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DC Theater Friday: Shows on every president, plus the Queen

Sarah DeLappe’s’s “The Wolves” at Studio Theatre, part of the Women’s Voices Theatre Festival. (Teresa Wood)

The weekly feature of what’s happening on Washington stages.

You want presidential drama? “The Great Society” gives you LBJ. “Jefferson’s Garden” scrutinizes Thomas Jefferson. Andrew Jackson’s in “Sovereignty.” They’re all in “45 Plays for 45 Presidents,” and “Handbagged” showcases Margaret Thatcher and Queen Elizabeth II.

Just in case you were wondering what city this is.

READ MORE: Through critics’ eyes: WashPost critics on how they look at art

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“All She Must Possess.” The premiere of Susan McCully’s play about Baltimore’s real-life Cone sisters, whose collection is proclaimed by the Baltimore Art Museum as its “crown jewel.” Part of the Women’s Voices Theater Festival. Feb. 8-25 at Rep Stage, Howard Community College, 10901 Little Patuxent Parkway, Columbia. Tickets $40. Call 443-518-1500 or visit repstage.org.

READ MORE: “For Baltimore in 1906, this was very radical”: The art-collecting Cone sisters

“Aubergine.” Julia Cho’s drama of food and grieving is the company’s Woman’s Voices Theater Festival play. A co-production with Baltimore’s Everyman Theatre. Feb. 7-March 4 at the Olney Theatre Center, 2001 Olney-Sandy Spring Rd. Tickets $47-$74. Call 301-924-3400 or visit olneytheatre.org.

“Familiar.” From Danai Gurira — Michonne on TV’s “Walking Dead,” author of “The Convert” (Woolly 2013) and “Eclipsed” (at Woolly in 2009, on Broadway in 2016) — about Zimbabwean immigrants planning a wedding in Minnesota. Woolly’s Women’s Voices Theater Festival show, directed by Theater J’s Adam Immerwahr. Feb. 5-March 4 at Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company, 641 D St. NW. Tickets $49-$79. Call 202-393-3939 or visit woollymammoth.net.

Michael Urie as Hamlet at the Shakespeare Theatre Company. (Scott Suchman)

“La Foto (The Photo).” A premiere about two families and a selfie from Gustavo Ott, author of “Señorita y Madame: The Secret War of Elizabeth Arden and Helena Rubinstein.” Through Feb. 25 at GALA Hispanic Theatre, 3333 14th St. NW. Tickets $45. Call 202-234-7174 or visit galatheatre.org.

“The Great Society.” Robert Schenkkan’s follow-up to “All the Way” picks up the saga of Lyndon Johnson’s presidency. Through March 11 at Arena Stage, 1101 Sixth St. SW. Tickets $40-$110, subject to change. Call 202-488-3300 or visit arenastage.org.

“Handbagged.” Moira Buffini’s London hit, first produced by Tricycle Theatre, imagining meetings between Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and Queen Elizabeth. Directed at Round House, as in London, by Indhu Rubasingham. U.S. premiere; part of the Women’s Voices Theater Festival. Through Feb. 25 at Round House Theatre, 4545 East-West Highway, Bethesda. Tickets $36-$65. Call 240-644-1100 or visit roundhousetheatre.org.

“It’s the Rest of the World that Looks So Small (A Theatrical Revue of Jonathan Coulton).” A show with live music from Flying V Theatre. Through Feb. 25 at the Silver Spring Black Box, 8641 Colesville Rd., Silver Spring. Tickets $20. Visit flyingvtheatre.com.

“Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill.” 2017 Helen Hayes Award winner Iyona Blake plays the troubled jazz-blues singer in the third area production of the cabaret show in less than a year (after the Anacostia Playhouse and Rep Stage versions). Feb. 8-March 4 at Creative Cauldron, 410 S. Maple Ave., Falls Church. Tickets $30. Call 703-436-9948 or visit creativecauldron.org.

