Metro Weekly

Spotlight On “The Upstairs Department” at Signature

A "funny and moving comedy about grief," The Upstairs Department is the latest world premiere at Signature Theatre.

The Upstairs Department: Zach Livingston and Annie Grove -- Photo: Christopher Mueller
Zach Livingston and Annie Grove – Photo: Christopher Mueller

After a serious illness, a young man awakens with what he believes is the ability to communicate with the dead — a paranormal power that his skeptical sister in particular is eager to put to the test by attempting to connect with their late father.

Called an “enlightening tale of an unlikely psychic” and characterized as a “funny and moving comedy about grief,” The Upstairs Department is the latest world premiere at Signature Theatre, part of a multi-year initiative committed to presenting work by female playwrights and female directors.

Written by L.A.-based playwright Chelsea Marcantel (Airness, Everything is Wonderful) and directed by Holly Twyford, The Upstairs Department stars Zach Livingston, Annie Grove, and Joy Jones, and is staged by a largely all-female creative team including designers Paige Hathaway (scenic), Ivania Stack (costume), and Annie Wiegand (lighting), plus Chelsea Pace as Signature’s Resident Intimacy Consultant, and Kenny Neal as the odd-man-out handling sound design.

“This is a play about transition and change, and the places we look for comfort when the world spins out of control,” says Signature’s Artistic Director Matthew Gardiner. “It takes all the divisiveness and tragedy of the last two years, and with humor and incredible empathy…tells a remarkable and unexpected story that I believe will allow audiences to laugh, process, and heal together.”

Marcantel’s play touches on themes of familial love, the limits of cynicism, and how to explain the unexplainable.

Through June 12. Pride Night is Friday, May 20. The ARK Theatre is at 4200 Campbell Ave., Arlington. Tickets are $60 to $90. Call 703-820-9771 or visit

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