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A few months into the new Democratic administration, a staggeringly ambitious play arrived in New York, and that city’s most powerful critic greeted it with hosannas: The play “speaks so powerfully,” he wrote, “because something far larger and more urgent than the future of the theater is at stake.…[It asks] just who we are and just what…we intend this country to become.” The year was 1993, the play was the first half of Tony Kushner’s epochal Angels in America, and of it Frank Rich, the fabled Butcher of Broadway, declared that “it really is history that Mr. Kushner intends to crack open.” Good time, then, for a Washington revival of the two-part saga, in which a drag queen assumes a prophet’s mantle after an angel comes crashing through his ceiling, a pill-popping Mormon housewife makes a hallucinatory pilgrimage to Antarctica, and the ghost of Ethel Rosenberg says the Kaddish over the cooling corpse of Roy Cohn. Because if D.C. theater has ever needed a bold gesture—and if this capital city has ever needed a reminder of what humanity means in the great sweep of the history we make here—it’s now. Michael Dove and Jeremy Skidmore, two brave young talents who helped turn the H Street Playhouse into what a fellow critic has rightly called “one of the city’s best venues for serious theater,” co-direct a staging for Dove’s Forum Theatre company, which takes up residence at Round House Silver Spring this fall. And just reading the cast list might make you feel a little like Prior when the Angel draws near: Jennifer Mendenhall, Karl Miller, Nanna Ingvarsson and Alexander Strain are among the reliably intense D.C. favorites on the playbill.
Part I runs Oct. 5 to Nov. 21; Part 2 runs from Oct. 26 to Nov. 22 at Round House Theatre Silver Spring, 8641 Colesville Road, Silver Spring. $15-$25 (240) 633-1100.