Review | On two D.C. stages, plays navel-gaze about — what else? — the stage



To totally get pleasure from “Which Solution to the Stage?,” the delightfully wry theater-world comedy at Signature Theatre, it helps to have an appreciation of sure dramatic issues. These embody: the manufacturing historical past of the musical “If/Then,” the résumé-building worth of a summer season appearing job in Maine, the function of the salacious puppet Lucy in “Avenue Q” and the outrageously fabulous psychodramas of drag.

However that in all probability goes with out saying, as a result of the audience for Ana Nogueira’s spiky play is a self-selected slice of the inhabitants for whom Bernadette and Patti and Chita and Barbra are the faces that must be carved into Mount Rushmore.

The playwright provides to this confection, directed with perception and affection by Ethan Heard, names and occasions which can be as each day bread to the subset of society that with out a regular theater food regimen would fail to thrive. As famous by Jeff, as an illustration, an actor and drag artist performed with stiletto-sharp comedian timing by Mike Millan, the true surprise of the world is the truth that Audra McDonald sings all her notes in her head voice.

“Which Solution to the Stage?” issues the friendship of Jeff and Judy (Dani Stoller), the latter an actress who can’t land an element and is changing into more and more testy and burned out. The play is a tribute to all struggling actors who are suffering for his or her artwork by enduring limitless rounds {of professional} rejection. Antithetically, we’re witness to the expertise of one other actor, Mark (Michael Tacconi), a former finance man with a male-model jawline who strolls into auditions and gallingly walks out with casting presents.

Even when this can be a acquainted starving-artist premise, the night is elevated in Signature’s intimate Ark area by Nogueira’s piquant dialogue. Different property are the colourful performances of Millan, Stoller, Tacconi and Nina-Sophia Pacheco, who performs each an actress competing for components with Judy and a rough bride-to-be heckling Jeff throughout his drag act. Jeff’s crowning achievement is his hyper-dramatic impersonation of Idina Menzel lip-syncing as each Maureen and Elphaba. (In the event you don’t know these main roles in “Lease” and “Depraved,” then perhaps this isn’t your night time.)

Mark will show to be a disruptive drive in “Which Solution to the Stage?,” a growth that injects a welcome rigidity into the proceedings. Nogueira makes use of the character to drive a sexual wedge between Jeff and Judy, which exposes different fault traces: Jeff is made uncomfortable by a few of Judy’s attitudes about homosexual males; Judy harbors misgivings about how girls are caricatured in Jeff’s drag act. Although the denouement proves to be just a little tidy, there’s genuine coronary heart on this amusing play.

Playwright Talene Monahon strives for yuks, too, in one other comedy with theatrical roots. “Jane Anger,” at Shakespeare Theatre Firm’s Klein Theatre, is about in 1606 within the London digs of Shakespeare himself. As performed by Michael Urie, a pure farceur if there ever was one, Will is affected by author’s block and contemplating lifting the plot and characters of an extant drama, one “King Leir,” to get again on observe. (His brainstorm being to vary “ei” within the title to “ea.”)

However underneath Jess Chayes’s route, the uneven play solely evinces laughs of the extra strained selection. There’s a scattershot high quality to the gibes and inadequate growth of its central thought, that of a lady aspiring to the life and renown of a dramatist. The lady is that this case is Amelia Workman’s Jane, who drops in to Will’s flat looking for his formal endorsement of her personal writing profession. He’s too consumed with self-importance to pay a lot discover: Kristen Robinson’s set is dominated by a portray of Urie so monumental it in all probability could possibly be seen from the opposite aspect of the Thames.

Ryan Spahn is readily available as a fawning drifter looking for employment, and Monahon seems as Shakespeare’s partner, Anne Hathaway, who’s traveled from Stratford-upon-Avon to inquire as to why her husband by no means comes residence. Urie’s patented drollness is the one estimable glue right here, in a satire that too typically lands with a Jacobean thud.

Which Solution to the Stage?, by Ana Nogueira. Directed by Ethan Heard. Set, Richard Ouellette; costumes, Frank Labovitz; lighting, Jesse Belsky; sound, Uptownworks: Noel Nichols, Bailey Trierweiler and Daniela Hart. About two hours. By Jan. 22 at Signature Theatre, 4200 Campbell Ave., Arlington.

Jane Anger, by Talene Monahon. Directed by Jess Chayes. Set, Kristen Robinson; costumes, Andrea Hood; lighting, Stacey Derosier; music and sound, Lindsay Jones. With Geoffrey Besser. About 95 minutes. By Jan. 8 at Klein Theatre, 450 seventh St. NW.

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