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As a former writer for The Wire, George Pelecanos knows a thing or two about shaping underworld tropes into wholly unique and beloved characters of contemporary fiction. In the years since The Wire went off the air, Pelecanos has amassed a deep catalogue of crime novels. His latest work, The Martini Shot, is an anthology of short stories anchored by a 118-page novella. While most of the stories take place in or around his hometown of D.C., the novella is set in rural Louisiana. Dark and unsparing, it centers on Victor Ohanion, a writer and producer of a cable television detective series—in a sense conflating Pelecanos’s very own experiences as a writer on the set of Treme with the gumshoe premise of True Detective. In the unwavering tradition of Pelecanos titles, The Martini Shot doesn’t offer much in the way of flowery prose, but the unholy trinity of sex, money, and murder explodes off the pages. February 21 at Politics & Prose. Free. —Harold Stallworth

Forget Batman and The Avengers. Indie comics need love, too, and Smudge Expo is here to give it to them. Curated by Magic Bullet editor Matt Dembicki and comic and art enthusiast Tina Henry, the expo brings creators of comics, graphic novels, editorial cartoons, and other media together to collaborate, exhibit work, and share ideas. Last year’s show attracted such notable names and artists as syndicated cartoonist Steve Artley, “Splotch Monster” creator Steve Loya, and illustrator-comedian Teresa Roberts Logan. This year’s sessions include comic historian Katherine Roeder’s lecture on 19th-century comics, a lesson on designing educational comic books by the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and a symposium on race and color in comics. There will be plenty for kids to do, too: Fun-sized future illustrators can learn to draw, make pin buttons, or learn about basic storytelling. March 14 at Artisphere. Free. —Tim Regan

This is one of the biggies on the literary awards landscape. The prize boasts a list of past winners that includes Philip Roth, E.L. Doctorow, and Sherman Alexie—and that’s just in the past decade. Typically, these major awards ceremonies take place in posh New York City ballrooms, but D.C. gets this one all to itself. And, while the price of entry’s pretty steep, the ticket doesn’t just buy you dinner. It also gives you a chance to see the literary titans named as finalists, hear them read from their works, and simply share the same light and air as a person you’ve likely only ever encountered in print—which, for a book geek, can be a strange and transcendent experience. May 2 at Folger Elizabethan Theatre. $100. —Colin Dwyer

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Lewis Black’s brutally scathing commentary on the socio-political landscape (as well as his eye-bulging, pissed-off delivery) has made him a star. Everything from the American economy to dubiously chosen Starbucks locations can and will go under his piercing microscope. On its own, that would be a show worth seeing—it’s guaranteed to end in side-splitting laughter (agreeing with his politics certainly helps). But this special event entitled Let Freedom Laugh will put Black at the top of a bill with acclaimed comics like Dick Gregory and Tom Smothers as well as new faces Ahmed Ahmed, Cristela Alonzo, John Fugelsang, and Chris Bliss. The one night event is presented by MyBillOfRights.org and will coincide with the launch of the Matching Fund Endowment. This ambitious project aims to bring monuments to the Bill of Rights to all 50 state capitals. Feb. 28 at Warner Theatre. $70–$112.50. —Valerie Paschall

A career that begins in reality television isn’t always an auspicious forebear for later success in the entertainment world, but Christina Paszitsky has comfortably outgrown her MTV roots. With self-deprecating humor (she talks up her “going out” sweatpants), Pazsitzky has made her mark on shows like Chelsea Lately (where she was both a writer and regular roundtable guest) and How to Be a Grown Up. In January, she released an energetic stand-up special, Man of the Year, that proved there are still new ways to take pot shots at easy targets like TLC wedding shows and Slipknot. March 5–8 at DC Improv. $15. —Valerie Paschall

This baby-faced comedian distinguished himself several years ago as a correspondent on The Daily Show, but he has since released two specials, created an insightful if short-lived TV show (Important Things With Demetri Martin), and appeared in a slew of films (2013’s low-budget release In a World…was a highlight). He’ll be filming his newest special, The Persistence of Jokes, over three shows at the Lincoln Theatre. Whether or not his giant notepad or other props make an appearance remains to be seen, but his deadpan delivery and witty one-liners will likely be in peak condition due to the presence of the cameras. March 6–7 at Lincoln Theatre: $40. —Valerie Paschall

Pete Holmes’ fame comes just as much from being an affable goof as it does from quality joke writing. The tall sandy-haired comic with the wide smile spends quite a bit of time on his titular TBS talk show deflecting his guests’ barbs at his persona, his distinctive laugh or his tacky wardrobe. But the lovable comedian also excels at bringing the quirks out in other people during his podcast “You Made It Weird.” That may be why he always looks like he’s on the verge of laughing at his own material and admits to suspending his disbelief during magic shows. Feb. 20–22 at DC Improv. $22. —Valerie Paschall

Jen Kirkman’s delivery is so direct and unassuming that her jokes’ surrealism can sneak up on the listener. Although this comes out in the material that she’s spent years perfecting (like her assertion that her hypothetical daughter should be afraid of monsters under the bed—because that’s where they live), it’s her unscripted work that shows off her true comedic genius. This explains why she became a well-loved narrator in Drunk History’s earliest iteration and why she makes repeated returns to Nerdist’s improv-oriented Set List: Stand-Up Without a Net series. Feb. 27–28 at Arlington Drafthouse. $22. —Valerie Paschall

Fictional 30 Rock writer Frank Rossitano is just as memorable for his thick glasses and trucker hats adorned with self-aggrandizing phrases as he is for his seemingly dense one-liners. That the actor/comedian who played him, Judah Friedlander, embraces those stylistic choices in his stand-up life is less an example of life imitating art (especially since the show ended in 2012) than art imitating life. That said, the self-described “World Champ” plays a different sort of character in front of the microphone, choosing instead to do things like overinflate his sense of importance, intelligence, and physical prowess in complete deadpan. Due to his skill and total ownership of his own weirdness, the effect is endearing and hilarious—Friedlander never comes off as a self-important jerk. Plus, he writes his own cartoon strips (starring himself, of course), and that’s pretty awesome in its own right. April 16–19 at DC Improv. $17. —Valerie Paschall

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Since 2010, when he turned F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby into a dreamy evening of dance, Washington Ballet Artistic Director Septime Webre has transformed great American works of fiction through the company’s “American Experience” series. After presenting Hemingway: The Sun Also Rises in 2013, he turned his attention to an 18th-century tale that’s far eerier than the lost society novels he previously adapted: Washington Irving’s Legend of Sleepy Hollow. Webre tells the story of young schoolteacher Ichabod Crane and the Headless Horseman with help from the Smithsonian American Art Museum, whose curators showed him paintings from the Hudson River School that in turn inspired his designs. As for how Webre and his team will represent a headless character, you’ll just have to wait and see the stage magic for yourself. Feb. 18–22 at the Kennedy Center Eisenhower Theater. $45–$145.

