Luke Frazier’s latest takes him deep into Broadway’s golden age

With such a broad selection of live theater on offer this spring, it almost feels like the before times. Well, almost. Masks and proof of vaccination are still required at DMV venues, but there’s also a renewed feeling that productions will complete their runs. Here’s a smattering of some plays and musicals blossoming around town.

Through March 27, Washington Stage Guild presents George Bernard Shaw’s classic “Mrs. Warren’s Profession,” the story of a mother and daughter who sharply disagree on aspects of morality and business. When Shaw’s play premiered in 1905, it was considered scandalous for its candid discussion of the hypocrisy surrounding prostitution. Michael Rothhaar directs.

Arena Stage brings a little con-artistry to its campus this spring with “Catch Me If You Can” (through April 17). First a book, then a Leonardo DiCaprio film, and lastly a Broadway musical with a score by Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman and libretto by Terrence McNally, the late great out playwright who died from COVID-19 early in the pandemic, the show is about Abagnale Jr. who “posed as an airline pilot, a lawyer and a doctor — and then escaped police custody, all before he turned 22.” Arena’s out artistic director Molly Smith directs.

In Arlington, Signature Theatre presents “She Loves Me” (through April 24), a romantic musical comedy by Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick, the creators of “Fiddler on the Roof.” Set in a 1930s perfumery, it’s the story of quarrelsome co-workers who don’t realize each is the other’s besotted secret pen pal.

Helmed by Signature’s out artistic director Matthew Gardiner, the promising production brings together musical director Jon Kalbfleisch, choreographer Kelly Crandall d’Amboise, set designer Lee Savage, and a terrific cast that includes, among many others, Helen Hayes Award-winning actors Bobby Smith and Maria Rizzo.

Ford’s Theatre dives into spring with “Grace” (March 19-May 14). A world premiere musical by D.C. composer Nolan Williams, Jr., “Grace” celebrates African-American tradition as experienced through a day in the life of a Philadelphia family who come together to mourn the loss of their matriarch and deal with the future of their family restaurant in a changing neighborhood. Staged by out director and choreography Robert Barry Fleming.

Celebrated non-binary actor and queer activist Temídayo Amay plays opposite New York actor Eric Berryman in Mona Pirnot’s play “Private” (March 23 – April 17) at Mosaic Theater Company. What once might be deemed a far-fetched plot now sounds more than feasible: “Set in the not-too-distant future, Corbin has just been offered his dream job at an industry leading technology company. But there’s a catch. The terms of his employment stipulate that Corbin and his wife Georgia must both agree to round-the-clock monitoring and audio surveillance by Corbin’s potential employer.” Knud Adams directs.

Also upcoming at Mosaic, it’s young playwright Benjamin Benne’s queer romantic comedy “In His Hands” (June 22 – July 17). Directed by out director José Carrasquillo, it’s the story of video game wizard and aspiring Lutheran pastor Daniel (Michael J. Mainwariing), who develops feelings for Christian (Josh Adams), but as the pair explore relationship possibilities, voices from Christian’s past threaten to put the kibosh on shared feelings.

Keegan Theatre presents the regional premiere of Dipika Guha’s “Yoga Play” (March 26-April 23), a sharp comedy in which fat shaming, enlightenment, and commerce collide. Keegan’s dynamic artistic director Susan Marie Rhea directs.

Luke Frazier’s latest takes him deep into Broadway’s golden age

At Shakespeare Theatre Company, Arin Arbus is directing a modern-dress take on “The Merchant of Venice” (March 22-April 17). The Bard’s exploration of prejudice and mercy features renowned African-American actor John Douglas Thompson making his STC debut as Shylock, the eponymous moneylender.

Following “Merchant,” it’s gay playwright Thornton Wilder’s masterpiece “Our Town” (May 12 – June 11), a poignant portrayal of shared human experience set in turn-of-the-century smalltown Grover’s Corners, N.H. Staged by out director Alan Paul, the production –rescheduled from February to May due to COVID – features a truly stunning array of local talent including out actors Sarah Marshall, Tom Story, and Holly Twyford.

In April, Round House Theatre launches the National Capital New Play Festival, an annual event celebrating new work by some of the country’s leading playwrights and newer voices. Included among the premieres is playwright Charly Evon Simpson’s “it’s not a trip it’s a journey” (April 5-May 8). Four exceedingly disparate girlfriends leave behind New York City and their cell phones for an eye-opening road trip to the Grand Canyon. Nicole A. Watson directs.

Another festival offering is Tim J. Lord’s “We declare you a terrorist…” (April 7-May 8), a taut thriller inspired by Moscow’s real life 2002 Dubrovka Theater crisis in which Chechen rebels took hundreds hostage with deadly results. Ryan Rilett and Jared Mezzocchi co-direct.

In Tysons, 1st Stage presents Lisa B. Thompson’s “The Mamalogues” (April 21-May 8), a satirical comedy about three friends who share the joys, challenges, and anxieties of being middle class single Black mothers in predominantly white suburbs. Angelisa Gillyard directs.

Olney Theatre presents “Black Parade: A Drag Show Tribute to the Black Icons in Music” (April 29). For one night only, queens of color take the stage for some “fabulous strutting, lip-synching and dancing.”

In May, Olney presents “The Joy That Carries You” (May 11-June 12), a drama about an interracial couple in crisis by local playwriting team Awa Sal Secka and Dani Stoller Olney’s out artistic director Jason Loewith and Kevin McAllister co-direct.

And in June, Olney’s mainstage goes to River City with Meredith Wilson’s “The Music Man” (June 17-July 24), the Broadway hit about a con-artist whose best scam involves posing as a boys’ band organizer in smalltown America. Olney’s revolutionary production is performed in American Sign Language and English is staged by Michael Baron and Sandra Mae Frank and features terrific actor James Caverly who is deaf as confidence man, Professor Harold Hill.

Studio Theatre turns the witchy history of Salem Village on its ear with the world premiere of Kimberly Belflower’s “John Proctor Is the Villain” (April 17-June 6). In present day rural Georgia, high schoolers are reading “The Crucible.” But the assignment becomes all too relevant when scandal rocks their town. Marti Lyons directs.

At Theater J, spring brings “Nathan the Wise” (March 16-April 10). Here’s the gist of the play: In 12th century Jerusalem, Jews, Christians, and Muslims live side by side in peace. But when tensions inevitably rise, the ruling sultan asks which religion is most beloved by God. Jewish merchant Nathan attempts to answer the question. Adapted by Michael Bloom, Gotthold Ephraim Lessing’s 18th century fable is filled with mistaken identities, foiled romances, and relationships across cultural and religious divides. Theater J’s out artistic director Adam Immerwahr directs.

And next up, it’s “Fires in the Mirror: Crown Heights, Brooklyn, and Other Identities” (June 9–July 3). Conceived, written, and originally performed remarkably by Anna Deavere Smith, the documentary play time travels back to August 1991 when Brooklyn’s racially divided Crown Heights neighborhood erupted into riots after a Black child was killed by a car in a prominent Orthodox rabbi’s motorcade and a white Jewish scholar was killed in retaliation. The work uses verbatim testimony from individuals throughout the diverse community. January LaVoy is the sole actor (she plays 25+ characters) and she is co-directing with Adam Immerwahr.