Bethesda’s Round House Theatre has staked its claim as the area’s premiere space for new stuff in the 2017-2018 season.
That season — Round House’s 40th — will feature one world premiere, one American premiere, two regional premieres, and what Lin-Manuel Miranda wrote before he wrote Hamilton.
The Miranda piece is In the Heights, which Round House is co-producing with Olney Theatre Center. The story celebrates the vibrant immigrant community of Washington Heights, where a young woman who has flunked out of Stanford returns to her family, sad and embarrassed. But her neighborhood is too vital to sustain bad feeling; especially after somebody local wins the lottery. Featuring two-time Tony nominee Robin de Jesús and directed and choreographed by Marcos Santana. This musical’s run between September 6 and October 1 of 2017, will be at Olney Theatre Center.
The world premiere — Sarah Gancher’s I’ll Get You Back — follows. Gancher, who won the A.R. Gurney prize for her The Place We Built, has created a story about a stand-up comedian who unexpectedly assumes her dead father’s place as a bassist in a sixties psychedelic rock band. Rachel Chavkin will direct this production, which will run from October 4 to October 29 of this year.
Laura Gunderson (I and You, Miss Bennett: Christmas at Pemberley) closes the 2017 portion of Round House’s season with The Book of Will, a fantasy and adventure about the struggles of a couple of actors who decide that they must preserve the work of a friend of theirs — a fella by the name of William Shakespeare. “Gunderson…has peopled the stage with lively, historically based characters, joking, drinking, expressing familial love or professional rivalry, acting Shakespearean scenes and squabbling — primarily about whether the task they’re undertaking is necessary or even doable,” said critic Juliet Wittman of Westworld. “She paints a vivid portrait of the times in language sometimes formal, sometimes poetic and often as contemporary as ‘shits and giggles.’ She also gives a real feel for theater life and what it means to be an actor; you sense this is a work of both scholarship and love.” Round House AD Ryan Rilette will direct this production, which will run from November 29 to December 24, 2017.
The 2018 portion of Round House’s season will start about two women of a certain age locked in semi-mortal combat. One of them is Margaret Thatcher, and the other is the Queen of England. Moira Buffini’s Handbagged, making its American premiere, has been widely praised: Tim Walker, of the London Telegraph, called it “funny, insightful… Seeing [the] show a second time…I found myself appreciating its brilliance all the more…” Indhu Rubasingham, who directed the original for Tricycle Theatre (The Great Game — Afghanistan), will direct here. Of this director, Walker says “Only a director of Indhu Rubasingham’s sensitivity could cope with the gear changes that shift the action from slapstick to moments of almost unbearable pathos”. From January 31 to February 25 of next year; this will be part of the Women’s Voices Theater Festival.
Round House will then go classic with Athol Fugard’s “MASTER HAROLD”…and the Boys, a story about three men who are great friends…but two of them are servants, and black, and the other is a teenage boy, and white, and they are in South Africa. Generally considered Fugard’s most impactful work, “MASTER HAROLD” will run from April 11 to May 6, 2018; Rilette will direct.
To round out the Round House season, Tom Story will direct The Legend of Georgia McBride, the story of a backwater Elvis impersonator who finds out he is losing his job the night that his wife announces that she’s pregnant. In desperation he becomes a drag queen. A fabulously successful drag queen. This piece by Matthew Lopez (who, improbably, also wrote the civil war drama The Whipping Man) won high praise from the New York Times’ Charles Isherwood: “a stitch-in-your-side funny, if improbable, new comedy.” From June 6 to July 1 of next year.
In addition to its main schedule, Round House will be hosting a visit from the fabulous, Helen-Hayes-Award-Winning Happenstance Theater. Bon Voyage is the story of 19th-century travelers to Paris, doomed to comic misadventures culminating in the Grand Universal Exposition of 1889. From July 14-30, 2017.
And next year, famed TYA author Megan McCafferty will be adapting Sloppy Firsts — the initial entry into the Jessica Darling series — to the stage. The Round House Teen Performance Company will do the honors, from March 16 to 18.