Continuing the Kennedy Center’s annual spring tradition of putting on an arts festival showcasing a specific part of the world, this year’s IBERIAN SUITE: global arts remix will celebrate the cultures of Portuguese- and Spanish-speaking peoples through music, dance, theater, and culinary and literature events from Portugal, Spain, Latin America, Africa, and the Caribbean. Highlights will include Spanish flamenco dancers, Portuguese Fado singers, a Bolivian choir, and panels with contemporary Spanish- and Portuguese-language writers. A corresponding calendar of free performances on the Millennium Stage will feature Chilean jazz, a saxophonist from Mozambique, and a Japanese vocalist who specializes in Brazilian music. There will also be a special exhibition of more than 140 of Pablo Picasso’s ceramics works in The Kennedy Center’s atrium, on view for the duration of the festival. With more than 50 events in 3 weeks, IBERIAN SUITE is the perfect opportunity to see some great performances and brush up on your Spanish (or Portuguese). March 3–24 at the Kennedy Center. Prices vary. —Elena Goukassian

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Remember back in the dark ages, when we used to record live TV (commercials and all) on VHS? Whether it was because we didn’t want to miss the latest Roseanne episode while dining out, to share cable offerings with those who only had broadcast, or to avoid paying for a legal copy of The Great Outdoors, we all had collections of tapes with ridiculous handwritten titles like “I Dream of Jeannie/National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation/Ken Burns’ The Civil War.” If that memory makes you feel the least bit nostalgic, you’ll be in good company at playbackthetape, a local VHS appreciation and screening series hosted every month at a different D.C. location. Organizers put together a curated program of donated VHS tapes of TV from the ‘80s and ‘90s with a different theme each time. February’s theme is “‘80s heartthrob faceoff,” featuring home recordings of Sean Astin and Michael J. Fox movies, complete with a local news ticker scrolling along the bottom. If we’re lucky, there may even be a Michael Jackson Pepsi commercial somewhere in there. Feb. 12 at Comet Ping Pong. Free. —Elena Goukassian

For 25 years, the D.C. Jewish Community Center has brought the best Jewish and Israeli films to local audiences as part of the Washington Jewish Film Festival. To mark its quarter-century anniversary, the DCJCC will screen a selection of 12 classic films from both festivals past and the rich history of Jewish cinema, as well as its regular selection of documentaries and local premieres. This year’s highlights include Brundibar—a documentary about a youth theater company that stages a children’s opera originally produced at Theresienstadt and their mentor, who performed it at the concentration camp—and Mr. Kaplan, a comedy about a European Jew living in Uruguay who becomes convinced his neighbor is a spy. The festival draws an intellectual audience, so the film lineup is supplemented with lectures about Israeli-American documentarians and Jews who migrated to the New World. You’re guaranteed to leave feeling smarter. Feb. 19–March 1 at various venues. $12–$15. —Caroline Jones

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Man Ray was a master of self-reinvention. Born Emmanuel Radnitzky in 1890 and raised in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, he decided that modern art would be his ticket away from his Russian Jewish immigrant background. Ray jettisoned his name and his personal history, latched onto Dadaist troublemaker Marcel Duchamp, and relocated to Paris in 1921. There, Ray’s experiments with photography, filmmaking, and assemblage—and his collaborations with a who’s who of the Parisian avant-garde—cemented his place in the canon. But in his heart of hearts, Ray was always a painter. In the late 1940s, having relocated to Hollywood, Ray returned to painting with a series he dubbed “Shakespearean Equations.” These 20 pieces reimagine photos of 3-D mathematical models Ray had taken more than a decade earlier. Organized by the Phillips Collection and the Israel Museum, Jerusalem, “Human Equations” brings Ray’s paintings together, for the first time, with the photos and objects that influenced them. In 125 works, viewers will discover how Man Ray brought science and Surrealism together, and how his restless mind moved back and forth across the gaps between found objects, photography, and painting. Feb. 7–May 10 at Phillips Collection. $10–$12. —Jeffry Cudlin

When Dori Hadar found a stack of 38 Mingering Mike LPs at a D.C. flea market in 2003, he wasn’t sure what to make of it. The sleeves depicted soul star “Mingering” Mike Stevens singing alongside obscure performers like Miss Lora Little, the Colts Band, and the Mailavar Dancers. From concerts at the Howard Theatre to concept albums about drugs and sickle cell anemia, Mingering Mike apparently had a strange and storied career. But it was all in his head: “Mingering” Mike Stevens was a shy D.C. kid who, in the late ‘60s and ‘70s, invented a superstar alter ego for himself. For more than a decade, he wrote and crudely recorded his own songs on reel-to-reel tape. He also created hand-drawn and painted album sleeves that documented the career he so desperately wanted—and he cut and painted unplayable cardboard records to accompany them. A book, several art shows, and many magazine articles later, Mingering Mike is an institution. In 2012, the Smithsonian American Art Museum acquired roughly 150 pieces of Mike’s artwork and ephemera. Mike himself is still alive, still in D.C., and, according to Hadar, continues to dream of making and sharing music. One wonders how he feels about his unintended legacy, being hailed mainly as an outsider artist in a show focused on visual artifacts. Feb. 27–Aug. 2 at the Smithsonian American Art Museum. Free. —Jeffry Cudlin

The best portraits stand up as works of art aside from their accurate depiction of the subject. It’s why Chuck Close’s broken-down patterns that create a portrait of Bill Clinton succeeds and George W. Bush’s rendering of his father falls flat. Elaine de Kooning mastered portrait-painting with her wildly gestural style and blending of bright colors, but her attention to detail allows the viewer to establish a sense of intimacy with the subject. The background of her portrait of John F. Kennedy, for example, is bright green, giving the young president a youthful glow. It didn’t hurt that many of de Kooning’s subjects were also her friends, including her husband, Willem de Kooning, as well as other artists like Merce Cunningham and Allen Ginsberg. The National Portrait Gallery brings these portraits together in a new exhibition, allowing viewers to get inside the mind of the artist and her contemporaries. March 13–Jan. 10, 2016 at National Portrait Gallery. Free. —Caroline Jones

