassified Show

Don Cristóbal by Federico García Lorca, Pointless Theatre
Patti Kalil, Rachel Menyuk, and Eric Swartz took one of Lorca’s shortest plays, the Punch-and-Judy-inspired Don Cristóbal, and expanded upon the slapstick comedy in an inventive manner, adding a surreal allegorical trip through the backstage toxicity few theater communities want to acknowledge, and the political terrorism that claimed the playwright’s life in the early days of the Spanish Civil War. This new adaptation is a script that other theater companies should consider producing.

Francisco Benavides created a wonderfully grotesque cast of large stick-and-rod puppets for the show, and Mel Bier’s set design: a puppet theater proscenium that transforms into city streets, a surrealist prison, and a rural countryside, accomplishes more theatrically than many sets built by companies with many times the budget. – Ian Thal
Beatrice Loayza’s Review

Rebecca A. Herron and John Morogiello in Engaging Shaw. Photo courtesy of Best Medicine Rep.
Rebecca A. Herron and John Morogiello in ‘Engaging Shaw.’ Photo courtesy of Best Medicine Rep.

Engaging Shaw, Best Medicine Rep
There is an engaging sub-genre of theater, that one might call the battle of wits or the comedy of intellect, that takes some of the greatest minds in history and brings them to life, with all their quirks and quips condensed and their minds and hearts laid bare in two hours. The style includes fine works such as Stoppard’s Arcadia and Shakespeare in Love, Shaffer’s Amadeus, Zinn’s Marx in Soho and Gunderson’s Emilie. Engaging Shaw is a worthy addition to this club.- Jennifer Georgia
Jennifer Georgia’s Review

Familiar, Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company (Women’s Voices Theater Festival)
With Familiar, Playwright Danai Gurira continues her focus on women of African ancestry, but this time the politically gripping story she tells is tucked inside a gut-bustingly funny comedy set in a suburb of Minneapolis. It is Gurira’s great gift to be able to regale us with torrents of humor in easily recognizable family squabbles—set in the snow-white American Midwest of all places—and, at the same time, anchor her play firmly in the political reality of her characters’ ancestral home. Near the end, she then tops it off with a big family-secret reveal. On the face of it, that heart-stopping surprise might seem to border on melodrama. But actually, brilliantly, it brings home and personalizes an ongoing identity and liberation struggle that for each of her characters is precisely her point. The work of Director Adam Immerwahr is exceptionally impressive. Not a breath is out of place, not a beat does not take us into the heart of this phenomenal play. Woolly Mammoth’s production of Familiar is, quite simply, a comedic masterpiece. —John Stoltenberg
John Stoltenberg’s Review

Follow No Strangers to the Fun Places, Acme Corporation (Baltimore)
Lola B. Pierson’s script deconstructs the audience’s experience of watching theater, as well as the theater-makers’ perspective of creating theater. Acme’s production is next-level stuff. The entire production is brilliant. – Cassandra Miller
Cassandra Miller’s Review

Frankenstein, Off the Quill
Off the Quill’s Frankenstein, as brilliantly adapted by Patrick Mullen & Tom McGrath and ably directed by McGrath, is both literary and visceral, with an ending so perfect it made the hair stand up on the back of my neck. Although it has been produced by a small group of people wearing multiple hats, this is a professional-quality piece, constructed with thought and care, that would not be out of place off-Broadway. – Jennifer Georgia
Jennifer Georgia’s Review

Gem of the Ocean, Round House Theatre
One cannot imagine a version of August Wilson’s vision more worthy, and more worth immersion in, than the majestic production of Gem of the Ocean at Round House. It stirs the heart with respect and reverence…and bears profound witness to the bottomless sorrow that was slavery. —John Stoltenberg
John Stoltenberg’s Review

Cristian Linares in Convergence Theatre’s Guerrilla Theater Works 3: A New Nation at the Anacostia Arts Center. Photo by Ethan Malamud.
Camilo Linares in Convergence Theatre’s ‘Guerrilla Theatre Works 3: A New Nation’ at the Anacostia Arts Center. Photo by Ethan Malamud.