“Light Years.” A world premiere autobiographical musical from Robbie Schaefer, of the band Eddie from Ohio. Feb. 6-March 4 at Signature Theatre, 4200 Campbell Ave., Shirlington. Tickets $40-$89. Call 703-820-9771 or visit sigtheatre.org.

“No Word in Guyanese for Me.” Rainbow Theatre Project presents Wendy Graf’s drama of a gay Muslim’s journey. Feb. 8-March 4 at DC Arts Center, 2438 18th St. NW. Tickets $35. Visit rainbowtheatreproject.org.

“Noura.” The new work by actor-writer Heather Raffo (“9 Parts of Desire”) loosely uses Ibsen’s “A Doll’s House” in dealing with Iraqi immigrants in Manhattan. Part of the Women’s Voices Theatre Festival. Feb. 6-March 11 at Shakespeare Theatre Company’s Lansburgh Theatre, 450 7th St. NW. Tickets $44-$118. Call 202-547-1122 or visit shakespearetheatre.org.

“Peepshow.” A devised project from the collective dog & pony dc on feminism and objectification. Feb. 7-25 at the Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company rehearsal hall, 641 D St. NW. Tickets $20-$25. Visit dog & ponydc.com.

“The Raid.” Frederick Douglass meets John Brown in Idris Goodwin’s drama, staged by Theater Alliance. Feb. 8-March 18 at the Anacostia Playhouse, 2020 Shannon Pl. SE. Tickets $35. Visit theateralliance.com.

“Something Rotten!” The D.C. premiere of the Broadway hit about Shakespeare and the world’s first musical. Feb. 6-18 at the National Theatre, 1321 Pennsylvania Ave. NW. Tickets $48-$203. Call 800-514-3849 or visit thenationaldc.com.

“The Trojan Women Project.” A devised piece from Brave Spirits Theatre described as “a blurred mash-up of song, movement, feminist text, and poetics.” Part of the Women’s Voices Theater Festival, and performed in rep with “Coriolanus.” Through Feb. 25 at The Lab at Convergence, 1819 N. Quaker Lane, Alexandria. Tickets $20. Visit bravespiritstheatre.com.

Ahmad Kamal and Lynette Rathnam in Annalisa Dias’s “4,380 Nights” at Signature Theatre. (C. Stanley)

“4,380 Nights.” “A serpentine affair by Annalisa Dias, mainly set in a Guantanamo Bay holding cell, stretching terrorism paranoia to include atrocities in 19th century Algeria, and even back to Roman times. It’s a lush historical buffet — and D.C.’s third show in the past year to focus on a prisoner in an orange jumpsuit, chained to the floor — but a lot to digest.” (Nelson Pressley) Read the review Through Feb. 18 at Signature Theatre, 4200 Campbell Ave., Shirlington. Tickets $40-$89. Call 703-820-9771 or visit sigtheatre.org.

“The Consul, The Tramp, and America’s Sweetheart.” “Performed in the round in a space at the Lakeforest Mall (where ambient noise is a problem), John Morogiello’s play tells of an effort by Germany’s government to halt production of ‘The Great Dictator.’ The genre is comedy-peppered drama; the play’s central showdown feels labored.” (Celia Wren) Read the review Through Feb. 10 at Best Medicine Rep, Lakeforest Mall, Gaithersburg. Tickets $25. Visit bestmedicinerep.org.

“Hamlet.” “A miscalculated performance by Michael Urie, whose idea of taking a fresh bite out of the title character involves chewing the scenery and then practically gorging on it. Set in a Denmark that’s run by the apparatus of the deep state — the something rotten is the surveillance network of the usurping King Claudius (Alan Cox) that even catches the ghost of Hamlet’s father (Keith Baxter) on its cameras — Michael Kahn’s ‘Hamlet’ suggests a royal court perched on a sterile, technocratic promontory. As a nesting ground for spies, it’s not a safe space for a voluble character such as the one Urie embodies.” (Peter Marks) Read the review Through March 4 at Shakespeare Theatre Company’s Sidney Harman Hall, 610 F St. NW. Tickets $44-$118. Call 202-547-1122 or visit shakespearetheatre.org.