Before the widespread availability of graphite and conté crayon, drawing was a hell of a thing. Back in the 14th century, the go-to drawing medium was metalpoint, which involved dragging a stylus, often made of silver, over paper coated with an abrasive ground. Adding more pressure wouldn’t make the marks any darker, and the ground was fragile, anyway, so tonal range was an issue. Artists could only make light, delicate lines—which, of course, were indelible. The process was unforgiving, but the results could be exquisite. Over time, light silver markings oxidized to a warm, brownish color. Though most artists had moved on to more flexible materials by the 16th century, metalpoint experienced occasional revivals—Rembrandt used it in the 17th century; members of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood embraced it in the 19th. For “Drawing in Silver and Gold: Leonardo to Jasper Johns,” the National Gallery of Art teams up with the British Museum for a thorough reconsideration of the history of this tricky medium. The show includes 90 drawings, many by old master heavyweights like Leonardo da Vinci, Albrecht Dürer, and Rogier van der Weyden, as well as by modern and contemporary masters like Jasper Johns, who has embraced traditional and vanguard methods throughout his career. May 3–July 26 at the National Gallery of Art. Free. —Jeffry Cudlin

The sea level along the coast of Maryland is rising at a rate of 3 or 4 millimeters per year, about a foot per century. If that doesn’t raise your eyebrows, you don’t spend much time on the Eastern Shore. Local photographer Greg Kahn does, and for years, he’s documented the chaos that these changes are already wreaking across the Chesapeake Bay. There, he caught a late glimpse of Holland Island, nothing but a small patch of grass by late 2013, but once a home to a fishing community of 300. (The last home sank into the water in 2010.) There is no creep in “3 Millimeters,” the project that Kahn has been pursuing ever since. Every photograph tells a story about the economy, family, labor, history, continuity, and dread—heavy, psychic dread. May 8–June 26 at Vivid Solutions Gallery. Free. —Kriston Capps

The nonprofit Transformer gallery supports emerging artists who are willing to stray from the mainstream and raise the dialogue of contemporary practice to a new level. In her first project with American University, Transformer’s Victoria Reis has developed a four-part exhibition series across two years, “Where Does Your Art Come From?” An investigation into current platforms for art organizing and artist-community collaborations, the first exhibition, “Locally Sourced,” will focus on the flat file (collections of 2-D works) programs of six regional community arts organizations. A growing form of support for artists, the flat files—and other small works in a variety of media—will offer the series’ first look into the changing environment of community-based artwork, independent spaces, and the tireless artists and curators that make them possible. Jan 24–March 15 at Katzen Arts Center at American University. Free. —Erin Devine

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Chamber pop with a touch of twang, Phox’s combo of brass and banjos would be spellbinding sans any vocal accompaniment. But it’s the sultry, airy croons of frontwoman Monica Martin that make the Wisconsin-based six-piece a must-see. A honeyed blend of old soul and breathy folk, Martin’s voice is intoxicating, skipping through cool compositions of swirling guitar, homebrewed percussion, and the occasional chorus of whistles. After scoring critical praise for its Confetti EP, an audio/video combo that featured band members jamming out in animal masks, Phox recruited Brian Joseph, a sound engineer for Bon Iver, to produce its eponymous (and mask-free) full-length follow-up. Live, the act’s vibe is as sweet as its music, with enough soaring harmonies and groovy sax solos to get those squeezed into the furthest corners of the 9:30 Club dancing. Feb. 12 at 9:30 Club. $15. —Carey Hodges

When Theophilus London interjects “Please spend the night forever, silence in my room is louder than kaboom” after a Kanye West feature on “Can’t Stop,” it becomes clear that his music is meant for love. The Brooklyn-based rapper/singer cements that image on his sophomore release, Vibes. London’s laid-back lyrical delivery borders on pillow talk set to a backing of electro, R&B, and new-school funk. The result is the perfect soundtrack for testing the effectiveness of an IUD, but it’s still up-tempo enough to be just as relevant on fashion runways and dance floors. Since his 2011 debut, Timez are Weird These Days, TL has found himself living the jet-set life of a fashion magnate, palling around with Karl Lagerfeld and creating his own LVRS design label. Vibes was mixed on executive producer Kanye’s private plane and sounds like the product of a Prince and Kid Cudi smoke session. Since he’s kicking off his tour right after Valentine’s Day, you’ll want to bring a significant other to keep the romance going all weekend. Feb. 15 at U Street Music Hall. $26. —Matt Ramos

<7.000000>It would be hard to classify Emmy the Great as just another folk singer. Emma-Lee Moss is also a writer for Vice and the Guardian, and she shows the same observational sense of humor in her songwriting as she does when gushing over Drake and the podcasts of Kevin Smith. Her last full album, 2011’s Virtue, was peppered with the bleak worldview that comes along with a breakup, but her latest EP, S, exhibits the eccentricity that you would expect from someone who released a song called “Sleigh Me” for a holiday album. S was written while Moss was traveling the world—for proof of how that experience changed her, look no further than lead single “Swimming Pool.” Her latest effort proves she’s capable of much more than folk standards. Feb. 17 at DC9. $14. —Matt Ramos

<5.000000>Anyone who’s seen A Place to Bury Strangers at least once can make the following predictions about the band’s upcoming set at Rock & Roll Hotel: It will be extraordinarily loud. Ungodly sounds will come out of Oliver Ackermann’s guitar due to the large number of pedals on stage (all of which he probably built). If there isn’t a suffocating amount of dry ice curling its way into every inch of the room, there will at least be a consistent set of strobe lights to further accentuate the heavy, shoegaze tunes. It will be overwhelming in the best way possible. Expect the new songs from upcoming release Transfixiation to focus more on clearer melodies from Ackermann’s guitar (dissonant as it may be) than utter cacophony. Feb. 20 at Rock & Roll Hotel. $12. —Valerie Paschall

