Dog & Pony DC.
The planting of a time capsule may rank among the most prosaic of civic events. But the audience-participation advocates at tiny Dog & Pony DC — one of the smartest young companies in the city —made it their mission to show how a Midwestern town meeting convened for a public vote on the contents of a capsule (shaped like a beer barrel), could be a profound, highly entertaining lesson in democracy’s group dynamics. The success of the piece, produced in a Woolly Mammoth rehearsal space on a budget that wouldn’t pay the monthly electric bill for some bigger theaters, renewed one’s faith that ingenuity knows no price point.
4. “Really Really”,
Here, in the region’s leading musical factory was built the world-premiere production of a sharp new play by Paul Downs Colaizzo that looked at college- age members of Generation Me, curled its upper lip and uttered a persuasive “Yuck.” A smashing cast under Matthew Gardiner’s direction skillfully navigated Colaizzo’s clever narrative maze of misleading intersections and blind alleys, in a provocative tale of sexual violence and ruthless self-advancement among our nation’s overly entitled youth. (David Cromer directs it in its off-Broadway premiere at MCC Theater in January.)
5. “The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart”,
Shakespeare Theatre Company.
It’s difficult to overstate the debt D.C. playgoers owe to this classical company with a healthy appetite for sealing deals in Europe. This hunger has led the troupe to regularly supplement the local theater diet with vital pieces from across the sea, among them: “Black Watch,” Helen Mirren in “Phedre,” John Hurt in “Krapp’s Last Tape” and “The Great Game: Afghanistan.” Now to that roster it added “Prudencia Hart,” a site-specific play from the National Theatre of Scotland, set in a Scottish bar. For the run here, Shakespeare turned the Bier Baron Tavern near Dupont Circle into a temporary playhouse. The results were joyous for spectators, who watched and listened as five actors roved among them, spinning a tall tale with music about a researcher into Scottish border ballads and her date with the devil.
6. “The Normal Heart”,
Larry Kramer’s devastating 1985 AIDS play received the marvelous Broadway treatment it always deserved in 2011, thanks to a flawless revival by director George C. Wolfe that rewardingly wrung audiences out. He restaged that version for Arena in June, with a couple of actors from the New York production and many new recruits. In all aspects its wrenching impact remained intact. Patrick Breen, Luke Macfarlane and Patricia Wettig played the central roles, all with the passion Kramer infused the piece, and with the effect of confirming it as one of the great American plays of the late 20th Century.