Dupont Circle’s prolific Keegan Theatre is celebrating its 25th anniversary season.
“Twenty five years is a huge bench mark for any theater anywhere,” Artistic Director Susan Marie Rhea told WTOP. “We’re thrilled that we made it that far, especially coming out of this past year. It feels like a particular accomplishment and we’re just so grateful.”
It’s a welcome return to live theater performances after a long pandemic hiatus.
“We closed in March 2020,” Rhea said. “We’ve been quietly waiting and gearing up to reopen ever since. We did some streaming productions during the last 18 months, but that isn’t the same as live theater. Live theater wants butts in seats. We want people back in the theater, so we can have the real joy and magic of the theater experience.”
You can enjoy that experience with Good People (now through Oct. 3), a Tony Award-nominated comedy written by playwright David Lindsay-Abaire (Rabbit Hole, Ripcord).
“Good People is set in South Boston, a blue-collar neighborhood where the playwright David grew up,” Rhea said. “It follows a single mother who has been fired from her minimum-wage job and is facing eviction. … This character decides to appeal to an old flame, her high-school sweetheart who has made it out of Southie as a wealthy doctor.”
Director Josh Sticklin brings it all to life by juxtaposing the two worlds visually.
“The artistic team worked together to visually weave South Boston and Chestnut Hill … [creating] a very low-income neighborhood, then flipping that in Act Two to the opulence and wealth,” Rhea said. “They achieved this in a stunning way by simplifying and visually teasing out themes in the art and design that would connect those two worlds.”
The culture clash between both sides of town sparks endless thematic commentary.
“It’s funny, it’s compassionate and it asks the question: How do we decide what makes someone a good person? Who decides that? What does that say about us?” Rhea said. “It’s also an exploration of how we reach across things that divide us, whether those divides are economic, social or racial, whatever those barriers are to human connection.”
Along those lines, Keegan Theatre just held a special racial talkback on Sunday.
“Keegan is partnering with Challenging Racism all season,” Rhea said. “They are an Arlington-based organization whose mission is to educate people about the prevalence and inequities of institutional and systemic racism. We engaged with them and are partnering with them all season long to talk with audiences about the intersection of race.”
It’s the latest effort by Keegan, which began in church basements and high schools during its first decade before starting to perform on Church Street in 2006. They permanently set up shop there in 2009, purchased the building in 2012 and renovated it in 2013.
“We have spent this downtime preparing to welcome audiences safely back to our space,” Rhea said. “We will be requiring proof of vaccination. We will also be enforcing a mask mandate. … We are excited to show how it can be done, because we all need to continue to find ways to connect with each other and embrace live art.”