March 18, 2010 | by Patrick Folliard
McNally, Fierstein, Lypsinka to light up spring theatrical season

With spring comes a deluge of promising new productions, many of special interest to LGBT theater-goers. Here’s a sampling.

Gay playwright Terrence McNally is a lifelong opera devotee who has lovingly infused opera themes, characters, lore and trivia into some of his best plays. In honor of the multiple Tony Award-winning playwright’s passion, the Kennedy Center (www.kennedy-center.org) presents “Terrence McNally’s Nights at the Opera,” a five-week celebration featuring three of the playwright’s most opera-centric works, through April 18.

The mini-festival kicks off with McNally’s new backstage drama, “Golden Age” (through April 4). According to press notes, “Golden Age takes place backstage at the Théâtre-Italien in Paris on the evening of Jan. 24, 1835. The occasion is the premiere of Vincenzo Bellini’s opera “I Puritani.” Assembled are the composer and his faithful friend, Francesco Florimo, and the four singers for whom the opera was expressly composed known the world over as the Puritani Quartet. Bellini’s rivalry with his fellow Italian composer, Gaetano Donizetti, for French favor was at its height. This opera was to cement his supremacy. It was to be his last.” The production features Broadway’s Marc Kudisch and out actor Jeffery Carlson as Bellini. A talented stage veteran, Carlson is also known for his role as transgender Zarf/Zoe on the daytime soap “All My Children.”

Next up is McNally’s “The Lisbon Traviata” (March 20 through April 11) — a tragicomedy about opera obsession featuring longtime gay best friends and opera buffs played by celebrated out actors Malcolm Gets and John Glover. The McNally salute closes with Tyne Daly as Maria Callas in “Master Class” (March 25 to April 18), the terrific Tony-award winning play concerning la Callas and the classes she taught at Julliard. Daly, who garnered awards for playing TV detective Mary Beth Lacey and Mama Rose on Broadway, seems an improbable choice to assay the imperious diva. But considering both ladies’ known flair for the dramatic, it just might be a case of perfect casting.

Gayer theatergoers with deep pockets might like the Kennedy Center’s Spring Gala (May 2) in honor of the center’s founding chairman Roger L. Stevens, co-hosted by Liza Minnelli and gravelly-voiced gay actor Harvey Fierstein who will already be in town performing Tevye the milkman in “Fiddler on the Roof” (April 13 to May 19) at the National Theatre (www.nationaltheatre.org).

Through March 21, you can still catch “Andy Warhol: Good for the Jews?” at Theatre J (www.washingtondcjcc.org). In his engaging one-man show, Josh Kornbluth explores his relationship to gay artist Andy Warhol’s controversial portraits of 10 world famous Jews including lesbian writer Gertrude Stein. Coming up in May at Theatre J, out actor Sarah Marshall takes the plunge in Theatre J’s production “Mikveh” (May 5 through June 5). With an all-female cast, Hadar Galron’s play takes audiences inside the secretive world of the ritual bath practiced by Orthodox Jewish women and explores the feminist consciousness and evolving role of women in contemporary Israel.

In April, Signature Theatre (www.signature-theatre.org) presents the Washington-area premiere of “[title of show]” (April 6 through June 27), a musical by then-struggling writers about struggling writers writing a musical. Written and composed by a pair of gay southerners, Hunter Bell (book) and Jeff Bowen (music and lyrics), the wittily titled work is directed by Matthew Gardiner and features a young cast including two talented Helen Hayes Award-winning actors Erin Driscoll and Jenna Sokolowski.

Also in April, Ganymede Arts’ Jeffrey Johnson plans to slip into a dress and heels on at least three separate occasions. First on April 15, he’s scheduled to unleash his pink-haired alter ego Galactica for a free evening of song and sweets at ACKC, the cocoa bar café on 14th Street. Next, Johnson reprises his portrayal of Jackie O’s kookiest cousin in “Edie Beale Live at Reno Sweeney” for two nights (April 29-30) at Cobalt before taking the act to Joe’s Pub in Manhattan.

Ganymede (www.ganymedearts.org) is also mounting a production of “Naked Boys Singing” (May 7 through June 13) at the very intimate Playbill Café. The title says it all. This lighthearted revue whose casting is definitely crucial to its success features undressed men and a score that includes numbers like “Muscle Addiction” and “Perky Little Porn Star.”

The Shakespeare Theatre Company’s (www.shakespearetheatre.org) gay artistic director Michael Kahn is staging playwright David Ives’ adaptation of Pierre Corneille’s classic French farce “The Liar” (April 6 through May 23), and the company is also presenting George Bernhard Shaw’s “Mrs. Warren’s Profession” (June 8 through July 11), an amusing look at social problems of his day starring “Designing Women’s” Dixie Carter as the title character, an aging hooker.

Gay director/actor Jay Hardee is staging Washington Shakespeare Company’s production of “Every Young Woman’s Desire” (May 20 through June 20) at the funky Clark Street Playhouse in Arlington. The company describes the show as “a darkly comic psychological thriller first produced in Santiago in the final years of Pinochet’s authoritarian rule, [it’s] about a woman’s struggle with a mysterious and dangerous intruder and goes to the heart of the brutal dictatorship’s mechanisms for control: terror, seduction and security.“

On Mondays throughout May at Church Street Theatre, Factory 449 (www.factory449.com) inaugurates its annual play reading series, “Factory Made.” The plays – all of which under consideration for full productions in the company’s upcoming seasons – include “In the Flesh,” (May 3) a prison-set nightmare adapted from a short story by gay horror write and filmmaker Clive Barker; and “Wig Out!” (May 24), a dramatic foray into the compelling and fiercely competitive subculture of drag balls penned by gay playwright Tarrell Alvin McCraney’s (“In the Red and Brown Water,” “The Brothers Size”).

At the Studio Theatre (www.studiotheatre.org), John Epperson’s now-legendary drag creation Lypsinka takes on James Kirkwood’s campy saga of two aging divas desperate to revive their fading careers in “Lypsinka in Legends!” (June 16 through July 4). With her unique blend of artistry and postmodern genius, the undisputed queen of sync will no doubt breathe new life into Kirkwood’s rickety vehicle. First performed by Mary Martin and Carol Channing in the mid-’80s, “Legends” was revived three years ago with Joan Collins and former “Dynasty” co-star Linda Evans in a multi-city tour that included D.C.

Be sure to catch “Clybourne Park” at Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company (woollymammoth.net) through April 11. The play is a powerful take on race and gentrification in 1950s Chicago. And when that wraps, “Gruesome Playground Injuries” debuts May 17 and runs through June 13. It’s the story of the relationship between two boys who meet at age 8 in the nurse’s office and then grow up, enduring heartache and raising the question of how far one friend can go in helping another.

And if you’re in the mood for a bit of musical comedy fused with political satire, check out “Dancing with the Czars” from Hexagon 2010 (hexagon.org), a charitable non-profit staging this show through April 10 at the Takoma Park/Silver Spring Performing Arts Center (7995 Georgia Ave., Silver Spring, MD).

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