Excuse me for a line or two while I play hype man: Chris Thile is the Jimi Hendrix of the mandolin. To those of you who’d accuse me of hyperbole—well sure, point taken, but you’d be hard pressed to disagree after seeing the frontman of the Punch Brothers play live. Thile shreds the delicate little instrument with the range of a virtuoso and the intensity of a punk rocker. Funny, then, that he and his four bandmates are so often filed under bluegrass—funny, and proof positive of this string quartet’s label-evading talents. In other words, this show promises a fantastic firsthand glimpse of progressive-bluegrass-folk-jazz-punk, or whatever it is you feel like calling it. You won’t much care after Thile sends you away speechless. Feb. 20–22 at 9:30 Club. $38. —Colin Dwyer

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Ariel Pink’s music always sounds vaguely like a blast from the past, but it’s difficult to pinpoint one style or era that informs any given song or album. “Nude Beach A Go-Go” might sound like a bubblegum 1950s pop tune if not for the reverb in the background and the slightly off-kilter guitar riffs. “Plastic Raincoats In The Pig Parade” initially sounds like a music-box tune made for a children’s television show, until the shrieks and unexpected record scratches come in. Shoegaze, new wave, and post-punk all leave their marks on Pink’s songs, but in ways that make them sound new, uncategorizable, and just plain weird. Just remember, for every headscratcher like “Schnitzel Boogie,” there’s an equally oddly titled song (like “Butthouse Blondies”) that proves his unorthodox groves can be utterly satisfying. Feb. 23 at 9:30 Club. $20. —Valerie Paschall

Detroit-raised soul singer Bettye Lavette developed her chops as a kid singing along to the R&B and country records on the jukebox in her parents’ living room. At the age of 16, she had an R&B hit, but she soon ran into obstacles. From the early ‘60s through the 2000s, Lavette had record label issues, drug problems, and a period as a sex worker whose pimp dangled her off the roof of a 20-story building. She has since written a memoir and continues to make music: a series of acclaimed albums of songs by classic rockers like the Who and Moody Blues, and a gritty, deliberate performance at the Kennedy Center Honors. On her new album, Worthy, she takes on Dylan, the Beatles, and the Rolling Stones. While some of the arrangements are a little too alike in their slow tempos, Lavette, now 69, lets loose on the title track, a reminder to everyone—and herself—that she’s still worthy. Feb. 24 at Barns of Wolf Trap. $45–$48. —Steve Kiviat

A band that titled its first LP Fourteen Autumns and Fifteen Winters and named its most recent single “Last January” is a band that invites listens when there’s still a chill in the air. Twilight Sad’s fascination with cold and snow extends to its dreary lyrics—the opening chorus on last year’s not-so-cheerfully titled album Nobody Wants To Be Here and Nobody Wants to Leave repeats “She’s not coming back.” Luckily, the Scottish outfit creates such lush layers with its mix of keyboard, organ, and guitars that a sense of warmth permeates the sad songs. The band is not as loud as some of its countrymen, but singer James Graham boasts an impressive belt. He could probably fill the Rock & Roll Hotel with his voice alone. Feb. 26 at Rock & Roll Hotel. $14. —Valerie Paschall

Twenty years after she first started rapping, Ivy Queen is still one of only a handful of women spitting verse in Spanish. Known for her aggressive flow over the speedy tropical beats of reggaeton, this Puerto Rican pioneer has shown her range in other genres, too. On her latest release, Vendetta: First Round, she dispenses her wordplay with state-of-the-art merengue, bachata, and hip-hop beats. Queen also covers a wide spectrum in her lyrics—she speaks about love in a duet with reggaeton act Jowell y Randy but uses tougher wordplay about war and bullets in a collaboration with Ñengo Flow. Standing up for women in the boys’ club of reggaeton, Queen recently found new inspiration. She became a mom, and noted that concert promoters ignored her during the pregnancy. While she may have a soft side, don’t be surprised to mostly see her brash and tough approach onstage. Feb. 27 at El Boquerón. $35. —Steve Kiviat

In the dark era of history before the Internet allowed no-name rappers to achieve YouTube stardom with just a few tracks, hip-hop heads relied on word of mouth, chance encounters in the record store, and live tours to feed their addictions. Aesop Rock was a messiah to the masses who were stuck listening to listen to subpar radio rap. Armed with a homonym-laced vocabulary, distrust of pop-friendly hooks, and an odd production style that would make Death Grips jealous, he lived up to that title before pretty much dropping off the map. He’s now teamed up with the equally odd but slightly less abstract Rob Sonic and resident Rhymesayers cut-master DJ Big Wiz to form Hail Mary Mallon. While they have enough name recognition and lyrical content to headline individually, they are currently touring behind Bestiary, one of the best art-hop albums of last year. The group may have decades of mic experience but its live show still brings the weirdness. March 1 at 9:30 Club. $20. —Matt Ramos

The post-punk revival genre has been fading, if not fully dead, for years, signaled by Arctic Monkeys’ foray into sheeny pop-rock territory and the tepid-at-best reactions to Franz Ferdinand’s last record. So it’s about time for the nostalgia cycle to get us interested in that sound again, which makes Gang of Four’s current tour perfectly timed. Its masterpiece of a debut, Entertainment!, is more than 35 years old, but unlike some of its groundbreaking counterparts—like the Fall’s Hex Enduction Hour or the Pop Group’s Y—it cleaves closest to what was being made in the early 2000s. The slick guitar crunch and driving bass of “Damaged Goods”—that’s Franz Ferdinand. The straightforward stomp of “Glass”—that’s the Kaiser Chiefs. Guitarist Andy Gill may be the only remaining original member in this Gang of Four lineup, but who cares. It’s 2015, and we’re living in the simulacrum of post-punk. This is as authentic as it gets. March 3 at 9:30 Club. $30. —Dean Essner

Let’s hope that Hundred Waters’ record deal with Skrillex’s label, OWSLA, included a spacious tour van clause—a typical set requires flutes, Ableton-powered MIDI controllers, keyboards, guitars, live drums, drum machines, and effects pedals. And that’s just what’s visible onstage. Few bands want to lug this much gear across the globe, but then again, few use its tools as inventively. The Gainesville, Fla., quartet eschews pop structure for moody texture. Elements are patiently layered and peeled back as a single song transforms from a pensive slow burner to a rapturous ballad to what can almost be described as a dancefloor banger. March 6 at U Street Music Hall. $15. —Maxwell Tani

