Main menu


Best of D.C. 2022: Arts & Entertainment

featured image

The COVID-19 pandemic is by no means over, but in 2022, D.C.’s arts and entertainment venues have at least approached normalcy. That is to say, theater companies are presenting shows on stage as opposed to online. Live music and dance parties (and the people who choose to attend those events) are returning to bars as well. After going without these little luxuries for so long, audiences (and our writers and contributors) were particularly excited for this year’s arts events.

But enjoying the arts doesn’t mean you have to head to a crowded venue. If books and documentaries are more your speed, we’ve got commendations for those as well.

The cast of A Strange Loop at Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company Credit: Teresa Castracane


A Strange Loop

I should probably start this by saying, I don’t care much for musicals. But Michael R. Jackson’s Pulitzer Prize-winning musical, A Strange Loop, was enough to make me reconsider my stance. Some naysayers might attempt to argue that the story is too niche: a Black queer playwright, working as a Broadway usher, writing a play about a Black queer playwright working as a Broadway usher. But the production, staged at Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company in early 2022 before it made its Broadway debut and picked up two Tonys, exemplifies exactly why we need more stories from queer and BIPOC writers. There’s nothing unrelatable about the story, at least not for anyone who’s ever struggled with family relationships, been unlucky in love, grappled with attaining their dreams, or suffered from self-hatred. A Strange Loop beautifully, eloquently, and hilariously offers a new perspective on those evergreen stories. The play’s stars, led by Jaquel Spivey, succeeded in New York with good reason. The nuance, the feeling, the vibrancy of every performance was enough to make audiences truly feel for them. Woolly Mammoth aims to be a theater that “produces courageous and invigorating new work to radically redefine theatre as a catalyst for an equitable, creative, and engaged society.” With A Strange Loop, they couldn’t have done a better job.  —Sarah Marloff

Rorschach Theatre’s production of Dracula Credit: Courtesy of Rorschach Theatre


Rorschach Theatre

Theatrical tourism meets epistolary performance meets scavenger hunt in multiple productions from Rorschach Theatre this season. The company incorporates uncommon theatrical practices into uncommon theatrical spaces to keep audiences engaged and invigorated. Rorschach is lauded for its innovative productions that demonstrate a passion for storytelling, tackling challenging material, and cutting edge direction. It has produced work in traditional theater spaces such as the Silver Spring Black Box or Atlas Performing Arts Center in the past, but leaders have recently developed productions that occupy D.C. neighborhoods at large. The 2020–2021 season brought an immersive experiment titled Distance Frequencies, an exciting storytelling project that combined the natural and material realms of the city. As a socially distanced performance, the work emphasized the idea that theater can be more than what takes place on stage. With participants in and beyond the DMV, this seven-chapter project was swiftly followed by Chemical Exile and the beginning of a multi-season endeavor, Psychogeographies. Rorschach’s artistic producer and one of its founders, Jonelle Walker, says this year’s Psychogeographies project, entitled Dissonant City, will use “well-researched history and imaginative narratives to transform average city streets into mind-expanding immersive experiences. Audiences get to place themselves in the story as they explore twists, turns, and lesser known D.C. sites—like the National Park Service’s only roller rink or replicas of the Holy Land in Brookland.” Headed into the new season, Rorschach’s current production of Kate Hamill’s Dracula brings an exciting script into the walls of a foreclosed firehouse. —Melissa Lin Sturges

Jordan Slattery, Miranda Rizzolo, and Deidre Staples in John Proctor Is the Villain Credit: Margot Schulman


John Proctor Is the Villain

What would happen if we believed women first? When I reviewed John Proctor Is the Villain, I noted that this is the question playwright Kimberly Belflower dares to ask. In 2022, that shouldn’t feel like a radical stance to take, let alone a radical question to ask, but then, it’s also my opinion that in 2022 all people should be able to access free and safe abortions too. Belflower’s play, which made its world premiere at Studio Theatre in the spring of 2022, takes from Arthur Miller’s 1953 play The Crucible, the #MeToo movement, and a generation of teen dramas to present a thesis that gets to heart of rape culture: Generally, people would rather believe “good” guys don’t do bad things than believe women. Though set in 2018, shortly after dozens of famous women reported Harvey Weinstein’s abuse and the same year that Dr. Christine Blasey Ford told the world that then-Supreme Court Justice nominee Brett Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her in high school, the story remains timely. While Weinstein—currently on trial for 11 new charges of sexual assault in L.A.—may have been sentenced to 23 years in prison for rape and criminal sexual assault, the New York Court of Appeals has allowed the disgraced producer to appeal his conviction. Kavanaugh now sits on the country’s highest court. And, despite mountains of evidence against him, Johnny Depp won his defamation lawsuit against ex-wife Amber Heard in June. Though these real women should humanize such stories, Belflower’s play offers greater insight into not only the women who come forward but the people who struggle to believe them. —Sarah Marloff