The fall theater season promises an especially diverse mix of classics, innovative new works and some exciting instances of non-traditional casting. And as always, the productions are fueled in large part by LGBT talent and energy.
Mosaic Theater Company (mosaictheater.org) presents “The Devil’s Music: The Life & Blues of Bessie Smith” through Sept. 24. This bawdy, bluesy one-woman piece on the life of a unapologetically bisexual singing legend features an extraordinarily drawn performance by Miche Braden.
At GALA Hispanic Theatre (galatheatre.org) out director Jose Carrasquillo is staging “Don Juan Tenorio, the Infamous Seducer of All Times” (through Oct. 1) by out playwright Nando López (author of GALA’s Helen Hayes Award-winning “Yerma”). It’s a new, high-voltage adaptation of the legendary lover’s tale. The cast includes Iker Lastra, Luz Nicolás and out actor Carlos Castillo.
Factory 449: a theater collective (factory449.org) presents the hotly anticipated production of Cordelia Lynn’s “Lela & Co.” (through Oct. 1). Based on a true story, the play follows 14-year-old Lela (celebrated local actor Felicia Curry) as she marries and is relocated to an unnamed war-torn country where she finds herself isolated, locked up and eventually enslaved. Out actor/director Rick Hammerly directs.
Signature Theatre’s (sigtheatre.org) is kicking the season off with an exquisite production of Stephen Sondheim’s “A Little Night Music” (though Oct. 8). It’s a skillfully performed farce with a gorgeously sung score. The cast features out actors Holly Twyford, Bobby Smith and Will Gartshore. Signature’s out artistic director Eric Schaeffer directs.
Baltimore’s excellent Everyman Theatre (everymantheatre.org) is presenting David Henry Hwang’s intriguing “M. Butterfly” (through Oct. 8) featuring out actor Bruce Nelson as closeted French diplomat Rene Gallimard who falls in love with opera diva Song Liling (out actor Vichet Chum) who’s in fact a man masquerading as a woman. The Tony Award-winning play first opened on Broadway in 1988 and is now undergoing a revival there.
Studio Theatre (studiotheatre.org) presents Dominique Morisseau’s “Skeleton Crew” (through Oct. 8). The action focuses on a tight-knit group of workers at one of the last auto-stamping plants in Detroit who are forced to consider an uncertain future. Patricia McGregor directs.
Theater Alliance (theateralliance.com) is remounting its acclaimed Helen Hayes Award-winning production of “Word Becomes Flesh” (through Oct. 8). Using spoken word, stylized movement, tableau and music, an ensemble delivers a series of letters from a man to his unborn son, documenting his range of emotions, fears and expectations. The cast features out actors Chris Lane, Clayton Pelham, Jr. and Justin Weaks.
Woolly Mammoth opens its season with Alistair Beaton’s translation of Swiss playwright Max Frisch’s comedic reflection on fascism and communism “The Arsonists” (through Oct. 8). Directed by Michael John Garcés, the production features Woolly artistic director Howard Shalwitz in a return to the stage and company members including Kimberly Gilbert and Emily Townley.
Olney Theatre Center (olneytheatre.org) and Round House Theatre (roundhousetheatre.org) are co-producing “Hamilton” creator Lin-Manuel Miranda’s first Broadway musical, “In the Heights” (through Oct. 15). Set to hip hop, rap and salsa, it’s the inspiring story of immigrants striving to make it in New York City’s Washington Heights neighborhood. The cast features out actor Robin de Jesús (an original Broadway cast member). Marcos Santana directs and choreographs.
Constellation Theatre Company (constellationtheatre.org) opens its season with Andrew Lippa’s “The Wild Party” (Sept. 21-Oct. 29). Set in Prohibition-era Manhattan, this tale of passion, flappers and romance features an exciting score including jazz, vaudeville and gospel numbers. Constellation’s artistic director Allison Arkell Stockman directs.
Ford’s Theatre (fords.org) presents Arthur Miller’s classic play “Death of a Salesman” (Sept. 22-Oct. 22). Esteemed actor Craig Wallace, who’s black, stars as the beleaguered Willy Loman, a part typically played by white actors. Kimberly Schraf plays Willy’s wife Linda and Danny Gavigan and Thomas Keegan are sons Happy and Biff, respectively. Out actor Michael Russotto plays Willy’s friend Charley. Stephen Rayne directs.
At Shakespeare Theatre Company (shakespearetheatre.org) out artistic director Michael Kahn returns to the work of Harold Pinter with a to direct a double bill of short plays, “The Collection” and “The Lover” (Sept. 26-Oct. 29). STC writes: “In Pinter’s darkly comic world of revealing silences and pregnant pauses, the characters and audience never know quite where they stand, embracing reality and fantasy with equal conviction.”
At Forum Theatre (forum-theatre.org) in Silver Spring, Michael Dove is directing the great Caryl Churchill’s “Love and Information” (Sept. 28-Oct. 21).
Also at Signature (sigtheatre.org) out actor Tom Story plays the title role in the D.C.-area premiere of David Javerbaum’s irreverent comedy “An Act of God” (Oct. 3-Nov. 26). Longtime head writer for TV’s “The Daily Show,” Javerbaum riffs on Biblical passages and divine intervention.
Olney Theatre (olneytheatre.org) is also presenting “Our Town” (Oct. 4-Nov. 12). Penned by the late Thornton Wilder who was gay, the American classic focuses on young couple George and Emily and their typical yet profound life experiences in small town Grover’s Corners, New Hampshire. This promising production, directed by Aaron Posner, incorporates traditional Japanese Bunraku-style puppets into the cast. Out actor Jon Odom plays Stage Manager, the play’s narrator.
For two nights only, the Kennedy Center (kennedy-center.org) presents “Wilderness” (Oct 12-15), a new multimedia documentary theater work. It’s derived from the real-life stories of six families exploring issues of mental health, addiction and gender and sexual identity and features an evocative folk-rock score, video projections and emotionally charged movement.
And for a substantially longer stay, the Kennedy Center hosts the latest tour of “The Book of Mormon” (Oct. 24-Nov. 19). Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s Tony Award-winning musical follows the adventures of a mismatched pair of missionaries, sent far from home to spread the Good Word.
At Arena Stage (arenastage.org) out director Alan Paul is staging American musical theater classic “The Pajama Game” (Oct. 27-Dec. 24). A strike at the pajama factory sets off a battle of the sexes. The score includes hot favorites “Steam Heat” and “Hernando’s Hideaway.” The cast includes Edward Gero and the making her Arena debut Broadway’s Donna McKechnie who created the part of Cassie in “A Chorus Line.”
At National Theatre (nationaldc.org), Tina Fey’s “Mean Girls” (Oct. 31-Dec. 3) makes its world premiere before heading to Broadway. The new musical is based on Fey’s screenplay for the same-titled hit film.
Out director Steven Scott Mazzola and Reenie Codelka are co-directing “Jaques Brel: Songs From His World” (Nov. 4-19) starring Byron Jones for the In Series (inseries.org). The cabaret features the legendary Belgian singer/songwriter’s personal yet political works from the ‘50s and ‘60s.