“Imogen.” “An adaptation of Shakespeare’s crazily plotted ‘Cymbeline’ that fits the city’s current Women’s Voices Theater Festival by foregrounding ‘the woman’s part,’ to borrow from a notorious misogynistic speech in the play. Imogen is angry King Cymbeline’s exiled daughter, and the story has always largely been hers. Driving home the point, director Charlie Marie McGrath’s staging makes the king a wee hand puppet manipulated by his mischievous, power-mad queen.” Read the review Through Feb. 11 at The Dance Loft on 14, 4618 14th St. NW. Tickets $30. Visit pointlesstheatre.com.

“In Search of My Father: Walkin’ Talkin Bill Hawkins.” W. Allen Taylor’s solo show about searching for his father, Cleveland’s first black disc jockey. Through Feb. 10 at the Atlas Performing Arts Center, 1333 H St. NE. Tickets $20-$35. Call 202-399-7993 or visit atlas.org.

“Jefferson’s Garden.” “Historical fiction from Timberlake Wertenbaker, one of the U.K.’s top dramatists, and this U.S. premiere is part of the city’s Women’s Voices Theater Festival. It’s an ensemble-driven epic with nine actors flowing in and out of roles, and it’s something to see Thomas Jefferson waffling with his human property, partly due to Michael Halling’s subtle, intriguingly contradictory performance. Halling, tall and regal, is convincing as a public intellectual with a private temper. He’s also the most plausibly human figure in a show that in key areas lacks the breath of life.” Read the review (Nelson Pressley) Through Feb. 11 at Ford’s Theatre, 511 10th St. NW. Tickets $25-$62. Call 888-616-0270 or visit fords.org.

“See Rock City.” “The second part of Arlene Hutton’s ‘Nibroc Trilogy,’ after ‘Last Train to Nibroc’ introduced the easygoing young writer Raleigh and the proper, tightly wound avid reader May. They fell in love but Hutton kept you off balance, and in last year’s Washington Stage Guild production Wood Van Meter and Lexi Langs acted it with chemistry to burn. Van Meter and Langs are back, and Hutton naturally unearths how things could have gotten tough for a young man medically discharged from the Army, and for a working woman in the 1940s.” (Nelson Pressley) Read the review Through Feb. 11 at Washington Stage Guild, Undercroft Theatre in the Mount Vernon Place United Methodist Church, 900 Massachusetts Ave. NW. Tickets $50-$ 60. Call 202-582-0050 or visit stageguild.org.

“Skeleton Crew.” Dominique Morisseau’s blue collar Detroit drama, staged at Studio Theatre last fall, is produced by Baltimore Center Stage as part of the Women’s Voices Theater Festival. Through March 4 at Baltimore Center Stage, 700 North Calvert St., Baltimore. Tickets $20-$64. Call 410-332-0033 or visit centerstage.org.

“The Skin of Our Teeth.” “A harder play to reanimate than Thornton Wilder’s similarly simple-yet-cosmic ‘Our Town.’ Constellation Theatre’s production is a straight-up serving of the famously twisted show about the across-the-eons Antrobus family. ‘I don’t understand a word of this play,’ housekeeper Sabina gripes to us. Tonya Beckman, whose performance deepens appreciably by the show’s darkening end, peevishly gives us these asides but then regroups as Sabina, carrying on. That, says Wilder, is what we do.” (Nelson Pressley) Read the review Through Feb. 11 at Source, 1835 14th St. NW. Tickets $25-$55. Call 202-204-7741 or visit constellationtheatre.org.

