Writing comedy is hard, but Monday night, Woolly Mammoth pulled off a smart, funny show to present its 34th season with company member Emily Townley (Tryst, Bright New Boise, House of Gold) turning in a performance that would make Billy Crystal envious.
At the opening, Townley entered in dressing robe and slippers to welcome the Pajama Men. “No. They’re in Tasmania,” Townley’s off-stage accomplice Omar Ingram announced dryly in what became a series of hilarious rejoinders as Townley’s show plan ran aground.
Artistic Director Howard Shalwitz carefully explained the season’s theme ‘America’s Tell-Tale Heart’: ““They paint a picture of the many façades of American life: the manicured lawns of our next-door neighbors, the cultural sensitivity of our colleagues, and the somber robes of the Supreme Court.
“But every façade eventually cracks, revealing the human fears, flaws, and foibles beneath. Some of these plays topped the “Ten Best” lists in New York last season, and some arrive brand-new. Each will come to DC in a fresh and ambitious production anchored by our award-winning Company of artists and their passion for a provocative conversation with Washington’s open-minded audiences.
“Try as we may, there’s no hiding the twisted heart of America. And when the lawn is dug up and the floorboards are torn back, what’s revealed is bound to be complex, haunting, and deliciously fun.”
Suitably chilling. And then, Townley and guests moved on to spoof each upcoming play and even Robert O’Hara, now resident playwright at Woolly who, it turns out, directed the show.
The evening ended with Townley watching on as Woolly staff got down to the business of encouraging its audience to engage in the upcoming season. She has been cast in the season’s opening comedy, Detroit, and hopefully has a busy acting schedule next year. But here’s hoping this won’t be her last hosting gig.
Woolly Mammoth’s Season 34, America’s Tell-Tale Heart
By Lisa D’Amour
Directed by John Vreeke
September 9–October 6, 2013
– A Pulitzer Prize Finalist and one of The New York Times top 10 plays of 2012, Lisa D’Amour’s Detroit is an explosive dark comedy that brilliantly captures our economic moment.
Recently laid off, Ben starts an e-business from his suburban home while his wife, Mary, keeps up with the Joneses. But when mysterious new neighbors Sharon and Kenny arrive, the façade of their upwardly mobile lives begins to crack. Soon they find themselves increasingly pulled towards their wild new friends—to incendiary effect.
By Branden Jacobs-Jenkins
Directed by Liesl Tommy
November 4–December 1, 2013
In this searing and audacious comic drama, the estranged members of the Lafayette family return to Arkansas, and their crumbling old plantation home, to settle the accounts of their recently deceased patriarch. As they sort through a hoarded lifetime of mementos and junk, they discover a gruesome relic that sends the family spiraling into a dark history of repressed memories and family secrets.
African-American playwright Branden Jacobs-Jenkins returns to his hometown of Washington, DC with a production that appropriates a classic trope—the great white family drama á la O’Neill or Tennessee Williams—to brilliantly subvert our assumptions, and challenge us to re-consider our own histories and souls.
JUST THE TWO OF EACH OF US
Created and performed by The Pajama Men
AKA Shenoah Allen and Mark Chavez
Music by Kevin Hume
December 10, 2013–January 5, 2014
Comedy duo The Pajama Men took DC by storm this past Holiday season. In addition to performing to sold-out houses every night, the remarkable Mark and Shenoah spent their days in the Woolly rehearsal hall, creating and developing their newest piece, Just the Two of Each of Us. The show blends their trademark wit, characters, improv, and fast-paced physical comedy with plenty of new surprises. It is our great pleasure to welcome them back.
WE ARE PROUD TO PRESENT A PRESENTATION ABOUT THE HERERO OF NAMIBIA, FORMERLY KNOWN AS SOUTH WEST AFRICA, FROM THE GERMAN SUDWESTAFRIKA, BETWEEN THE YEARS 1884-1915
By Jackie Sibblies Drury
Directed by Michael John Garcés
February 10–March 9, 2014
A rehearsal room descends from collaborative to absurd as a group of idealistic actors—three black and three white—come together to tell the little-known story of a centuries-old conflict in South West Africa. As the troupe try to recreate the extinction of the Herero tribe at the hands of their German colonizers, their own stories, subjectivities, and ingrained prejudices rise to the surface. Tensions mount as the actors discover the limits of their good intentions.
One of The New York Times top 10 plays of 2012, We Are Proud to Present… is innovative, fast-paced, funny, and a wholly unique take on race, empathy, and the devastating consequences of our best intentions.
Created and Performed by Elevator Repair Service
Directed by John Collins
March 31–April 20, 2014
“How does one draw that line between Salome and the Kitty Kat Lounge?”– Chief Justice Antonin Scalia
Elevator Repair Service—the innovative company that created Gatz—comes to Woolly with their newest show, Arguendo. This time, they bring their unique theatrical style to the Supreme Court, tackling the 1991 First Amendment case Barnes v. Glen Theatre, brought to the court by a group of go-go dancers petitioning for their right to perform completely naked.
Using verbatim oral arguments and playful physicality, Arguendo introduces us to the Justices—who try to get to the bottom of this First Amendment puzzle—and the poor attorneys on both sides who gamely try to keep up. Each performance will be followed by a post-show conversation with noted First Amendment experts, providing even deeper insights into the workings of the venerable third pillar of our Democratic system.
By Peter Sinn Nachtrieb
Directed by Robert O’ Hara
June 2–29, 2014
“Freedom From Fear!” Francine, the ambitious speechwriter for a rich housewife’s vanity campaign for public office, has stumbled upon pure gold: a perfectly patriotic slogan. So what if it’s totally meaningless? And so what if her doctor husband disapproves? With it Francine can turn the campaign around and make her ditzy candidate electrifyingly powerful—and finally, just maybe, get herself out of Nebraska.
Written by Peter Sinn Nachtrieb, author of Boom, this high-energy farce exposes just how vacuous and absurd our political language has become. If you worship at the altar of Colbert, if you religiously watch The Daily Show, you won’t want to miss The Totalitarians.
– Subscriptions are now on sale online, through the Box Office at 202-393-3939, or in person at 641 D Street, NW (7th & D). Single tickets will go on sale on July 1, 2013.