February 24, 2011 | by David J. Hoffman
Arts briefs: Feb. 25

Josh Sticklin plays 13 roles in 'Basra Boy,' on the boards now at Church Street Theater. (Photo by Jim Coates; courtesy of Church Street)

Young actor shines in tale of war

A star is born.

It may sound preposterous, but it’s true. Josh Sticklin, 25, makes his bid for a future career of real acting renown by his role — really, 13 of them — in a one-man show, the world premiere of “Basra Boy,” now in rep, rotating with another play, “The Weir,” at Keegan Theatre’s Church Street Theater in Dupont Circle.

The lithe and limber Stickin is a 2008 graduate from American University with a double major of political science and musical theater, who plays the 18-year-old slacker Speedy in this world premiere of a play by Belfast native Rosemary Jenkinson. It’s a political play as well as highly physical theater propelled by an explosive rush of words, sometimes oddly poetic, almost like Dylan Thomas, sometimes coarsely coruscating, in the angry motormouth dialect of a Belfast teenager.

It’s set in the dead-end world of young men without much education, on the dole with no chance at finding a job, and finding meaning only in hanging out with his mates, flirting with girls, drinking and brawling. He and a friend, Stig, enlist in the British army and give playwright Jenkinson a chance to present her self-described “anti-war” sentiments.

But director Abigail Isaac, a Northern Virginia native and, at 26, already an experienced hand in the theater, calls it “a story about two friends, Speedy and Stig, who don’t have a future — they’re wasters,” and “a decision to enlist tests their friendship.” Sticklin plays both roles, plus 11 others, in a truly virtuoso performance, morphing from one character to another, sometimes juggling four of them at the same time, and careening about the stage in leaps and twists and turns, hurling himself into this play with fierce intensity and raucous humor.

Switching gears, and performed in a contemplative mood, melancholy at times, always sweet and sad and frequently supernatural, “The Weir” is a very different play, by accomplished Irish playwright and screenwriter Conor McPherson. Skillfully directed by Keegan’s founding artistic director, Mark A. Rhea, it co-stars his wife, the astonishingly talented Susan Marie Rhea, as Valerie, the outsider from Dublin who moves to live in a small village in rural northwest Ireland, where she encounters four locals in a bar, and in a series of mostly monologue set-pieces all five get to tell their tales, tinged with bittersweet regret at life’s losses.

“Basra Boy” is performed at 3 and 5 p.m. Saturdays and 6 and 8 p.m. Sundays (and also 8 p.m. on Monday, March 7) through March 12, while “The Weir” can be seen 8 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays and 3 p.m. Sundays through March 13. Keegan Theatre is at the Church Street Theater, 1742 Church St. N.W. Tickets  are $25-$30 (less for students/seniors) at 703-892-0202 or visit keegantheatre.com.

Movie hits get mash-up/parody treatment in new plays

From the sublime and the raw, now let’s go to the (intentionally) ridiculous and raw. It’s a hoot of hilarity in the spoofery of Hollywood hits, in the inaugural “Mash-Up Festival” of four short parody plays staged by the Landless Theatre Company today and Saturday at the D.C. Arts Center in Adams Morgan. One of the four — “TarXXXanadu” — blends the jungle feats of “Tarzan” with the 1980 film “Xanadu” starring Olivia Newton-John and the great hoofer and star of many a greater film, Gene Kelly.

But it’s set in a gay-porn film studio (and therefore it’s adults-only, though there’s no sex on stage) and features larger-than-life “Clay Comer,” a 6-feet-5-inch total package in a too-small loincloth doing cartwheels, and Cyle Durfee, a gay actor with a flair for flair, and for comedy. The play is written and directed by gay thespian Chris Griffin, in his drag alter-ego known as Lucrezia Blozia, also famed as one-third of the musical-comedy drag trio Eva Brontosaurus.

Tickets are $25 for each or $40 for both. The family friendly are at 7:30 p.m., the adult-only at 10 p.m. The Center is at 2438 18th St. N.W. Call 202-462-7833 or visit dcartscenter.org or landlesstheatrecompany.org.

Gay options abound at New America Festival

Theater galore — that’s just a fact of life this time of year, of tidal proportions — including at “Intersections: A New America Arts Festival,” featuring around 600 performers of all stripes in 100 performances over just nine days, beginning today through March 13 at the Atlas Performing Arts Center, 1333 H Street N.E., one of the flagship venues in the burgeoning new Arts District just east of Union Station on Capitol Hill. For tickets and the full schedule, visit intersectionsdc.org or call the Atlas Box Office at 202-399-7933 ext 2.

Another option is “A Family Reunion” — authored by Larry Blossom, who is gay and lives in D.C. — a play about a child abducted and forced into prostitution before becoming a gay porn star. A full-length play, it examines the emotions and trauma of pedophilia and debuts at The Writer’s Center in Bethesda, at 4508 Walsh Street, with one evening performance March 5 and afternoon and evening performances on March 6.  All ticket proceeds will go directly to the cast. For tickets, visit afamilyreunion.org or call 800-838-3006.

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