One thing I love about the 1st Stage Theatre in Tysons Corner is that it is so hard to find. As one of those obnoxious “I-like-something-until-it-becomes-popular” people, I love the secret-password quality of getting to it: You park in a warehouse strip mall off Spring Hill Road, then walk past a doggy day care and a Jazzercise gym to get to the theater door, all the while glancing at other people walking toward the door and thinking, "I hope THEY know where they're going."
But now that the Silver Line has opened, the sparkling new Spring Hill Metro stop is just a half block from the theater. With 1st Stage's engaging and innovative black box performances and its central location just east of Leesburg Pike and just west of Tysons Galleria, I have no doubt that I will no longer be able to keep this gem of a theater to my snobby self.
We discovered the theater last year after reading a Washington Post review about the play Never the Sinner, a dramatization of the infamous Leopold and Loeb killing, when two high-society teens in the 1920s killed a young boy. Six actors took part in this play in the middle of the small black space facing several rows of chairs on risers. And yet, with simple prop switch-outs, old-fashioned sound-effect equipment and striking performances from the lead actors, this small play became bigger than the box, became real and engaging and haunting. I am not a true-crime fan, but I was so fascinated by the performance that I now have a non-fiction book about Leopold and Loeb on my bedside table.
The website says 1st Stage was established to give young and emerging talent a place to build their resume and gain experience. “We want to be that ‘first stage’ in their careers: a place to struggle with the art, learn from their discoveries and their mistakes, and find pride in what they produce.” They have so many ideals I support that I’ll just quote their website again: “In return, our community gets the chance to experience great theatre. As Tysons Corner grows into a city, it’s going to need more than office buildings and shopping malls to build that ‘pride of place’ that marks strong, vibrant communities.”
Their current production, Take Me Out, is a 2003 Tony Award winner about an All-Star baseball player who reveals that he’s gay. The Washingtonian called the performance “dramatically tense, uneasily sympathetic, and hysterically funny,” and says lead actor Jaysen Wright “does a fine job of making the protagonist remote and unknowable—yet compelling—until his resolve finally begins to crack when circumstances push him to the edge.”
I may not get a chance to check it out before the play closes on Oct. 12. But I'm looking forward to attending a couple of other performances this season, even if that means I'll have to beat back the throng to get in the door.