Guerrilla Theatre Works: A New Nation, Convergence Theatre performed at the Anacostia Arts Center
A personal shout-out and applause to Elena Velasco, artistic director and co-founder of Convergence Theatre, a home for socially conscious artists who wish to spark dialogue between diverse communities through new theatrical structures. Through Guerrilla Theatre Works: A New Nation, Elena Velasco brought real immigration issues to the stage. Velasco is also an affiliated artist with Óyeme at Imagination Stage, which seeks to provide safe harbor for the area’s unaccompanied minors through the creative and performing arts. – David Siegel
Bob Ashby’s Review of Guerrilla Theatre Works: A New Nation
Darby DeJarnette’s Diverse City Column Conversation with Elena Velasco
David Siegel’s Column on Guerrilla Theatre Works with Elena Velasco

Hamlet, Royal Shakespeare Company at the Kennedy Center
The fabled Royal Shakespeare Company brought its Hamlet to the Kennedy Center for one night, in a production fully worthy of its glittering reputation. The RSC Hamlet was lavish, bursting with freshness, and starring the young and gifted Paapa Essiedu as the brooding Prince. As noted by Director Simon Godwin, Denmark was re-conceived as a “modern state influenced by the ritual, traditions, and beauty of West Africa.” This version, directed by Godwin, was originally seen in Stratford-upon-Avon in 2016. Godwin is the incoming Artistic Director of the Shakespeare Theatre Company; his upcoming tenure promises to continue the tradition of excellence. – Sophia Howes
Sophia Howes’ Review of RSC’s Hamlet at the Kennedy Center

Hamlet, Shakespeare Theatre Company
Michael Urie’s performance as Hamlet, memorable in itself, was part of a uniquely intriguing production, directed by Michael Kahn. Hamlet was haunted not only by the death of his father but by the oppression and violence of his entire society. Nazi-like emblems were everywhere: on the soldiers’ armbands, above the balcony, at the lectern where Claudius gave his unctuous speech. The police and soldiers carried guns. In this totalitarian world, independent thinking was punishable by death. Hamlet’s inner conflict and the outward corruption of his universe mirrored one another with breathtaking clarity. – Sophia Howes
Read Sophia Howes’ Review

How to Keep an Alien, Solas Nua
The hilariously told true story of a woman in Ireland who is trying to live in the same country with the Australian woman she loves. And just how funny is it? (Cue the rimshot.) I laughed my feckin head off. The stand-up comedy roots of this play by Sonya Kelly are evident in every riff, twist, and bit. As directed by Tom Story and as performed by Tonya Beckman (Sonya) and Nick Fruit (Justin the stage manager and others), How to Keep an Alien crackles with laughs like a string of firecrackers on a sizzling fuse. —John Stoltenberg
Bob Ashby’s Review
John Stoltenberg’s Column

The siblings: Jonathan Goldstein (Michael), Susan Rome (Holly), and Robin Abramson (Sharon) in ‘If I Forget.’ Photo by Carol Rosegg
Jonathan Goldstein (Michael), Susan Rome (Holly), and Robin Abramson (Sharon) in ‘If I Forget.’ Photo by Carol Rosegg.

If I Forget, Studio Theatre
If I Forget by Bethesda native Steven Levenson is a fresh, fearless, heartfelt pondering over questions often left unsaid in public for fear of making we Jews look bad to Gentiles. It’s time to lift the gauze, but speaking out can be costly. Matt Torney provided meticulous, scrupulously fair direction and terrific casting. – David Siegel
David Siegel’s Review
John Stoltenberg’s Column

Incredibly Dead, Baltimore Rock Opera Society
From the flying severed heads to the ridiculous collection of characters, the B-horror original musical spoof offers a joyride of lunacy and kitsch. Writer and Co-Director Michael Ziccardi’s enthusiasm for the B-horror genre is palpable in every aspect of the production. Each cast member joyfully embraces their weirdo characters, and even the spewing intestines look like they’re having a ball. The original script of a musical by Michael Ziccardi deserves recognition. – Cassandra Miller
Cassandra Miller’s Review

Indecent, Arena Stage
In Director Eric Rosen’s fine production of Indecent, all ten actors in the cast play actors; three of them also play musical instruments. Under the musical direction of Alexander Sovronsky (who also composed some music), the troupe’s harmonies are stirring. And in Erika Chong’s choreography, the ensemble moves eloquently, as in the rousing clap-and-stomp opener. – David Siegel
John Stoltenberg’s Review
David Siegel’s Column
Ravelle Brickman’s Feature on ‘Indecent’ actor Victor Raider-Wexler