After two albums of somber, piano-driven chamber pop, Mike Hadreas (aka Perfume Genius) has made a rock record. Too Bright, his third and most accessible release to date, is still as honest and confessional as his earlier work, only this time, there’s a bite to it all. “No family is safe/When I sashay,” he snarls on standout single “Queen” above booming drums and shrilling synths. “Queen,” like much of Hadreas’ music, ruminates on what it’s like to feel hopelessly out of place, both in our own skin and in the larger world around us. On past releases, that theme would often take shape in quiet, pensive ways with songs fit for mournful self-reflection. But on Too Bright, Hadreas’ loneliness has inspired a raucous battle cry, a plea to sashay all over life’s repressive standards that prevent us from embracing who we truly are. March 17 at Black Cat. $15–$17. —Dean Essner

The word ghazal refers to a Persian poem frequently about love or loss as well as to a type of love song popular in South Asia. Since 1996, it’s had a third meaning: The band Ghazal was formed that year by Kurdish-Iranian kamancheh (four-stringed fiddle) player Kayhan Kalhor, Indian sitarist and occasional vocalist Shujaat Khan, and Indian tabla player Swapan Chaudhuri. Together until 2005, with various tabla players, the group cleverly combined Indian raga and Persian dastgah classical music with bits of traditional folk music from both regions in a manner that never seemed forced or watered down. Ten years later, Kalhor and Khan are back together and joined by tabla player Sandeep Das, who played on their mesmerizing 2003 album The Rain. Often melancholy and haunting, the music intermittently feels like lightning strikes across the sky thanks to slashing kamancheh notes and speedy sitar runs. With this show the night before Nowruz, the Iranian New Year, expect an electric atmosphere. March 19 at Freer Gallery of Art. Free. —Steve Kiviat

In a spring classical season marked by a rare, healthy variety of late 20th- and 21st-century fare (showcases of László Tihanyi, both John Adams and John Luther Adams, and the Phillips Collection’s Leading European Composers series), sometimes you just want comfort food. Mahler’s final symphony, the one he feared prophesied his own death (he turned out to be right), might not seem so comforting, but it’s certainly familiar, if familiarly imbued with despair and foreboding. And while this may not be the NSO’s season highlight—no visiting soloist, no new commission—Mahler’s close to NSO director Christoph Eschenbach’s heart, and you can bet he and the NSO will do a good job on this kickoff to an intermittent Mahler series that will extend into future seasons. Hell, maybe it was even a comfort to Mahler to know that he, like Beethoven, Schubert, Bruckner, and Dvořák before him, would never have to worry about somehow topping his 9th. March 19–21 at Kennedy Center Concert Hall. $10–$85. —Michael Paarlberg

While lonely ‘70s throwback pianist Tobias Jesso Jr. has withheld most of the music from his debut album, he’s certainly been willing to divulge a lot about, well, himself. And why not? The car accidents, the repeated rejections at the U.S.-Canada border, the failed backing-band and songwriting careers—the artist profiles virtually write themselves. But grieve not for the uninitiated future Starbucks listener who nods along to Jesso’s “Hollywood,” oblivious to the window into the crooner’s life it provides. Jesso’s material is timeless, emotionally rich, and just interesting enough to evoke Harry Nilsson rather than Keane. March 24 at Sixth & I Historic Synagogue. $12–$15. —Maxwell Tani

Genres may come and go, but over-the-top synth solos are here to stay. Producer George Lewis Jr. takes advantage of this fact, along with everything else that makes ‘80s new wave awesome, for his work as Twin Shadow. A cool, detached swagger? Check. Glossy production? Check. Lots and lots of lyrics about love? Infinity checks. On his 2010 self-titled debut as Twin Shadow, the Brooklyn native won over indie-pop audiences with shimmery songs laced with dramatic strings, disco beats, and lyrics about high school crushes. His 2012 follow-up, Confess, followed suit, adopting a warped John Hughes vibe thanks to the addition of darker R&B beats. On stage, Lewis embodies his music’s sensual undertones, slinking beneath dim lighting as a steady wash of synths pulse in the background. The band recently signed with Warner Bros. Records, and with a new album due this spring, it’s safe to say that new songs—and new synth solos—will make an appearance at the Black Cat. March 30 at Black Cat. $22–$25. —Carey Hodges

Marian McLaughlin has been a fixture at local shows for years, but she’s only recently become a reliable presence on area stages. It’s for the best that her child-of-the-wind take on folk music is now om more prominent display. McLaughlin’s lyrics are extraordinarily vivid, painting pictures of rich landscapes populated with kudzu vines, cicadas, and fireflies. But more importantly, the melodies she creates on her acoustic guitar are as unpredictable as her subjects. Her clear, bright soprano gives the songs an ethereal feel, but the path her voice will take is never entirely clear, urging the listener to stay alert through each song’s conclusion. Now, five months after the release of McLaughlin’s debut album, Dérive, and 10 months after her revelatory Tiny Desk concert, she is Strathmore’s Artist in Residence. Watch and sit back in wonder. April 22 at Mansion at Strathmore. $15.30–$17. —Valerie Paschall

Only one man can really play Frank Zappa’s music, and unfortunately, he’s dead. Luckily, we have the next best person to carry the torch: His son, Dweezil. Yes, this is a tribute show—but don’t let that turn you off. The young Zappa injects as much youthful energy into each performance as his virtuoso father did at the height of his career. On his latest tour, Dweezil will perform a collection of Zappa classics in addition to the entirety of his father’s landmark One Size Fits All to honor the record’s 40th anniversary. Audiences can jam to masterful renditions of “Inca Roads,” “Sofa No. 1,” and “Sofa No. 2,” and—true to the elder Zappa’s legacy—each song will be a colorful mélange of pounding percussion, wailing saxophones, and nonsensical marimbas led by Dweezil and his squealing guitar. April 14 at Birchmere. $65. —Tim Regan

Malian singer/guitarist Fatoumata Diawara started her musical career backstage when she was a bored actress in a touring cast. She impressed the director and was soon warbling in plays and solo in clubs. After backing other singers and later learning the guitar, she decided to make music her career. On her debut album, Fatou, she sings sweetly and gently on some cuts and with powerful resonance on others, accompanied by both African star musicians like Tony Allen and rockers like Led Zeppelin’s John Paul Jones. Drawing from traditional Malian melodies, Afropop, and French café songs, Diawara serenades, yodels, wails, and flits up and down the scales. In some songs, she takes on African politics in her lyrics. In recent years, she’s engaged in adventurous musical collaborations with the likes of Cuban pianist Roberto Fonseca and Blur’s Damon Albarn, in addition to working with her own band. At Artisphere, she’ll pair her songs with her energetic, much-loved dance moves. April 16 at Artisphere. $24. —Steve Kiviat

