In today's entry, I want to draw attention to two shows running in the DC metro area, both of which feature some of the finest ensemble acting I've ever seen in the area. I haven't made a huge habit of blogging about theatre, but these shows are so excellent that I would actually be upset if they weren't seen by every single person that would enjoy them (and there are a LOT that would, I believe). The shows: Forum Theatre's double bill of Angels in America: Millenium Approaches and Angels in America: Perestroika, and Constellation Theatre Company's A Flea in Her Ear.
I'll start with Angels in America. I admit that I had the rare experience of a theatre person seeing Angels through completely fresh eyes, having never read the play, seen the TV movie, or seen it onstage (but then again, how many have?). So watching Tony Kushner's epic 7 hour beautifully pretentious and hilarious masterpiece was a treat in every way, most especially in the way of watching some of DC's finest actors doing their craft at the top of their game. Individually remarkable, but as a cohesive whole even moreso. Nonetheless, I was floored by every single performance. And though at various points I find myself remembering them all, three in particular haunt me.
Obviously there is Karl Miller's Prior, the centerpoint of the play's Angels/AIDS story and the role that usually gets all the attention (and rightly so). But dammit if he doesn't deserve every heap of praise, every effusion in a review, every random comment by an audience member. Because that performance was alive, and perhaps intentionally and ironically so as Prior spends most of the show in emotional and physical turmoil. It's a tour-de-force, at times hilarious, profound, and unbearable to watch.
The second I want to mention is Casie Platt's Harper. Slight and magnetic are the words that come to mind for me. Her delivery is spot-on, her humor sharp, and her sadness so clear yet almost never overt. There was a moment where she was just walking across the stage, skulking in her small and mopey way, where you just feel so strongly sorry for her. And worry.
Finally, I want to talk for a second about Alexander Strain and his Louis. I am so utterly impressed with this performance, not because of anything extraordinary, but because nothing was extraordinary, if that makes sense. It was the kind of performance where the character, the ticks, the speech, etc., were all so natural and completely realized that you just take it for granted, like, 'there's the character just living up there and doing stuff'. And that kind of performance is so difficult, believe me, so expert, so subtle, that it's bound to get overlooked, and it must be acknowledged by someone. Because of that, I'd venture to say that Strain was the finest of all up there. And that's saying a lot.
You've got until November 21 to see Millenium and November 22 to see Perestroika. And you have to see both, unless you like a) leaving with no resolution, or b) coming in in the middle totally confused. These play at the Round House Theatre Silver Spring space (located near the corner of Georgia Ave. and Colesville Rd, and about 2 blocks NE of the Silver Spring metro).
And possibly because of the emotional pounding I took from Angels, I was really ready for something light and fun. A Flea in Her Ear gave me just that, making me laugh my ass off, but seeing another powerhouse ensemble in DC theatre so soon (literally, a day) after the other play made me so tremendously proud of this town. Flea's ensemble was a machine - perfect timing, great physical characterizations, deliveries, not a moment for comedy missed. Thank God Georges Feydeau (by way of David Ives, one of my favorite playwrights) gives us breaks. What we have here is exceptional farce: laugh-a-minute pace, pratfalls, and larger-than-life characters, and once again there's not a weak link to spot. In fact, I only want to briefly draw special attention to two actors. First is Matt McGloin, simply because he accomplished a tremendously difficult task in taking all the physical and timing-related mastery of the rest of the cast and then adding the most ridiculous speech impediment ever on top of it, just enough to confuse the rest of the characters yet have the audience understand everything they need to, and also to make the audience crack up every time the boy opens his mouth. Amazing stuff. And finally a quick nod to Michael Glenn, truly one of DC's finest, for creating two incredibly well defined separate characters.
A Flea in Her Ear just got extended to November 14, at the Source Theatre (14th and T St NW, near the U St metro). There's even a Monday show on November 9 if you're a working actor. Go!
So I gush away at these awesome plays, and I don't gush a lot (ok, I do, but I don't blog-gush a lot). I truly believe that these two shows are unmissable, have terrific casts, and are both being produced by companies that thoroughly deserve to succeed. And they're not that expensive, which is also a plus. Get going!