It’s the Rest of the World That Looks So Small: A Theatrical Review of Jonathan Coulton, Flying V
It’s the Rest of the World that Looks So Small: A Theatrical Revue of Jonathan Coulton, directed and conceived by Jason Schlafstein and Vaughn Irving, is one big success of a show. Seven cast members, including Scott Abernethy, Kristin Cardinal, Victoria Meyers, Gianna Rapp, Seth Rosenke, Carl Williams, and Ashley Zielinski contort themselves into the myriad roles provided. Flying V has succeeded in creating something truly unique and wonderful and in doing so has cemented its position as a leader in creative, fresh, and engaging theater. – Darby DeJarnette
Darby DeJarnette’s Recipe for Huge, Triumphant Success Review

Constance (Holly Twyford) consoles her son Arthur (Megan Graves). Photo by Teresa Wood.
Constance (Holly Twyford) consoles her son Arthur (Megan Graves) in ‘King John.’ Photo by Teresa Wood.

King John by William Shakespeare, Folger Theatre
File under “outstanding revival of a neglected classic.” Shakespeare’s history plays are known for war, civil war, and dynastic treachery. This play, about one of England’s most infamous monarchs, has all those things but also features diplomacy and statecraft to a greater degree than the other history plays. In reviving King John, this production also revives three long-neglected dramatic roles for women (scarce in the history plays) in Constance (Holly Twyford), Eleanor (Kate Goehring), and Blanche (Alina Collins Maldonado). Director Aaron Posner, with help from Dramaturg Michelle Osherow, delivers a riveting presentation that makes the case that we should know this play far better than we have for generations. – Ian Thal
Ian Thal’s Review

Kings, Studio Theatre
With a script by Sarah Burgess that’s bristling with wit, Kings is supersmart storytelling, in the hands of four riveting actors, about Washington’s codependence with big money. In a city where provocative plays about our broken government are popping up with increasing regularity, Kings stands out as a critical key to what’s corrupt and why. It’s packed with gasp-worthy laughs…and important truth.   —John Stoltenberg and Sophia Howes
Sophia Howes’s Review
John Stoltenberg’s Column

Logan Festival of Solo Performances, 1st Stage
The Logan Festival dispenses with preconceived notions of the power and pop of solo work and does so from its suburban Northern Virginia venue. The 2018 Festival spotlighted three difference performers exploring a wide-range of identity issues told by and about underserved populations. – David Siegel

Peerless, Shakespeare Theatre Company (staged reading)
There was a significant “first” at the Shakespeare Theatre Company this year. It was a reading of the enthralling, fearless Peerless, written by Silver Spring native, Jiehae Park. For STC, it was the first time for a mainstage reading of an Asian-American playwright. Those attending the free STC reading of Peerless had a treat. The reading featured actors Teresa Lim, Tiffany Villarin, Keith Royal Smith, Laura C. Harris, Zack Powell, and Lisa Tejero. They “acted” the reading behind music stands with book in hand so well I did not miss costumes or a set. – David Siegel
News Story on Peerless

Pippin, Monumental Theatre Company
Pippin, directed by Rebecca Wahls, featured extraordinary intimate black-box staging by a very talented, hustling gaggle of Millennial performers who likely will become names themselves on area stages in the not too distant future. It is clear from this production why Monumental received this year’s 2018 Helen Hayes Award as the Emerging Theater in our midst. I can not overstate my utter enjoyment of this production. It was spunky, buoyant, and engaging from the moment the first notes of “Magic to Do” are played. – David Siegel
David Siegel’s Review
Nicole Hertvik’s Interview with Director Rebecca Wahls

#poolparty, Ally Theatre Company
Written by long-time Hyattsville, MD-based actor, Jennifer Mendenhall, #poolparty unpacks the buried history of segregated swimming pools across the United States and shares a fascinating and painful local connection. Mendenhall’s deeply researched play uncovers reasons why black children are three times more likely to drown than their white counterparts. America’s original sin – racism – infiltrates every aspect of our current history, making swimming while black an often deadly summertime pursuit. Director Angelisa Gillyard maneuvers her six actors across time and space and continents with minimal shifts in the simple sets and costumes (by Asia-Anansi McCallum).
Lisa Traiger’s Review

Little Shop of Horrors Company. Photo credit: Jeremy Daniel.
‘Little Shop of Horrors’ Company. Photo credit: Jeremy Daniel.

