A risk-averse strategy that kept Broadway’s marquees lit during the recessionary ’70s—reviving No No Nanette!, Irene, and a slew of sister hits from a half-century earlier—appears to have fresh appeal for D.C.’s rep houses during the current downturn. Never mind that the tactic earned Broadway the soubriquet “The Theater Museum” back in the day—ya want audiences, give ’em what they know. So for the age of Obama, Olney Theatre will conjure up the lyric idealism of Camelot this fall, with its Arthurian legend and Kennedy-era associations presumably intact, while Arena Stage tries to remember the kind of September when The Fantasticks seemed fresh, not merely “oh so mellow.” Signature Theatre, long a champion of yesteryear’s comparatively unsung musicals, sails into the new season with Jerome Kern’s classic operetta Show Boat, downsized somewhat from epic Broadway proportions (Ziegfeld’s original employed upwards of 150 performers and musicians) to fit the cozier confines of an auditorium where its portrait of “life upon the wicked stage” can play only to roughly that many patrons. MetroStage, meanwhile, is spoofing the whole song-and-dance form with a revival of last year’s most uproarious in-joke—Musical of Musicals: the Musical, a show that has the virtue of spanning seven decades of songwriting tics while referencing, mocking, or otherwise trampling on the memories of Broadway’s most celebrated composers and lyricists. Mind you, not everyone’s tripping musically down Nostalgia Lane. Studio Theatre’s fall tuner—The Adding Machine, based on Elmer Rice’s 1923 satire about an all-American loser named Mr. Zero—may sound like an evergreen, but its bitter, jangly, made-for-a-downturn aesthetic actually dates back only to a Chicago premiere in 2007. The story of a luckless office drone turned killer when he’s RIF’d by a soulless corporation, the show opened in a booming economy quite a bit like the one Rice’s Expressionist rant skewered in the Roaring ’20s. But by the time Adding Machine opened in Manhattan early last year, the stock and housing markets had begun their long slide, unemployment was on the uptick, and the reviews (“Impossibly bleak, improbably brilliant, eerily in tune with our own unsettled economy,” said the New York Times) made the show sound oddly prescient. How much more apt might it feel in the middle of the Great Recession? Local audiences will find out come October.