Theater J will be all around town during the 2018-2019 theater season, as the Edlavitch DCJCC makes significant renovations to its digs on 16th Street. While the Jewish Cultural Center will be building a better box office and making improvements to accessibility, among other renovations, Theater J will be staging productions at Arena Stage, the Kennedy Center, GALA and Georgetown University.
The Theater J season selections will be all over the place, too: a classic of the Yiddish theater, a solo show about a concert pianist, performed by a concert pianist, a new play by Anna Ziegler (Photograph 51) and a Pulitzer-winning drama by Lanford Wilson.
Here’s how the season will open: a fourteen-year-old Jewish girl named Lisa Jura has become a brilliant pianist, mastering Edvard Greig’s supremely difficult Piano Concerto. Unfortunately for her, she masters it in 1938 Vienna, where the Nazis are in full toxic bloom. Her teacher suddenly refuses to give her further lessons, and on Kristallnacht, her father comes home from a beating with a ticket for her to the Kindertransport, which will take her to England. In The Pianist of Willesden Lane, Jura’s daughter, the concert pianist Mona Golabek, tells her mother’s harrowing story while reproducing the music she eventually played to world acclaim. Jura was an actual historical figure, and Golabek is her daughter. Charles Isherwood of the New York Times called Pianist a “deeply affecting memoir-once-removed” and David C. Nichols of the Los Angeles Times called it “an arresting, deeply affecting triumph.” The Pianist of Willesden Lane will run from September 12-30, 2018 at the Kennedy Center’s Family Theater. Hershey Felder will direct, as he has done throughout the play’s run.
Next, Theater J will take up temporary residence at Arena Stage’s Kogod Cradle Theater for Anna Ziegler’s Actually, in which another pianist, the young African-American Princeton student Tom Anthony and his Jewish classmate Amber Cohen have drunken sex, and then talk about it in front of a campus review board, which is considering Cohen’s charge of rape against Anthony. Vulture’s Sara Holdron called Actually a “taut, devastating new play” (it debuted in late 2017). It runs between October 17 and November 18 of this year, and Johanna Gruenhut directs.
Theater J moves to GALA’s Tivoli Theater at 3333 14th Street NW for its final production of 2018: Lanford Wilson’s Pulitzer-winning Talley’s Folly, the second of Wilson’s Talley Trilogy (the others being Talley & Son and The Fifth of July). It is 1944 in Missouri, and Matt Friedman is in love with a woman he can’t possibly have: Sally Talley, the daughter of a profoundly bigoted Protestant family. The New York Daily News’ Joe Dziemianowicz called Talley’s Folly, which also won the 1980 Drama Desk Award, “a valentine to unlikely love * * * packed with plain-spoken poetry and everyday poignance.” Aaron Posner will direct this play, which will run from December 6 to 31; Erin Weaver will play Sally Talley.
The 2019 portion of the theater season will be given over to Theater J’s first production from its Yiddish Theater Lab — The Jewish Queen Lear, taken from the Yiddish Theater classic Mirele Efros (which is often called “The Jewish Queen Lear”). In this 1898 play, Mirele Efros, an autocratic but highly successful businesswoman (she inherited the business from her late husband) is persuaded by her rapacious daughter-in-law and her two weak-willed sons to surrender her business and her house to them. Exiled, and alienated from her family, she is offered reconciliation just in advance of her grandson’s bar mitzvah. Michael Handelzalts of Haaretz offers that it “is unquestionably the representative play of Yiddish theater,” and that “one must admit that it is an amazingly effective work.” Theater J Artistic Direct Adam Immerwahr will direct this play, which will run from March 13 to April 7 at Georgetown University’s Davis Performing Arts Center. The Georgetown University Theater and Performing Studies Program will partner with Theater J in this production.
To subscribe to Theater J 2018-2019 season, click here. Theater J is offering subscribers an opportunity to purchase tickets to three other plays being offered by area theaters: Paula Vogel’s Indecent at Arena Stage (November 23-December 30, 2018), Oslo by J.T. Rogers produced by Round House at Shakespeare’s Lansburgh Theatre (April 24-May 19, 2019) and Describe the Night, Rajiv Joseph’s play at Woolly Mammoth May 21-June 23, 2019).