Little Shop of Horrors, The Kennedy Center
The Kennedy Center’s Broadway Center Stage production of the legendary off-Broadway extravaganza, masterfully directed by Mark Brokaw, hits all the right notes. Great cast, music and scenic design. – Amy Kotkin
Amy Kotkin’s Review

Macbeth, 4615 Theatre
Why do people commit evil, and once they have started, why can’t they stop? Macbeth, one of Shakespeare’s greatest plays, is an exploration of this perennial and perplexing query. By focusing on the emotions of the characters, Director Jordan Friend at 4615 Theatre provided a compelling investigation of this very relevant theme. Instead of imposing a high-concept directorial interpretation, Friend opted to let Shakespeare be Shakespeare. It proved to be an intriguing choice. Strong performances by Jared H. Graham as Macbeth and Charlene V. Smith as Lady Macbeth lent additional power to this visually striking production. – Sophia Howes
Sophia Howes’ Review

New Guidelines for Peaceful Times, Spooky Action Theater
Spooky Action Theater produced a season of thoughtful, unique plays and playwrights in the DC area. An example was Spooky Action’s US premiere of New Guidelines for Peaceful Times by Brazilian playwright Bosco Brasil. Under the delicate, sympathetically toned direction of Roberta Alves and nuanced acting of Michael Kevin Darnall and Carlos Saldana, New Guidelines was an intimate, uninterrupted provocative conversation about lives after a war has ended, but peace not yet assured. – David Siegel
David Siegel’s Review

Noura, Shakespeare Theatre Company (Women’s Voices Theatre Festival)
Playwright Heather Raffo’s Noura, which premiered at Shakespeare Theatre Company as part of the Women’s Voices Theatre Festival, features an outstanding original script. Raffo, who both wrote and stars in her take on Ibsen’s A Doll’s House, tells the story of an Iraqi-American family that welcomes an Iraqi refugee into their home for Christmas. Raffo’s script bounces effortlessly between humor and strained arguments. It’s one of the most realistic plays I’ve seen in the last few years: every scene feels possible. – Elizabeth Ballou
Elizabeth Ballou’s Review
Natalie Tucker’s Interview with Playwright Heather Raffo
Sophia Howes’ Column ‘The Two Nouras’

On the Town, Olney Theatre Center
Revivals of this World War II-era collaboration by composer Leonard Bernstein and dance legend Jerome Robbins rise or fall on the sincerity with which they meet a generation’s sacrifice. At Olney, Director Jason Loewith and a mostly local cast of dancers and singers put new glory in Old Glory. In the moving number “Some Other Time,” glorious Rachel Zampelli evoked the heartache of new love found and postponed as duty called. An excellent ensemble was tastefully accompanied through all the highs and lows by conductor Christopher Youstra and a flawless orchestra. – John Harding
Bob Ashby’s Review

Our Class, Georgetown University Department of Performing Arts
Based on a true story and set in a classroom in a small town in Poland, Our Class has a cast of ten—half are Jews, half are Catholics—whose story begins when they are students. The play dramatizes what happened to their friendships after Nazis invaded. The story is harrowing, moving, profoundly cautionary. The original text written in Polish by Tadeusz Słobodzianek has been adapted by Norman Allen, and its idiom is joltingly current. Derek Goldman directs a cast of Georgetown students, and the intensity of conviction in their acting is as electrifying as you’ll find on any professional DC stage. —John Stoltenberg and Ian Thal
Ian Thal’s Review
John Stoltenberg’s Cast Q&A

Kevin Shen (Chiqui), Jon Norman Schneider (Jiorgio), Ariel Felix (Sally), Rafael Sebastian (Cheska), and Evan D’Angeles (Zhan) in Paper Dolls. Photo by Stan Barouh.
Kevin Shen (Chiqui), Jon Norman Schneider (Jiorgio), Ariel Felix (Sally), Rafael Sebastian (Cheska), and Evan D’Angeles (Zhan) in ‘Paper Dolls.’ Photo by Stan Barouh.

