Rule No. 1 of contemporary British theater: Never doubt Alan Bennett. In his half-century-long career, he’s transformed banal topics like university admissions (The History Boys), the monarchy (The Madness of George III), and art theory (The Habit of Art) into plays adored by both audiences and critics, while also poking fun at himself, as he did earlier this year on an episode of Family Guy. So just trust the conceit of The Lady in the Van, a play adapted from stories Bennett wrote about Miss Shepherd, a vagrant woman who lived in his London driveway from 1971 until her death in 1989. The eccentric lady sits at the center of the action, but the play places just as much emphasis on Bennett. In fact, the script calls for two actors to play him: One narrates while the other interacts with other characters. But Bennett does it to serve the work, not his ego.
Unexpected Stage Company’s production runs July 19 to August 11 at Randolph Road Theatre, 4010 Randolph Road, Silver Spring. $16-$25. (301) 337-8290. unexpectedstage.org.