Metro Weekly

Editor’s Pick: Mosaic’s Catalyst New Play Festival

The focal point of the festival is 'Max and Willy's Last Laugh,' a new musical in development by Jake Broder and Conor Duffy.

John McDaniel -- Photo: Steve Ullathorne
John McDaniel — Photo: Steve Ullathorne

A new festival kicks off the new year with three new plays in various stages of development from a relatively new crop of artists. All that newness is the focus of Mosaic Theater’s Catalyst New Play Festival, offering workshop productions and readings as well as post-show conversations and panel discussions, taking place the third weekend in January.

“New plays have been the core of my artistic life and the foundation of Mosaic Theater since our inception,” says the company’s Artistic Director Reginald Douglas. “This inaugural weekend of events celebrates that shared commitment by welcoming local and national talent to Mosaic to collaborate in the creation of exciting new work that is diverse in form, full of curiosity, and wonderfully still in the development process.”

The focal point of the festival is Max and Willy’s Last Laugh, a new musical in development from Jake Broder and Conor Duffy, two prolific award-winning L.A.-based creatives working in local theater and Broadway as well as television.

The duo’s focus here is on German Jewish performers and collaborators Max Ehrlich and Willy Rosen, two largely forgotten cabaret stars and entertainers from 1930s-era Berlin.

After the two were captured by the Nazis in 1942, they started creating and performing weekly shows for their fellow prisoners and captors at the Westerbork Transit Camp — designed as escapist, spirit-lifting entertainment that also bought them more time before their inevitable and eventual deportation to Auschwitz.

Jake Broder
Jake Broder

Directed by Tony Award nominee Sheryl Kaller (Next Fall, Mothers and Sons) with music direction by Emmy- and Grammy-winning conductor and composer John McDaniel (band leader on The Rosie O’Donnell Show, supervising music director of Annie Get Your Gun and Boy George’s Taboo), Max and Willy’s Last Laugh incorporates the actual comedy sketches, songs, and jokes from these original, and literal, “Funny or Die” shows.

The workshop presentation features Broadway veterans Jason Graae and David Turner as Max and Willy, with support from a six-member band, and post-show conversations featuring scholars from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (1/19, 1/20, at 7 p.m., Cafritz Hall at the Edlavitch DCJCC, 1529 16th St. NW; Tickets are $15).

Catalyst New Play Festival - Headshot-Enhanced
Lady Dane Figueroa Edidi

The festival also features free readings of new works by two local theater artists.

The trans performance artist, choreographer, and Helen Hayes Award-winning playwright Lady Dane Figueroa Edidi serves up Between/Time: A Baltimore Cycle Play, directed by Danielle Drakes, centering on the love blossoming between an artist and a CEO in Baltimore during a global pandemic that ultimately asks, “What is one’s responsibility in fixing a world that those who came before tried to break?” (1/22, at 7 p.m., Atlas Performing Arts Center, 1333 H St. NE).

Meanwhile, Annalis Dias offers The Invention of Seeds, a multidisciplinary work of puppetry, sculpture, and theater, with direction by Natsu Onoda Power, and focused on the battle between small farmers and giant seed corporations (1/21, at 7 p.m., Atlas).

Additionally, there’s the free panel discussion “Artists-in-Conversation: Reflections on Craft and Creativity” with local women playwrights Allyson Currin, Tuyet Thi Pham, and Nikkole Salter (1/22, at 3 p.m., Atlas).

All that plus a free reading of the winning entries in Mosaic’s annual High School Playwriting Contest, including the 1st Place winner loving u is complicated. A one woman breakdown by Moyo Ifafore of Duke Ellington School of the Arts (1/21, at 2 p.m.; DC Public Library’s Petworth Neighborhood Library Branch, 4200 Kansas Ave. NW).

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