Paper Dolls, Mosaic Theater Company
This play with songs by Philip Himberg, directed by Mark Brokaw, is based on and inspired by a 2006 Israeli documentary film named Paper Dolls about a group of Filipinos who work by day as caregivers to elderly Orthodox Jews and at night perform in drag at dive bars in Tel Aviv, Israel’s LGBTQ mecca. Within this thriving subculture—counterintuitively for a country founded on a faith that ritually segregates men from women—the divinely ordained gender binary gets a wholly human remix. An astonishment of entertainment, a portal to the heart, and a celebration of conciliation. —John Stoltenberg
Sherrita Wilkins’ Review
John Stoltenberg’s Column  

Pramkicker, Taffety Punk Theatre Company
Imagine a pram catapulting down the stairs and the sweet instant of satisfaction that the kick initiates. A fragment of a second later, the realization of the tumble hits home. The kick is after all, much more than a mere swing of the leg. Sadie Hasler’s story of two women shifts from present to past. Not only do two brilliant actors, Tonya Beckman and Esther Williamson, move us forward and back in time, but they assume other characters, both male and female, in a seamless manner. The layers are peeled away gently or energetically; with the comedy of bittersweet wit, with painful recollection or with laugh out loud moments of physicality as demonstrated in choreography by Kelly King or in an effortless shrugging on or off of a memory made substantial by costume designer Heather C. Jackson’s simple sweaters and vests. – Jane Franklin
Jane Franklin’s Review

Roko’s Basilisk, Reliant Theatre, Capital Fringe
Outstanding original script by Matthew Marcus
Matthew Marcus’ Roko’s Basilisk manages to explore ideas of free will, probability, game theory, artificial intelligence, in a wild thought experiment and then deconstructs these concepts against an intimate personal tragedy. Audience members will be engaging with the ideas long after they leave the performance and as with the best speculative fiction, wonder how these ideas relate to their own lives. – Ian Thal
Ian Thal’s Review

Something Rotten! at the National Theatre
Something Rotten! at the National Theatre was a pleasure from beginning to end. The book is by Karey Kirkpatrick and John O’Farrell. Music and lyrics are by Wayne and Karey Kirkpatrick, who conceived the show. The Broadway production received ten Tony nominations, and this national tour was pure joy. The cast sent out into the cold February night one of the happiest audiences I have ever seen. Director and Choreographer Casey Nicholaw (The Book of Mormon) combined the best of contemporary and Elizabethan theater for an evening of gloriously theatrical hilarity. – Sophia Howes
Sophia Howes’ Review 

The Duchess of Malfi and The Changeling (in Rep), Brave Spirits Theatre
Brave Spirits produced a rep series composed of plays about cunning characters written centuries ago. The series included The Duchess of Malfi directed by Casey Kaleba and The Changeling directed by Charlene Smith. Under the sure-handed direction of these two directors, a large ensemble moved winningly between the two plays providing top-notch theater full of verbal wrath, physical terror, humor when called for, and compelling characters with cross-gender casting. Brave Spirits showed that words can have lethal consequences in unflinching productions. – David Siegel
David Siegel’s Review of The Duchess of Malfi
David Siegel’s Review of The Changeling

Gary Perkins III as Frederick Douglass in The Frederick Douglass Project. Photo by Teresa Castracane.
Gary Perkins III as Frederick Douglass in ‘The Frederick Douglass Project.’ Photo by Teresa Castracane.

The Frederick Douglass Project, Solas Nua
Performed in a tent pitched on a pier overlooking the Anacostia River, The Frederick Douglass Project—written by Psalmayene 24 and Deirdre Kinahan—was inspired by a visit that the great antislavery author and orator made to Ireland on a speaking tour in 1845, following publication of his autobiography, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American slave. A spoken, sung, and choreographed cross-referencing of cultures. A side-by-side view of the African-American experience of slavery and the Irish experience of English colonialism. Gripping theater that gets at stuff about the meaning of race in America with extraordinary originality, relevance, and insight. —John Stoltenberg
Ramona Harper’s Review
John Stoltenberg’s Column

