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Local Theaters Earn Recognition

Nominations for Helen Hayes and WATCH Awards are announced.

Arts Entertainment Leisure

Winter Shopping Event Set for Feb. 6

The Sixth Annual Boutique District Ware- house Sale, a one-day clearance spectacular featuring high-end boutique merchandise, will be held at the George Washington Masonic Me- morial from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 6.

By Brad Hathaway The Gazette

A r e a p r o f e s s i o n a l t h e a t e r s l e a r n e d o f t h e i r w o r k s n o m i n a t i o n s f o r t h e c o v e t e d H e l e n H a y e s A w a r d f o r o u t s t a n d i n g w o r k o n p r o f e s - sional stages throughout the region on Monday night while the community the- aters learned of the nominations for the Washington Area Theatre Community Hon- ors (WATCH) Awards last week. Put to- gether, work at 10 companies from Arling- ton and Alexandria received nominations.

With professional companies performing at many different venues, it is not always easy to tabulate how the work in one area fared. For example, while Arena Stage which performs both in Crystal City and in Washington, drew 10 nominations, only three of them were for work in Crystal City. However, they were in big categories: their production of the drama “The Quality of

Life” was nominated for Outstanding Pla , Outstanding Direction and outstanding Ensemble in a Play.

Similarl , Arlington-based Keegan The- atre received five nominations but they were all for a show performed in Washing- ton. “Rent” was nominated for the Out- standing Musical and its directors Mark A. Rhea and Susan Marie Rhea, its musical director Aaron Broderick and actor Parker Drown who played “Angel” were also nomi- nated.

Another company performing on both sides of the Potomac is Synetic Theatre, and again this year, they scored a host of nomi- nations including three for choreographer Irina Tsikurishvili who continues her domi- nation of that category having been nomi- nated every year for the past dozen years, winning the award seven times. Her direc- tor/husband Paata Tsikurishvili, was nomi- nated again this year as well. Resident de- signer Anastasia Ryurikov Simes also had

multiple nominations in the costume design category. All together, the company drew 13 nominations including Outstanding Play for their wordless but charming “A Midsum- mer Night’s Dream.”

No such confusion is involved when it comes to the work at MetroStage in Alex- andria which received seven nominations, six of which were for the musical “Cool Papa’s Party” including one for Thomas W. Jones II who directed it and one for Maurice Hines who handled choreography. “Heroes,” a touching three-character drama with Ralph Cosham, John Dow and Michael Tolaydo, was nominated for Outstanding Ensemble in a play.

Arlington’s Signature Theatre which won last year’s Tony Award for Outstanding Re- gional Theatre had fewer nominations for the Helen Hayes award this year than it has in some years past. Among their eight nomi- nations were nods in the direction of a num

See Theaters, Page 22

1 Actor - 35 Parts - 1 Incredible Story

Andrew Long tackles “I Am My Own Wife” at Signature.

By Brad Hathaway The Gazette

Where and When

“I Am My Own Wife” continues through March 7 in The ARK at Signa- ture Theatre, 4200 Campbell Avenue in Shirlington. Performances are Tuesday and Wednesday at 7:30 p.m., Thursday

  • -

    Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 7

    • p.

      m. with Saturday and Sunday mati-

nees at 2 p.m. Tickets are $47-$71. Call 703-573-7328 or log on to www.signature-theatre.org.

E ven people who say they don’t particularly care for solo performance shows because, after all, watching just one actor all evening long can of- ten be something of a bore — find that the one-actor but 35-charac- ter play, which won the 2004 Pulitzer Prize for Drama, thor- oughly engrossing and satisfying.

At least they do if the one per- former is worth his salt and, in Andrew Long, Arlington’s Signa- ture Theatre found an actor who can hold the stage — and everyone’s attention — for the full evening without seeming to resort to cheap tricks. His secret is that he trusts in the richness of the characters that author Doug Wright crafted in an effort to tell a most extraordinary story.

“I Am My Own Wife” is the story of Charlotte von Mahlsdorf who was born male in 1928 in what became East German , but chose to live life as a woman. Her pas- sion was furniture, but her chal- lenge was survival. First the Nazis and then the Communists cracked down on unorthodox life styles. In 1991, after half a century of sur- viving such repressions, she

Helen Hayes Award-Winner Andrew Long stars in “I Am My Own Wife” at Signature Theatre.

moved to Sweden to live out her final days. Ah, but what compro- mises did she really have to make to have survived the Third Reich and the Cold War?

Just covering such a multi-fac- eted story in one evening might be quite a challenge. But Wright found additional dramatic mate- riel in his own struggle to under- stand Mahlsdorf, so he wrote a play about his own efforts to re- search a play about Mahlsdorf. He structured it in such a way that one actor can play both the playwright

and his subject as well as many people through whose memories the tale unfolds.

When the play was first pro- duced in New York it earned a Tony Award for its one actor, Jefferson Mayes. When it closed on Broadway, Mayes took the show on the road, performing it in Washington at the National The- atre in 2005. Since then, local the- ater companies have found in it a property that can challenge an actor, a director and a design team and also can satisfy an audience

while avoiding the expense of a large cast or multiple sets. In fact, the attraction to theater compa- nies of such a potentially inexpen- sive show able to sell a good num- ber of tickets has been so strong that a recent tabulation showed it to be one of the 10 most produced non-classic plays in the past 10 years.

Signature’s production doesn’t skimp in terms of talent. Andrew Long appeared at Signature in its somewhat strange production of “My Fair Lady” and its premiere of

the musical “Saving Aimee.” He is a classically trained actor who is well known to local theater lovers for many performances at the Shakespeare Theatre Company as well as notable roles at other lo- cal companies including Studio Theatre where he earned the Helen Hayes Award for Outstand- ing Actor in the searing drama “Frozen.”

His is an almost subtle treatment of a very flamboyant script. It isn’t that he shies away from the pecu- liarities of the multiple characters he has to bring to life, but rather he puts the emphasis on those characters and not on his transi- tions from one to the other. That way he avoids drawing undue at- tention to himself as an actor, and instead, concentrates the audience’s focus on the story. And with a story this interesting and intricate, covering decades of chal- lenges and deceptions, this con- centration is a good thing.

Brad Hathaway reviews theater in Virginia, Washington and Mary- land as well as Broadway and writes about theater for a number of na- tional magazines. He can be reached at Brad@PotomacStages.com.


Mount Vernon Gazette January 28 - February 3, 2010 15

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