They Might Be Giants is arguably America’s first indie band, and it might be its most beloved, too. The group, made up of John Flansburgh and John Linnell, first came together in 1982 and has since made a reputation for churning out off-kilter yet catchy hits like “Birdhouse In Your Soul,” “Istanbul (Not Constantinople),” and the Malcolm in the Middle theme song, “Boss of Me.” Over the years, the band has garnered a cult following that’s anything but cult-sized and lived on in the underbelly of American alternative rock. These days, the Johns are still pretty busy; in January, they re-opened their famous Dial-A-Song project, a mysterious phone number that let callers listen to new singles before they’re released. And they’ve just embarked on an ambitious U.S. tour that will span both coasts and everything in between. Expect anything: A typical They Might Be Giants show is a grab bag of re-spun old hits and brand new ones. April 24 at 9:30 Club. $30. —Tim Regan

Though New York’s Harlem Renaissance often gets all the credit, any proud D.C. resident knows that we had an equally vibrant counterpart on U Street, especially in the realm of jazz. For every Fats Waller there was a Duke Ellington, and for almost a century now, the jazz scenes of New York and D.C. have been inextricably linked. To celebrate, New York’s legendary Apollo Theater and our very own Kennedy Center present a concert starring musicians from both cities, spotlighting influential artists and groundbreaking works. Curated by Kennedy Center Artistic Director for Jazz Jason Moran, the festivities will start with a free vocal performance from Howard University’s Afro Blue jazz ensemble on the Millennium Stage before moving into the Kennedy Center’s atrium, where pianists (including Moran, Marc Cary, and Gerald Clayton) will play some classic tunes. The evening ends with a “Miles Davis Meets Go-Go” jam, featuring Roy Hargrove on trumpet, Jimmy Cobb on drums, and Bill Saxton on saxophone. The joint will be jumping, so don’t forget to bring your dancing shoes. May 10 at Kennedy Center Atrium. $23. —Elena Goukassian

At 27, Igor Levit is a pianist on the rise, though you may not have noticed from this side of the Atlantic. The Russian-born, German-raised wunderkind performs a lot in Europe, less so stateside, though a drumbeat of hype from the English language classical music press is changing that. His U.S. recital debut was just a year ago, and his first recording, a double album of Beethoven piano sonatas, dropped not long before that. The kid moves fast: He’s already expanding away from the stuff he made his name on in 2014—that is, into non-Beethoven territory. In his Washington Performing Arts solo concert, he’ll be taking on a much less familiar, living British composer, Ronald Stevenson, adapted from Benjamin Britten’s better-known opera Peter Grimes. That Levit can pack a concert hall by not playing the only thing anyone’s heard him play, however, speaks volumes about his rep, or at least his sense of self-worth. May 9 at Kennedy Center Terrace Theater. $35. —Michael Paarlberg

From her late-‘90s headwrap to buck-nekkid music videos, R&B singer Erykah Badu has received a lot of attention for her style. Couple that with references to Josephine Baker, natural childbirth, inner city life, and the Nation of Islam in her lyrics and interviews, and one begins to get a sense of her persona. But what really makes the Dallas-raised Badu of interest is her jazzy neo-soul cadence and her rap-inflected music. “On and On,” the hit off her 1997 debut album, entranced the listener with Badu’s slow, honeyed pace. On 2008’s New Amerykah Part One: 4th World War, and the slightly less ambitious sequel, 2010’s Return of the Ankh, she more energetically emoted over busy rhythms evoking both P-Funk and experimental hip hop with the aid of folks like Georgia Anne Muldrow, Questlove and J. Dilla. The electricity should be in the air for this unpredictable diva. Feb. 15 (sold out) and Feb. 16 at Fillmore Silver Spring. $66. —Steve Kiviat

The pseudonym of singer/multi-instrumentalist K. Ishibashi, Kishi Bashi has a knack for building big, ecstatic soundscapes bursting with the level of joy reserved for double rainbows and snagging the last seat at the bar. A seasoned violinist, Ishibashi toured with indie heavyweights Of Montreal before breaking out on his own with his full-length solo debut, 2012’s 151a. But while the release and it’s 2014 follow-up, Lighght, earned Ishibashi plenty of praise, it’s his “holy shit”-inducing live shows that make the touring musician-turned-composer a force to be reckoned with. On stage, Ishibashi uses a well-stocked arsenal of pedals to transform himself from a single dude with a violin into a full-blown orchestra, looping layer after layer of shiny hooks until they crash into a wave of bubbly, sonic bliss. For his latest tour, Ishibashi is performing with an actual string quartet, fleshing out his trusty pedals with classical accompaniment. It remains to be seen whether actual rainbows will shoot out from Sixth & I’s stage. But it’ll sure sound like it. Feb. 19 at Sixth & I Historic Synagogue. Sold out. —Carey Hodges

In 2013, Israeli-born folk singer David Broza crossed into the mainly Arab portion of the city of Jerusalem to record in 8 days an album with Israeli, Palestinian, and American musicians, including guitarist/producer Steve Earle. The process was filmed in and out of the studio and is the subject of the 80-minute movie East Jerusalem, West Jerusalem. The focus of the movie is on Broza’s enthusiastic effort to get Israelis and Palestinians together via song, but despite the nobility of his struggle, his well-meaning spoken and sung platitudes are less interesting here than the other musicians and the fascinating cityscape shots. In the studio, Palestinian singer Mira Awad’s vocal intonation and range is striking, and her description of how her beliefs and duet partner choices aggravate both Palestinians and Israelis conveys some of the impossibility of the situation there. Rapper Muhammad Mugrabi also shines. His wearied tales and the footage of his barbed-wire-topped, walled-in Shuafat Refugee Camp home region are heart-breaking. The film acknowledges extremists on both sides, but with the aid of Palestinian and Israeli youth singers who note the naivety of it, nevertheless figure singing in English the Elvis Costello-popularized song “What’s So Funny ‘Bout Peace, Love & Understanding,” is a step in the right direction. Broza, Awad, and Earle will do a 45-minute musical set and Q&A after the screening. Feb. 26 at Sidney Harman Hall. $40–$50. —Steve Kiviat

