Onstage, Alexandria: April 2024

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Onstage,  Alexandria: April 2024
The cast of ‘Peter Pan’ at the National Theatre. (Photo/Matthew Murphy)
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By Mark Edelman

April showers may come your way, along with the tail end of those lovely cherry blossoms. In the meantime, these plays are blooming in the coming months all over theaters in the region.

“MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS,” Alexandria Little Theatre, until April 13

Washington, D.C.’s own Ken Ludwig adapted Agatha Christie’s potboiler about a wealthy American businessman discovered dead on the eponymous and opulent Continental sleeper train. If “whodunit?” is a question you enjoy pondering, this plot-twisting masterpiece should be just the thrill ride for you. 

“AT THE WEDDING,” Studio Theatre, until April 20

Carlo crashes her ex’s wedding with three simple goals: don’t get drunk, don’t make any kids cry and don’t try to win back the bride, no matter how boring the groom is. Studio offers up a new comedy about loneliness, estrangement and a slow-burn romance. 

“PENELOPE,” Signature Theater, until April 21

Penelope, Odysseus’ wife, is fed up and has some things she wants to say about those 20 years waiting back in Ithaca while hubby got all the ink in Homer’s “The Iliad” and “The Odyssey.” The musical flips the script on the dutiful wife, as Penelope steps out of the background to claim her share of the spotlight. 

“NANCY,” Mosaic Theater, until April 21

It’s 1985 and two women are hard at work steering their futures: Nancy Reagan using astrology to help guide her hubby’s political career and Esmeralda, a Navajo mother, advocating for her community. Their worlds converge when they discover Nancy is a descendant of Pocahontas in this very local play about ancestry and ambition. 

“HESTER STREET,” Theater J, until April 21

The world premiere of the stage adaptation of Joan Micklin Silver’s 1975 film tells the uplifting tale of a young woman from Eastern Europe who arrives with her little boy in New York City’s Lower East Side circa 1890, where she discovers that her husband, who journeyed ahead of her, has already embraced a new American life she does not understand. Faced with the disintegration of her marriage, Gitl must find her voice, protect her son and redefine herself in this strange land. 

“PETER PAN,” The National Theatre, until April 21

If you believe in fairies, you know what to do: clap your hands so Tinkerbell survives, the Lost Boys defeat Captain Hook and the darling children return from Neverland to their nursery and beloved pooch, Nana. Playwright Larissa FastHorse has adapted this musical chestnut, removing the racist elements and giving Wendy and Tiger Lily their due. And, spoiler alert – Peter is finally played by a boy! 

“ISLANDER,” Olney Theatre Center, until April 28

Only one child lives on tiny Kinnan Island and the Scottish government plans to resettle the rest of the population. But, one day, a baby whale beaches itself and, miraculously, a young girl appears. The two children bond and take us on a magical journey that won the Best Musical award at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. 

“A JUMPING OFF POINT,” Round House Theatre, until May 5

A promising Black female writer lands her first deal with HBO, only to be confronted with a white male from her graduate school days who accuses her of stealing his work. Their conflict forces us to consider sources, privilege and who gets to tell what kind of stories in this incendiary, provocative world premiere. 

“WEBSTER’S BITCH,” The Keegan Theatre, until May 5

Gender and obscenity in the age of social media threatens to bring down that most sacred of institutions: Webster’s Dictionary. Office politics collide with ambition, morality and lexicography in this dark comedy about vulgar words and the people who define them. 

“MACBETH,” Shakespeare Theatre Co., until May 5

In the theatrical event of the season, “English Patient” star Ray Fiennes and “Game of Thrones” star Indira Varma play the unmentionable Scottish prince and his ruthless mother in a production of the Shakespeare tragedy that’s wowing them in the West End. Performed immersively on a soundstage that formerly housed BET Studios, the Scottish play cautions that our minds may deceive us, but a guilty conscience will undo us all. 

“UNKNOWN SOLDIER,” Arena Stage, until May 5

The photo of an anonymous recruit, hidden among her grandmother’s keepsakes, sends a woman on a sweeping musical journey to discover the secrets of her family’s past. With Broadway talent and a name producer attached, this one looks like another pre-Broadway transfer. 

“LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS,” Ford’s Theatre, until May 18

That big old scary plant returns to Ford’s in this musical theater favorite. Doo wop and Motown infuse a classic boy-meets-girl, boy-introduces-girl-to carnivorous, blood-thirsty plant story with a great score by Disney’s Alan Menken and Howard Ashman. 

“BEAUTY & THE BEAST,” Toby’s Dinner Theatre, until June 16

A tale as old as time. What more can you ask of the Disney juggernaut? The Mouse House’s first Broadway hit, it revitalized not only the Great White Way but big screen animation, too. With a Tony Award-winning score by Alan Menken and lyrics by Howard Ashman, this production is one for the ages. 

“HAIR,” Signature Theatre, until July 7

The American tribal love-rock musical returns in all its psychedelic glory. When some long-haired hippies on the cusp of adulthood cry out for freedom, peace and joy, they are confronted instead with a world thrown into chaos when one of them receives a draft notice for the Vietnam War. Oh, and there’s a love-in, too. 

The writer is a playwright who loves writing about theater. He is a lifetime member of the Broadway League and a Tony voter.

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