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The ensemble of "Oil" by Ella Hickson at Olney Theatre Center. (Image: Teresa Castracane Photography)
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Theater Tuesday: 5 thought-provoking shows to see in March

This month's list is a mashup of thought-provoking dramas, hilarious comedies, a regional premiere and a U.S. debut show -- what a month to get to the theater! Get in on the conversations that these shows are creating in our area by making sure you have your tickets.

OIL

  • Written by Ella Hickson and directed by Tracy Brigden
  • Olney Theatre Center, 2001 Olney-Sandy Spring Rd, Olney, MD
  • Runs now - March 31
  • Tickets: $40 - $84

“Scorchingly ambitious,” (The Guardian) this genre-busting show making its U.S. debut follows mothers and daughters over two centuries, from the dawn of the age of oil in 1889 to its “peak-oil” demise sometime in the not-too-distant future. In five separate, but connected, playlets, a single mother named May defies the odds to provide for her daughter by any means necessary. From Cornwall to Tehran, London, Baghdad and back, the mother-daughter power struggle evolves and shifts, even as the resources that fuel it (and the rest of the world) begin to dwindle. Bursting with theatricality, big ideas and deeply personal emotions, "Oil" showcases the talent of one of Britain’s fastest rising playwrights.

BLOOD AT THE ROOT

  • Written by Dominique Morisseau and directed by Raymond O. Caldwell
  • Theater Alliance at the Anacostia Playhouse, 2020 Shannon Pl., SE
  • Runs now - March 24
  • Tickets: $1 - $40

When a black student disrupts the status quo at her high school by occupying space typically reserved for white students, her community erupts in hate speech, violence and chaos. Inspired by the Jena Six case, which roiled tensions in Louisiana in 2006, Morisseau’s play scrutinizes the intrinsic links between justice, bias and identity. Moving, lyrical and bold, "Blood at the Root" probes the complexities of race, individual freedoms and what justice means when biases have been normalized.

HANDS ON A HARDBODY

  • Book by Doug Wright and directed by Mark Rhea and Elena Velasco
  • Keegan Theatre, 1742 Church St. NW
  • Runs March 9 - April 6
  • Tickets: $20 - $58

For 10 hard-luck Texans, a new lease on life is so close they can touch it. Under a scorching sun for days on end, armed with nothing but hope, humor and ambition, they’ll fight to keep at least one hand on a new truck in order to win it. In the hilarious, hard-fought contest that is "Hands on a Hardbody," only one winner can drive away with the American Dream. This regional premiere was inspired by the true events of the acclaimed 1997 documentary of the same name by S.R. Bindler.

TOPDOG/UNDERDOG

  • Written by Suzan-Lori Parks and directed by DeMone Seraphin
  • WSC Avant Bard at Gunston Arts Center, 2700 South Lang St., Arlington, VA
  • Runs March 14 - April 14
  • Tickets: $10 - $40

"Topdog/Underdog" is about two African American brothers named Lincoln and Booth, who banter about playing three card monte during their own game of one-upmanship. Parks encapsulates 400 years of African American history in a Cain-and-Abel fable, where the promise of American Dream gets tested in the deception of a con game. In June, The New York Times named this tensely funny, but serious tragicomedy, the best American play of the last 25 years.

FALLEN ANGELS

  • Written by Noel Coward and directed by Abigail Isaac Fine
  • Next Stop Theatre, 269 Sunset Park Dr., Herndon, VA
  • March 14 - April 7
  • Tickets: $35 - $50

Noel Coward’s smash hit comedy is about the rivalry between two housewives awaiting the arrival of their exotic former lover. Julia and Jane’s husbands both go out of town for a golf trip the same weekend Maurice is coming to visit, and both ladies had their last fling before marriage with the suave Maurice. Dramatizing female sexual desire and frustration, the first performance in 1925 outraged critics and was labeled “shocking and obscene.”


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