This fallâs local theater offerings are a particularly promising blend of old and new, several of which have LGBT appeal. Hereâs an overview.
Fifteen years after Matthew Shepardâs death, Fordâs Theatre (fordstheatre.org) is presenting an anniversary production of gay playwright MoisĂ©s Kaufmanâs âThe Laramie Projectâ (Sept. 27-Oct. 27). Kaufmanâ powerfully affecting ensemble piece gives insight into the communityâs response to the 1998 brutal murder of Shepard, a young gay man living in Laramie, Wyo. Matthew Gardiner (who is gay) directs. Local stalwart Holly Twyford (also gay) is in the cast.
Studio Theatre (studiotheatre.org) opens its season with the bittersweet comedy âTorch Song Trilogyâ staged by Michael Kahn (Shakespeare Theatre Companyâs gay artistic director) and starring the sensational Brandon Uranowitz as Arnold, a caustically funny drag queen who refuses to give up on his longings for love and commitment. Penned by gravelly voiced gay icon Harvey Fierstein (who created the showâs lead character Arnold on Broadway in 1981), âTorch Songâ can feel a little dated around the edges, but its central issues of relationships, authenticity and family never go stale. The cast includes local actor Alex Mills, who is gay, as Arnoldâs younger love interest.
At Rep Stage (repstage.org) in Columbia, Md., the season opens with Horton Footeâs âA Young Lady of Propertyâ (Sept. 11-29), directed by Michael Stebbins, whoâs gay. Set in a small Texas town, it deals with a young woman struggling to hold on to the house that her late mother left her. Following Footeâs sentimental drama is gay playwright Doug Wrightâs powerful Pulitzer Prize winning âI am My Own Wifeâ (Oct. 30-Nov. 17), a compelling solo show about Charlotte von Mahlsdorf, a German transsexual who survives the Nazis and the East German secret police. Stebbins will swap out his directorâs hat for an actorâs to play the demanding part of Charlotte.
Olney Theatre Center (olneytheatre.org) is presenting New Yorkâs critically acclaimed BEDLAM Theatre in rotating repertory. Productions include Shakespeareâs âHamletâ (through Oct. 20) and George Bernard Shawâs âSaint Joanâ (also through Oct. 20). Both directed by Eric Tucker.
After BEDLAMâs take on the classics, Olneyâs gay artistic director Jason Loewith is staging Steven Dietzâs âRancho Mirageâ (Sept. 26-Oct. 20), a tale of three seemingly well-adjusted couples who at a dinner party decide to stop fronting and get honest. Dietz is best known for âLonely Planet,â an intriguing exploration of the AIDS crisis as experienced by two gay men from within the confines of a quiet map shop set in an unnamed big city.
Taffety Punk Theatre Company (taffetypunk.com) presents the Riot Grrrlsâ all-woman version of Shakespeareâs âTitus Andronicusâ (Sept. 27-Oct. 26), featuring Isabelle Anderson in the title role.Â Lisa Bruneau directs. In the past, the Riot Grrrls have successfully pulled off testosterone free takes on âRomeo and Juliet,â âJulius Caesar,â and more from the Bardâs canon. Itâs the Grrrlsâ credo that âa great actress can play a great role, regardless if it’s male or female.â
Longtime Washington favorite director John Vreeke is staging Round House Theatreâs (roundhousetheatre.org) area premiere production of âThe Lyonsâ (Nov. 27-Dec. 22), a savagely funny family comedy by gay playwright Nicky Silver. At Woolly Mammoth (woollymammoth.net), Vreeke (who is gay) is also directing Lisa DâAmourâs âDetroitâ (through Oct. 6), a comic takedown of the suburban dream. The cast of local favorites includes Emily Townley, Michael Willis, Gabriela Fernandez-Coffey, Tim Getman and Danny Gavigan.
Arena Stage (arenastage.org) opens its season with Eric Cobleâs two-hander âVelocity of Autumnâ (through Oct. 20) starring the great Estelle Parsons (âBonnie and Clyde; she played gay on âRoseanneâ) and gay actor Stephen Spinella who created the part of Prior Walter, a gay character with AIDS, in Tony Kushnerâs seminal âAngels in America.â An intense 90 minutes, Cobleâs play focuses on the relationship of a middle-aged son who returns to his motherâs home after a 20-year estrangement to help her deal with some potentially explosive old age issues.
Exciting things are happening at the National Theatre (thenationaldc.com). The season opens with the world premiere of âIf/Thenâ (Nov. 11-Dec. 8), a romantic musical about a woman on the cusp of middle age, who returns to New York City where she deals with love and the unexpected. It stars Idina Menzel who famously created the part of the green witch Elphaba in Broadwayâs âWicked.â
âIf/Thenâ reunites Menzel with Tom Kitt (music), Brian Yorkey (book and lyrics), and Michael Greif (director), the same creative team behind the Pulitzer Prize- and Tony Award-winning musical âNext to Normal.â
Oscar winning Christine Lahti comes to Signature Theatre (signature-theatre.org) to star in âPride in the Falls of Autry Millsâ (Oct. 15-Dec. 8), young playwright Paul Downs Collaizoâs new play about what lurks behind the pristine faĂ§ade of a seemingly perfect suburban existence. Michael Kahn directs.
Signatureâs gay artistic director Eric Schaeffer is staging Matt Connerâs new musical âCrossingâ (Oct. 29-Nov. 24) in which characters from different decades throughout the last century come together and share their experiences in song. Conner, who is gay, is both an actor (heâs performed in many Signature musicals) as well as composer. In the past, Signature produced his musical âNevermore,â a dreamy tribute to the works of Edgar Allen Poe.Â In December, Signature is taking a crack at the legendary musical âGypsyâ (opens Dec. 17). Joe Calarco (who is gay) directs and Signature veteran Sherri L. Edelen plays the title characterâs indomitable stage mother, Mama Rose.
Synetic Theater (synetic.org) kicks off its season in Crystal City with âThe Portrait of Dorian Grayâ (Sept. 26-Nov. 3), promising to put its inimitable movement-based stamp on Oscar Wildeâs classic novel. Included in the cast is Helen Hayes Award-winning gay actor Philip Fletcher who plays Grayâs actual portrait. Syneticâs celebrated adaptions are consistently innovative, accomplished and sexy.