Very few artists are able to bridge the gap that divides EDM junkies and casual listeners as well as Above & Beyond. Originally formed in London back in 2000, the trio of Jono Grant, Tony McGuinness, and Paavo Siljamäki started off by remixing club tracks, then moved to making their own brand of vocal trance. On last year’s Acoustic, they pushed the boundary even further by transcending the mixing board and crafting atmospheric yet emotional songs using live instrumentation. Now the group is touring off of their new release, We’re All We Need, which sees them fusing their dance roots with the songwriting ability featured on Acoustic. The band has become famous for making the audience a part of the show, whether it’s through the combination of lights and visuals, or even letting them on stage to start the track. Even if you wouldn’t normally listen to trance, the opportunity to experience them in a smaller venue instead of an arena or festival should not be passed up during this two night stand. Feb 26–27 at Echostage. $30. —Matt Ramos

Many singer-songwriters wear their emotions on their sleeves, but few great ones can actually get the listener to feel those same emotions; the Irish crooner born Andrew Hozier-Brynne is one of those few. You would have to pretty much be dead to not feel the emotion behind the single “Take Me to Church” and the dramatic video that accompanied it. The remainder of the twenty-four year old singer’s self-titled debut is filled with even more soul, but flirts with the blues just as easily as demonstrated on “Jackie and Wilson.” Although he was just at the 9:30 Club in November, the beauty and history of the Lincoln Theater should provide a more intimate evening to accompany his song crafting. March 9 at Lincoln Theatre. Sold out. —Matt Ramos

In a perfect world, not necessarily one where beer falls from the sky, but one where musicians are rated on their musical ability instead of rewarded for their marketing prowess, a group like MisterWives wouldn’t be a big deal. If vocalist Mandy Lee sang on her own, it would be easy to classify MisterWives as just another generic-sounding pop outfit, but the addition of a live backing band that sounds like it takes practicing seriously changes the quality of what they release. Since the world isn’t perfect, it’s more of a statement on the world of pop that well-crafted three-minute pop songs like their title track to last year’s EP Reflections can be seen as anomaly. Selling out a two night stand at U St Music hall before even releasing a full album has to be a good indicator that there is a demand to get back to the basics, and you would be lucky to catch the band in a smaller venue before you’re doomed to have to pay summer festival money to do so. March 27-28 at U Street Music Hall. Sold out. —Matt Ramos

I love a good prank as much as anyone. In fact, my favorite day of the year is April Fools Day; as weird as that may sound, it also makes it really easy for me to appreciate what Josh Tillman is doing as Father John Misty. If the biography that he wrote to accompany the release of his upcoming album is a good indicator of what to expect from it, I Love You, Honeybear is going to be a wild ride. Born in Maryland and raised in Rockville, the former Fleet Foxes drummer is touring to support the follow-up (as Father John Misty, Tillman had previously released seven other solo albums) to 2012’s Fear Fun, which was equal parts psilocybin inspired folk rock and gospel laced storytelling concept. From the abrasive interviews he gives, to the fact that he has his own line of perfume, it’s hard to tell if the Father John Misty persona is Tillman’s way of making a joke when song’s like Honeybear’s “Chateau Lobby #4 (in C for Two Virgins)” uses his real wife’s name. Either way, with music and performances this perfect, it’s hard to care if you’re being pranked. March 28 at 9:30 Club. Sold out. —Matt Ramos

District residents would be forgiven for not being up on the latest in L.A.’s electronic music scene. I might question the amount of free time—or airline miles—you’ve got on your hands if you were. All the more reason, then, to head to U Street Music Hall to see Nosaj Thing (pronounced “no such thing”). The producer’s the cream of an L.A. beat scene centered on Low End Theory, a weekly series of shows that often feature the likes of Flying Lotus and the Glitch Mob. The shows are known to be an estuary of sound, stirring up hip-hop, jazz, and house vibes, and Nosaj Thing adds to the blend a dark, cavernous aftertaste all his own. He’ll be sharing the stage with Clark, a like-minded British musician, who somehow found Nosaj Thing despite being an ocean away. What this means, District residents, is that distance is no longer any excuse to miss this. April 2 at U Street Music Hall. $15. —Colin Dwyer

In 2011, when Ben Chasny brought his guitar to DC9, the audience responded to his haunting compositions by all sitting cross-legged on the hardwood bar floor. This is a rarity at any venue, but it felt particularly striking in this intimate space—a campfire-like response to a man whose acoustic tunes are a far cry from “Kumbaya.” He turns dirges into beautifully unsettling soundscapes as he deftly picks at his strings for maximum emotional punch. It was an otherworldly evening, an awe-inspiring performance for which the only appropriate response was to sit back and look up in respect. When he returns, he’ll add songs from February release Hexadic to his already impressive set. April 26 at DC9. $12. —Valerie Paschall

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What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, but at least you’re allowed to watch. Synetic’s 11th Silent Shakespeare production sets one of the Bard’s most famous comedies in the glitz and glam of 1950s Sin City. The play stars Synetic co-founder Irina Tsikurishvili, who transforms herself the sarcastic and stubborn Beatrice. While Beatrice resembles an atomic-age femme fatale, her sparring partner Benedick is decked out in full biker regalia à la Marlon Brando in The Wild One. Despite a time difference of about 350 years, this take on Much Ado About Nothing offers the same tale of trickery, accidental romance, and steamy sexual tension as always. Instead of batting witty retorts back and forth, Synetic’s actors rely on careful movements specially choreographed for the production by Irina Tsikurishvili. They’ll also have plenty of help onstage from Rat Pack-era tunes and zoot-suit-rioting performers. Feb. 11–March 22 at Synetic Theater. $20–$60. —Tim Regan

Not since Beyoncé’s Carmen: A Hip Hopera has pop music and theatrical performance meshed so seamlessly. Bare: A Pop Opera follows the lives of several students wrestling with the teenage angst of love, confusion, and loneliness in a Morally Upstanding Private Boarding School. The play’s two protagonists, Peter and Jason, struggle with a queer relationship their superiors won’t acknowledge or allow. As it often does in real life, the Catholic church stands squarely in the way of same-sex love. But instead of quietly brooding over their troubles, the play’s characters belt out emotional rock songs that reveal how they feel about hiding their feelings. Much of the drama hinges on the idea of self-denial, much as in 2008’s Doubt, but thank God—the play lacks a creepy pedo priest. Ex-Catholics and scorned private school alumni alike will find plenty to reminisce about in this musical. Feb. 19–March 1 at DC Arts Center. $18–$20. —Tim Regan

