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TO AUG. 26

Throughout this month and next, the Source Theatre once again turns on the klieg lights during Washington’s somewhat dark and theaterless summer for its annual Washington Theatre Festival. The festival, which turns 21 this month, has been a breeding ground for the avant for so long, it’s hard to imagine what D.C. would be like without this forum for actors, designers, directors, and playwrights to spotlight what finances might otherwise relegate to the underground. In keeping with tradition, this year’s lineup teeters reliably on the bleeding edge: Jose Carrasquillo’s production of a new play by Paul MacWhorter (At the Rim of a Purple Volcano, at 8 p.m. Sunday, July 29, to Tuesday, July 31); “Chicks,” a night of femme-penned one-acts (at 8 p.m. Friday, July 27, and Saturday, July 28); and the Musical Theatre Institute for Teens’ Quilt: A Musical Celebration (at 8 p.m. Friday, July 20, and Saturday, July 21). And D.C.’s favorite gross-out groundlings, Cherry Red Productions, get in the act with a night of “Day-Old Plays” (at 11 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 4). My pick for the must-see event of the festival? Source Artistic Director (and sometime Washington City Paper contributing writer) Joe Banno directs the world premiere of The Muckle Man (cast pictured; at 8 p.m. Wednesday to Saturday; matinees at 3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday; Wednesday, Aug. 8, to Sunday, Aug. 26), written by another City Paper contributor, Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa—who, in-house cheerleading aside, is a brilliant playwright with a firm grasp of dark comedy. Once again, in the dark and welcoming comfort of Source’s theatrical meat locker, we’ll scarf down a generous portion of fresh, raw plays—the veritable crudités of Washington theater. The festival runs to Sunday, Aug. 26, at Source Theatre, 1835 14th St. NW. $15. (202) 462-1073. (Amanda Fazzone)