The Invisible Hand, Olney Theatre Center
The Invisible Hand by Ayad Akhtar and directed by Michael Bloom manages to educate you about world politics and economics while keeping you on the edge of your seat. Thomas Keegan and Maboud Ebrahimzadeh Shine. Thumbs up to Scenic Designer Luciana Stecconi, Costume Designer Ivania Stack, Sound Designer Roc Lee, Dialect Coach Zach Campion and Fight Choreographer Robb Hunter for jobs well done. – Susan Brall
Susan Brall’s Review

The Rite of Spring, Pointless Theatre Company
Pointless Theatre chose to adapt Stravinsky’s score and story into a tight, shocking, and physically challenging production that feels very 2018. The sheer energy and emotion that the dancers pour into their movements make the Pointless take on The Rite of Spring a success. – Elizabeth Ballou
Elizabeth Ballou’s Review

The Way of the World, Folger Theatre
The Way of the World is a deft satire of the mating habits and financial vicissitudes of the 1%. Theresa Rebeck’s comedy, very loosely based on William Congreve’s The Way of the World, reminds us that bad behavior, in Restoration England or 2018 New York, can be fascinating, gasp-inducing, and very, very funny. The performances are first-rate, and the creative team full of innovative ideas. – Sophia Howes
Sophia Howes’ Review
David Siegel’s Column

Chrissy Rose, Katie Kleiger and the cast of The Wolves. Photo by Teresa Wood.
Chrissy Rose, Katie Kleiger and the cast of ‘The Wolves.’ Photo by Teresa Wood.

The Wolves, Studio Theatre (Women’s Voices Theater Festival)
If the Women’s Voices Theater Festival existed only to give us Sarah DeLappe’s The Wolves, directed by Marti Lyons, it would be worth it. The collective acting chops among the cast are a singular force to be reckoned with. Lighting (Paul Toben) and sound design (Mikhail Fiksel) are used very effectively to bring intensity to the transitions. – Hilary Sutton
Hilary Sutton’s Review

Urinetown, Stillpointe Theatre
Baltimore-based Stillpointe Theatre’s trademark is taking cult and non-mainstream musicals, and with bare-bones resources and the absolute best local talent, delivering productions that make you go, “Wow! I DO love musical theater!” This is true for its summer show, the purposefully unfortunately named Urinetown: The Musical. – Cassandra Miller
Cassandra Miller’s Review

VietGone, Studio Theatre
In Vietgone, Vietnamese-American Playwright Qui Nguyen sets out to tell how his parents fell in love after being resettled in America as refugees after the fall of Saigon. Scenic Designer Tony Cisek transformed Studio Theatre’s fourth floor into something like a funky garage and Director Natsu Onoda Power brought a diverse set of theatrical experiences to the table to helm Vietgone’s creative vision.  – Elizabeth Ballou
John Stoltenberg’s Review
Elizabeth Ballou’s Interview with Director Natsu Onoda Power

DCMTA would like to recognize the artistic directors who are passing the baton this season: Colin Hovde (Theater Alliance), Michael Kahn (Shakespeare Theatre Company), Helen Murray (The Hub Theatre), and Howard Shalwitz (Woolly Mammoth). Their work helped DC become the vibrant theater town that it is today. From Baltimore, we recognize the tenure of departed Baltimore Center Stage Artistic Director Kwame Kwei-Armah. 

We would also like to acknowledge the numerous DC-area playwrights producing work in our area theaters and beyond. Their work broadened our understanding of the human condition and elevated our theater scene. Hats off to all the playwrights producing original work on our local stages.

Look for our remaining staff favorite lists in the coming days: Outstanding Overall Production (Community), Outstanding Performances (Professional and Community), and Outstanding Design Elements (Professional and Community). 

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Nicole Hertvik
Nicole Hertvik is Publisher and Editor-in-Chief at DC Theater Arts. She is a contributing writer to several publications in the DC region and beyond. Nicole studied international affairs at Columbia University and journalism at Georgetown. She was a 2019 National Critics Institute fellow at the Eugene O’Neill Theatre Center and a 2022 Entrepreneurial Journalism fellow at CUNY. Her reporting for DC Theater Arts was a 2022 finalist in the Society of Professional Journalists Best of DC Dateline Awards. Nicole lives in Maryland with her three daughters, two rabbits, and one very patient husband.


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