The Washington National Opera’s current season advertises artistic director Francesca Zambello’s commitment to gently pushing the envelope with unfamiliar but audience-friendly operas. This may not be immediately apparent given the subject matter of Dialogues of the Carmelites, French composer Francis Poulenc’s 1956 opera about a bunch of nuns who get guillotined during the French Revolution’s Reign of Terror. But audience-friendly it is: Zambello’s production won over crowds and critics at the Santa Fe Opera, beheadings and all, thanks in part to Poulenc’s comfortably traditional, Verdi-esque music, set to a failed movie screenplay dreamed up by a swashbuckling Austrian priest-turned-French resistance fighter. It’s an unabashedly romantic take on martyrdom, a quixotic project for the openly gay, devoutly Catholic composer, which may have been his last attempt to reconcile with a church that allowed no place for him. Feb. 21–March 10 at the Kennedy Center Opera House. $25–$300. —Michael Paarlberg

Perma-grump Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia and his conservative beliefs regularly cause liberals discomfort. But lefties shouldn’t shy away from the world premiere of John Strand’s The Originalist, which imagines the interactions between the justice and a young, liberal law clerk he hires. Strand tries to humanize Scalia by presenting him as a mentor who encourages his clerk to think critically and properly phrase her arguments, all while pushing against policies that would advance the position of women in the world. But when an incendiary case comes to the court, the rapport the justice and the clerk have built is suddenly tested. Because while the court is supposed to be above partisanship, the justices’ professional battle remains a matter of ideology. Molly Smith directs this combative piece about the role of the judicial branch and its impact on daily life. March 6–April 26 at Arena Stage. $70–$110. —Caroline Jones

Rabbi Menachem Youlus, the self-styled “Jewish Indiana Jones,” claimed he was on a mission to return to rightful ownership Torah scrolls that had been hidden during the Holocaust. He regaled buyers—many from the D.C. area—with tales of his travels through Europe to recover the scrolls, even discovering one beneath the floorboards of a concentration camp. Trouble is, it was all hogwash. Youlus’ lies, and the motivations of those who believed them, inspired playwright Renee Calarco’s Theater J world premiere, G-d’s Honest Truth. Youlus confessed in early 2012 that he’d defrauded contributors to his Save a Torah nonprofit and sold, at exorbitant prices, scrolls he’d obtained from U.S. sellers who made no claims of their origins. He was sentenced to 51 weeks in prison, where he still lives. Calarco focuses as much on those who purchased “rescued” scrolls as on Youlus himself; though she conducted interviews with people who saw Youlus speak at their synagogue, she is adamant that her work is fictitious. It’s larger questions that fascinate her: “Why do we sometimes believe stories beyond the point of reason? And how—when we’re pressed—can we make the best of a bad situation?” March 18–April 19 at Theater J. $10–$65. —Sophia Bushong

The Pigeoning is equal parts funny and creepy, but it’s hard to put your finger on exactly why. It could be the fact that the plot revolves around an old man obsessed with the idea that a local pigeon flock is plotting against him. It could also be that the entire production is staged with cartoonish bunraku puppets and stealth puppeteers clad in black ninja suits. The story follows Frank, a neurotic paper-pusher, whose vivid delusions of an avian conspiracy blur the line between reality and insanity. To set a tone of dark humor, creator and director Robin Frohardt collaborated with composer Freddi Price and an ensemble of five puppeteers to craft absurdly whimsical scenes that deliver laughs and a few deep thoughts. March 27–28 at Artisphere. $20. —Tim Regan

Winner of the 2013 Tony Award for Best Play, Christopher Durang’s Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike is an absurdist mash-up of Anton Chekhov’s most iconic characters and their tragic situations. The play opens with two lonely, middle-aged siblings philosophizing about life and lost love while the imminent loss of their ancestral home and cherry orchard hangs in the balance. But there’s more action here than in your typical Chekhov play: The third sibling, movie star Masha, enters the mix with her new, vain (and much younger) boyfriend, Spike. You don’t have to be familiar with the great 19th-century Russian playwright to fully appreciate the show—after all, poking fun at familial bonds and existential malaise is a universal treat. April 3–May 3 at Arena Stage. $55–$90. —Elena Goukassian

Remakes of Anton Chekhov’s plays have been popping up all over D.C.-area theaters these days, from Woolly Mammoth’s remount of Stupid Fucking Bird (based on The Seagull) last summer to MetroStage’s Three Sistahs in the fall. If you caught Theater J’s Life Sucks (Or the Present Ridiculous) this winter and wondered how it might have compared to the original, Uncle Vanya, you’re in luck. Amid all the Chekhov remakes and mashups, Round House Theatre is putting on the real deal, with one little alteration. Adapted by 2014 Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Annie Baker, this production is “a version that sounds to our contemporary American ears the way the play sounded to Russian ears during the play’s first productions.” Does this mean that Uncle Vanya, Yelena, and Sonya will pine for their lost loves and wasted lives in a more relatable way? Maybe not, but we’re likelier to empathize with characters who talk more like us than our great-grandparents. April 8–May 3 at Round House Theatre. $35–$50. —Elena Goukassian

It’s 1980s New York, and in a dingy apartment on the Lower East Side, two Polish immigrants suffer from insomnia. Well-known and respected artists back home, they’re struggling to find work in the U.S. Actress Anka complains that no one will cast her because of her thick accent, while writer Jan struggles to turn his Slavic scowl into a sincere-looking American smile. (“In Eastern Europe, nobody has a sincere smile except drunks and informers,” Anka explains.) Written by Janusz Głowacki (an immigrant from Poland) with Synetic Theater founders Paata and Irina Tsikurishvili (originally from Georgia) in the leading roles, Hunting Cockroaches explores the immigrant experience in one sleepless night. Although many of the couple’s memories reference communist tyranny, and they fall in and out of Kafkaesque dream sequences (I can’t wait to see how Synetic stages these), the play is a comedy, albeit a rather dark one. Feeling alienated, Anka and Jan make many general observations about their new home—some insightful, others just plain ridiculous. “In New York,” sighs Anka, “everybody knows how to sleep.” May 13–June 14 at Synetic Theater. $35–$60. —Elena Goukassian