March 5, 2015 at 11:57 am EDT | by Patrick Folliard
SPRING ARTS PREVIEW THEATER: ‘Blithe’ theatrical season
theater, gay news, Washington Blade

Angela Lansbury in ‘Blithe Spirit.’ (Photo by Joan Marcus; courtesy Center Stage Marketing)

Spring is the season of growth and renewal and the Rainbow Theatre Project (rainbowtheatreproject.com) is sprouting out all over. Helmed by out artistic director H. Lee Gable and managing director Michael Kelley, who is bisexual, Rainbow is committed to being D.C.’s premier theater for the LGBT community. Last season (Rainbow’s first), the company focused on staged readings of new works, but now the fledgling company is expanding with a one-night cabaret extravaganza titled “Torch: Songs from the Gay Life!” (Sunday at Bier Baron Tavern near Dupont Circle), featuring professional LGBT talent.

And in June, Rainbow is presenting a fully staged production of out playwright Paula Vogel’s “The Oldest Profession” (June 4-21) at Flashpoint. An early Vogel work, this play with music charts the professional decline of a senior madam and her stall of aging hookers during the Reagan era.

Baltimore’s Iron Crow Theatre presents “The Revelation of Bobby Pritchard,” by Rich Espey March 13-28. It’s billed as a “contemporary exploration of the clash between religious conviction and modern LGBT issues contained within the tumultuous dynamics of a typical American family.” It will be performed at the Baltimore Theatre Project (45 W. Preston St., Baltimore). Details at ironcrowtheatre.org.

At Ford’s Theatre (fords.org), out director Jeff Calhoun is staging “Freedom’s Song: Abraham Lincoln and the Civil War,” (March 13-May 20) an epic musical featuring the words of Lincoln and music inspired by the letters of those who lived through the war. Ford’s is developing this work as part of the Ford’s 150, a series of events commemorating the 150th anniversary of Lincoln’s assassination. The cast features talented local actor Stephen Gregory Smith as a Confederate private.

Smith’s husband Matt Conner is directing “Once on This Island” (May 8-31), Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty’s Caribbean-set, one-act musical at Creative Cauldron (creativecauldron.org) in Falls Church.

At Arena Stage (arenastage.org), out actor Jefferson Farber is playing Spike in Christopher Durang’s Tony-winning Chekhov-inspired comedy “Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike” (April 3-May 3). The script describes Spike as “an aspiring actor, 29, sexy, self-absorbed.” Spike spends much of the comedy shirtless and even treats audiences to a reverse strip tease.

Factory 449 (factory449.org) will present Radha Bharadwaj’’s “Closet Land” (April 16-May 20) at Anacostia Arts Center. Staged by out director Rick Hammerly, it centers on the interrogation of a children’s book author who is accused by the government of inciting anarchy in her work. The timely two-hander features talented company members Sara Barker and out actor David Lamont Wilson.

At MetroStage (metrostage.org) in Alexandria, out actor Michael Russotto stars opposite Susan Lynskey in John W. Lowell’s “The Letters” (May 7-June 7). Set in early 1930s Russia, Lowell’s suspenseful drama is inspired by the Soviets removal of all hints of homosexuality from composer Tchaikovsky’s letters and papers. Out director John Vreeke helms the production.

Studio Theatre (studiotheatre.org) presents “Jumpers for Goalposts” (May 13-June 21), a comedy about an amateur gay soccer team called Barely Athletic competing for a trophy in a LGBT league in the British working-class city of Hull. It’s a U.S. premiere of both the play and its out playwright Tom Wells, who is getting a lot of attention in England. There is a special Blade night planned for May 27.

This spring, National Theatre (thenationaldc.com) plays host to two great ladies of the stage. First it’s the remarkable Angela Lansbury in the tour of gay genius Noel Coward’s classic comedy “Blithe Spirit” (March 17-29). Lansbury plays the outlandish Madame Arcati, a medium who unwittingly summons up novelist Charles Condomine’s dead wife Elvira, much to his current wife Ruth’s dismay.

And then Barry Humphries brings his cat-eyed, lavender-haired lady from down under to the National in “Dame Edna’s Glorious Goodbye – the Farewell Tour” (April 21-26). So possums, get tickets. This may be your last chance to see the rapier witted dame on a local stage.

At Woolly Mammoth (woollymammoth.net) is the world premiere of “Lights Rise on Grace” (Marcy 30-April 26) by Chad Beckim. Billed as an examination of race, sexuality and family, it’s the story of a shy Chinese American who falls in love with Large, an outgoing African-American classmate. But their romance ends abruptly when Large is sent to prison for six years where he becomes lovers with Riece, a white fellow prisoner. Following his release, Large reunites with Grace but continues to have sex with men.

Then it’s “Zombie: The American” (May 25-June 21), a world premier from the marvelously talented out playwright Robert O’ Hara. The year is 2063 and the first openly gay president of the United States is dealing with imminent civil war, the threat of an African invasion, an adulterous First Gentleman, and zombies in the basement of the White House. What to do? “Zombie’s” four-person cast includes the seriously funny, out actor Sarah Marshall.

Theater J celebrates 30 years of gay actor/writer Charles Busch with a revival of “Tale of the Allergist’s Wife” June 3-July 5. Details at washingtondcjcc.org.

At Signature Theatre (signature-theatre.org), it’s another busy spring for out director Matthew Gardiner. He’s staging Nick Blaemire’s new musical “Soon” (March 10-April 26), the quirky story of Charlie, a 20-something woman who seems to have given up on life. Following “Soon,” Gardiner tackles “Cabaret” (May 12-June 28), the Weimar-set John Kander and Fred Ebb musical based on gay writer Christopher Isherwood’s biographical novel “Goodbye to Berlin.”  Wesley Taylor (NBC’s “Smash,” Broadway’s “The Addams Family” and “Rock of Ages”) stars as the Emcee and award-winning local out actor Bobby Smith plays Ernst, a likable guy who’s revealed to be a Nazi.

Nu Sass Productions (nusass.com), a D.C.-based female driven theater company is presenting Tony Kushner’s “A Bright Room Called Day” (March 12-April 5) at Caos on F Street, N.W. One of the gay playwright’s early works, “Bright Room” depicts the lives of a group of friends during the fall of the Weimar Republic and the rise of the Nazi Party in Berlin. Angela Pirko directs.

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