Kyla García in Mary Kathryn Nagle’s legal drama “Sovereignty.” (C. Stanley)

“Sovereignty.” “Mary Kathryn Nagle’s placid, teachable-moment brand of drama about the U.S. government’s contentious, centuries-long relationship with Indian tribal rights. ‘Sovereignty’ travels back and forth between the 1830s and the ‘near future,’ and Supreme Court battles going back two centuries. Those cases involve challenges to a tribe’s rights to prosecute non-Indians for crimes committed within Indian-governed territory. It’s not until the start of Act 2, unfortunately, that the modern-day story of a Yale-trained Cherokee lawyer who has come home to work for the tribe gains some emotional traction.” (Peter Marks) Read the review Through Feb. 18 at Arena Stage, 1101 Sixth St. SW. Tickets $40-$111, subject to change. Call 202-488-3300 or visit arenastage.org.

“This Is All Just Temporary.” “Lauren (Fabiolla da Silva) has moved back home, where her parents (Taunya Ferguson and David Walsh) cope with their increasingly aggressive autistic son, Noah. Olivia Haller’s script is compassionate and apparently deeply informed but stylistically staid, and the Convergence Theatre production is often wooden.” (Celia Wren) Read the review Through Feb. 10 at the Anacostia Arts Center, 1231 Good Hope Road SE Tickets $18. Visit convergencetheatre.org.

“The Trial.” “The artistically serious, movement-based Synetic Theater takes one of its more unfortunate detours with a grotesquely expressionistic, barely coherent adaptation of ‘The Trial,’ Franz Kafka’s early-20th-century dystopian novel. Save for Josef K, everyone in this ‘Trial’ is a bug. While the notion gives the capable costume designer Erik Teague the keys to Synetic’s fancifully creative treasure chest, it propels Nathan Weinberger’s adaptation into the realm of overanxious cartoon.” (Peter Marks) Read the review Through Feb. 18 at Synetic Theater, 1800 S. Bell St., Arlington. Tickets $35-$60. Call 866-811-4111 or visit synetictheater.org.

“Unnecessary Farce.” “Premiered in Michigan in 2006, dramatist Paul Slade Smith’s crowd-pleaser has aired in over 240 productions to date. The play is a proficient whirlwind of loopy situations and harebrained impostures, and it features a bagpipes-playing hit man. The Keegan performances are more competent than lustrous, but the characterizations are clear and droll.” (Celia Wren) Read the review Through Feb. 10 at Keegan Theatre, 1742 Church St. NW. Tickets $35-45. Call 202-265-3767 or visit keegantheatre.com.

“Waxing West.” “Absurdism earns its keep in Saviana Stanescu’s hallucinatory play, now on view in an engaging, if coltish, 4615 Theatre Company production. There’s a droll kookiness to the crooning by the undead Elena Ceausescu — in real life, wife to Romania’s longtime dictator. But the moment also conveys the disorientation of the play’s heroine, Daniela, a Romanian cosmetologist who moves to New York to marry a stranger.” (Celia Wren) Read the review Through Feb. 10 at The Highwood Theatre, 914 Silver Spring Ave., Silver Spring. Tickets $16.50. Call 301-928-2738 or visit 4615theatre.com.

“The Way of the World.” “In this unripe transplanting of ‘The Way of the World’ to Long Island’s over-pampered East End, the material doesn’t reveal much of anything about the rich and shallow we haven’t heard elsewhere — with more devastating bite. Theresa Rebeck, the prolific playwright who shepherded the Broadway-centric ‘Smash’ to television, writes amusingly well about modern problems. But most of the easy jokes in this new ‘Way of the World’ come across as stale.” (Peter Marks) Read the review Through Feb. 11 at Folger Theatre, 201 East Capitol St. SE. Tickets $35-$79. Call 202-544-7077 or visit folger.edu.

“The Wolves.” “Sarah DeLappe’s 95 minute play manages to illuminate with unerring accuracy the psyches of the funny, inquisitive, garrulous, anxious, profane, passionate players in a ferociously competitive high school girls’ weekend soccer league. The characters come across as so authentically specific it’s as if DeLappe pinpointed each of them on the closest-in setting on Google Maps.” (Peter Marks) Read the review Through March 4 at Studio Theatre, 1501 14th St. NW. Tickets $52-$85, subject to change. Call 202-332-3300 or visit studiotheatre.org.

