July 9, 2015 at 6:52 pm EDT | by Patrick Folliard
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local theater, gay news, Washington Blade

Alex Mills as Puck in Synetic Theater’s ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream.’ (Photo by Johnny Shryock; courtesy Synetic)

OK, so it’s not three weeks in Tuscany, but a staycation does have its less stress and lower-cost charms, particularly in D.C. where there’s so much to see and do. And with local theater going almost full tilt year round, summer is an ideal to take in some live performances, many of which hold special appeal for LGBT audiences. Following are some places to start.

After extensive renovations, the Keegan Theatre’s Church Street venue is reopening with a production of Tennessee Williams’ “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” (through July 25). Set in Big Daddy’s Mississippi plantation home, “Cat” deals with the stalled relationship between feisty Maggie and her brooding husband Brick (played by Brianna Letourneau and Kevin Hasser) who can’t get over the death of his best friend Skipper.

Studio 2ndStage is presenting “Silence! The Musical” (through Aug. 9), a raunchy takeoff on the 1991 film “The Silence of the Lambs.” The cast features Laura Jordan as FBI agent-in-training Clarice Starling, Tally Sessions is the refined cannibal Hannibal Lecter and out actor Tom Story plays serial killer Buffalo Bill.  

Arena Stage is premiering “Dear Evan Hansen” (through Aug. 23), a new coming-of-age musical starring Ben Platt. The music and lyrics are by Benj Pasek who is gay and Justin Paul, and the librettist is Steven Levenson. Broadway’s Michael Greif directs.

Synetic Theater, the award-winning movement-based company located in Crystal City, is remounting its playful adaptation of Shakespeare’s comedy “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” (July 15-Aug. 9). Out actor Alex Mills is reprising his memorable turn as mischievous sprite Puck. Also featured is Helen Hayes Award-winning actor Philip Fletcher who plays Oberon, the Fairy King.

Throughout July, Signature Theatre kicks off its 2015/16 season with the Sizzlin’ Summer Nights Cabaret Series. The line-up of guest performers includes Christiane Noll, Mitchell Jarvis, Christine Pedi, Natascia Diaz, Will Gartshore and more.

If children figure into your staycation equation, there are options. Glen Echo’s Adventure Theatre MTC is doing “Garfield” (through Aug. 23), a family friendly hour-long musical for all ages inspired by the beloved comic strip and staged by out director Nick Olcott. Local actor Evan Casey plays the cynical and lazy title feline. In addition, Adventure Theatre is borrowing digs at Round House Theatre in Bethesda to mount the full-length, two-act musical “Oliver” (July 24 through Aug. 16) based on Dickens’ classic orphan tale. With a 28-person cast and a small chamber orchestra, the production is the first of this size in the venerable theater’s long history. Helmed by out director Joseph Ritsch, “Oliver’s” players include out actor Rick Hammerly as career criminal Fagin and talented Felicia Curry is playing the tough but goodhearted Nancy.

“Children’s theater has its challenges,” says Adventure’s out producing artistic director Michael J. Bobbitt.  “An hour-long show costs just as much to produce as a full-length show for adults but we can’t ask the same price for a ticket. Also our audience age out at just 8 years old, so doing a more sophisticated musical like ‘Oliver’ is an attempt to keep them around longer. More and more family friendly shows in New York are based on works intended for children. Children’s theater is infiltrating the market everywhere, so while it’s an ambitious summer for us, it’s also a nice progression.”

Bobbitt adds, “We take children’s theater very seriously. It’s high art for us and we do our very best to entertain. A child’s introduction to theater can be a memorable event and leave a longstanding impression. I became hooked at early age because I saw a great show. If it’s bad, it can be a turnoff. The hope is that kids who see our show may want to become an artist or a lifelong supporter of the arts.”

Other staycation theater fare for kids includes “Peter Pan” (through Aug. 16) performed in a massive tent-theater with impressive 360-degree projections at Tysons Corner Center, and “Double Trouble (akaThe Parent Trap”) through Aug. 14 at Bethesda’s Imagination Stage (Imaginationstage.org).

For its annual Free For ALL, Shakespeare Theatre Company is remounting director Ethan McSweeny’s  take on “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” (Sept. 1-13) which he’s set in the ruins of an abandoned theater. A popular Washington tradition for 22 years, Free For All offers free tickets to the general public to experience Shakespeare in the late summer. No longer performed under the stars, the love and magic play out in the cool comfort of STC’s Sidney Harman Hall.

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