Brittany Martz as President Warren Harding in "45 Plays for 45 Presidents.” (Lock & Company)

“45 Plays for 45 Presidents.” “A largely spoofing, occasionally serious, sometimes capricious chronological overview of the men (all played by women) who have held the country’s highest office. If you are amused by the idea of seeing James Garfield’s career portrayed as a balletic silent movie, or the disputed 1876 election depicted as an actual boxing match, or if you need an irreverent refresher on the life of Millard Fillmore, this may be for you.” (Celia Wren) Read the review Through Feb. 4 at Next Stop Theatre, 269 Sunset Park Dr., Herndon. Tickets $20-$55. Call 866-811-4111 or visit nextstoptheatre.org.

“Everything Is Illuminated.” “A sort of cobbled-together book report for the stage. Fans of Jonathan Safran Foer’s 2002 bestseller about a young American writer’s quest to find his grandfather’s Holocaust savior will doubtless forgive some of the choppier aspects of Simon Block’s version, as it strives to integrate the pieces of a binary narrative. The surfeit of literary devices employed here — as in having the characters in Jonathan’s novel-in-progress speaking directly to him — diffuse rather than help to focus the power of the evening’s emotional arc.” (Peter Marks) Read the review Through Feb. 4 at Theater J, in the Edlavitch D.C. Jewish Community Center, 1529 16th St. NW. Tickets $37-$64. Call 202-777-3210 or visit theaterj.org.

“Guilt.” Scena Theatre presents Australian writer John Shand’s drama of a philandering priest suspected of casting spells on women. Through Feb. 4 at the Atlas Performing Arts Center, 1333 H St. NE. Tickets $15-$45. Call 202-399-7993 or visit scenatheatre.org.

“Queens Girl in Africa.” “The wide-eyed lens of a black American youth is fascinating once again in Caleen Sinnette Jennings’s bouncy 1960s memoir, and it’s another fine showcase for the solo performer who impersonates the family, friends and boyfriends who captivate and confound Jackie. Erika Rose picks up in this Mosaic Theater Company production where actress Dawn Ursula left off in the 2015 ‘Queens Girl in the World’ at Theater J. She narrates with spunk, and she’s a whiz at voicing males and female roles in her U.S. family’s internationally populated slice of Nigeria.” (Nelson Pressley) Read the review Through Feb. 4 at the Atlas Performing Arts Center, 1333 H St. NE. Tickets $20-$65. Call 202-399-7993 or visit mosaictheater.org.

“Tartuffe.” “Molière’s lacerating indictment of religious hypocrisy still resonates, given that self-righteous posturing still beckons to the credulous. The gist comes through distinctly in Perisphere Theater’s staging; the performances aren’t all polished, but the actors generally handle the verse well.” (Celia Wren) Read the review Through Feb. 4 at the Logan Fringe Arts Space, 1358 Florida Ave. NE. Tickets $25. Visit perispheretheater.com.

“Digging Up Dessa.” Women’s Voices. Feb. at the Kennedy Center. Tickets $20. Call 202-467-4600 or visit kennedy-center.org.

“All the Things You Are.” A Jerome Kern cabaret, from The In Series. Through Feb. 4 at the Atlas Performing Arts Center, 1333 H St NE. Tickets $40. Call 202-204-7763 or visit inseries.org.

Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo. The all-male comic ballet company. Feb. 2 at the George Mason University Center for the Arts, 4373 Mason Pond Dr., Fairfax. Tickets $30-$50. Call 703-993-8888 or visit cfa.gmu.edu.

The Capitol Steps. The longtime political satirists, tearing laughs from the headlines. Fridays and Saturdays in the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center Amphitheater, 1300 Pennsylvania Ave. NW. Tickets $40.50. Call 202-397-7328 or visit www.capsteps.com.

“Wawa Shabbawa.” Puckish conceptual artist and national Fringe festival vet Brian Feldman observes Shabbat at a D.C. Wawa. Feb. 2 at 1111 19th St. NW. Free. Visit dinners.onetable.org.


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