- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 16, 2001

OPENING
Duranged Purchased Experiences Don't Count Theatre Company 784 comedic and satiric plays dealing with modern culture by author Christopher Durang, spread across six days. Opens Sunday at the Source Theatre. 202/298-1098.

NOW PLAYING
The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged) The Reduced Shakespeare Company *** 1/2. In 97 minutes you can get a Ph.D.'s-worth of classic plays all 37 of Shakespeare's works, not to mention the sonnets, rendered at a hilarious, hyperspeed pace. Time even is left over for encores, in this case, three different renditions of "Hamlet": fast, faster and backward. Knockabout good fun for everyone, including the children. The spirit of the company's rendition of the canon can be expressed in one sentence: May the Bard be with you. Through Sunday at the Kennedy Center Terrace Theater. 202/467-4600. Reviewed by Jayne M. Blanchard.
Holiday Olney Theatre Center for the Arts ***. The story line is simple. Upper-crust, 1920s New Yorker Julia Seton (Christa Scott-Reed) falls in love with Johnny Case (Christopher Lane), who is hardworking but lower-middle class. The romance stirs a bunch of doubts in Julia's stern, money-conscious father, Edward Seton (Ian Stuart). The father finally allows Johnny to wed his daughter, but the groom-to-be pulls back at the last minute. He wants to be free to figure out what he wants to do with his life. Two-thirds of the play takes play in the parlor of the Setons' Fifth Avenue home. Fortunately, the 12-member cast is so strong that our eyes never get bored with the set's sameness. This production brings us fun in a sort of early-to-mid-20th-century romantic-comedy kind of way. Through Aug. 19. 301/924-3400. Reviewed by Gabriella Boston.
In the Summer House Washington Shakespeare Company ** 1/2. This 1953 cult classic by Jane Bowles is her only drama a fragmented memory play that is at once tragic and acerbically witty. The production, under the careful direction of Steven Scott Mazzola, does an admirable job piecing together the disparate parts of Miss Bowles' eccentric, expressionistic vision. The play explores the smothering relationships between three sets of mothers and daughters in a Southern California seaside town in the early 1950s. The older women are the most interesting characters and the most interestingly acted. The younger characters are not as well formed. But "In the Summer House" is a deeply funny, deeply disturbing play about the competitive, push-me-pull-you dynamics between mother and daughter. Through Aug. 19 at the Clark Street Playhouse. 703/418-4808. Reviewed by Jayne M. Blanchard.
Late Nite Catechism West End Theatre - ***. The chalkboard is littered with terms such as "Immaculate Conception," "stigmata," "Easter duty," "limbo" and "purgatory," and the classroom is filled with people of all ages. Jodi Capeless stars as the instructor in this motley classroom, in which audience members serve as the students. She combines doses of the rigid discipline of the habit pre-1950s with some 21st-century understanding, if not tolerance. She isn't quite brusque enough, though. Despite its shortfalls and much of the script's predictability, "Catechism" offers a refreshing, somewhat lighthearted look at otherwise serious subject matter. Through Sept. 16. 703/573-SEAT, 202/432-SEAT or 301/808-6900. Reviewed by Stephanie K. Taylor.
The Pirates of Penzance Interact Theatre Company ***. This production, also billed as "The Picaroons of the Potomac," is a summer treat although it takes a while to get its first act together. "Pirates," written in 1879, is one of the best-loved Gilbert and Sullivan scores. Catherine Flye, the director as well as Interact's artistic director, has set the play in late-18-century Virginia instead of late-19th-century England. Thus, Maj. Gen. Stanley becomes Gen. Boshington, who lives at Vernon Castle in Alexandria. (Get it?) The pirates no longer are from Penzance, but from Potomac. The policemen are turned into militiamen dressed up like British infantrymen, red coats and all. This does not detract from the play, but it doesn't add much, either. Although he suffers under a questionable makeup job, Andrew Wynn's Boshington is the comedic center of the play. Through Sept. 9 at the Folger Theatre. 703/218-6500. Reviewed by Eric M. Johnson.
Shear Madness Kennedy Center Theater Lab **. This corny, hokey tourist trap now in its second decade is doubly maddening because the Kennedy Center displays it as art to the cultural center's unsuspecting pilgrims. But the audience-participation murder-mystery farce (set in a Georgetown hair salon) is well-played when the actors refrain from mugging and cracking up one another. The audience rambunctiously analyzes evidence and chooses the murderer in this campy, shtick-filled goof. Continues indefinitely. 202/467-4600. Reviewed by Nelson Pressley.
Spunk African Continuum Theatre Company ***. The three Zora Neale Hurston tales in this production are of no clearly defined time, but each conveys a strong sense of place. George C. Wolfe's adaptation of the stories offers up varying slice-of-life portraits, from a marriage gone bad to a bruised love redeemed. One of the production's hit-and-miss techniques is the way the actors break the action to narrate the story. It pays off occasionally with some funny juxtapositions, but more often, it just disrupts the drama. It's a rousing intrusion in an otherwise rousing show. Through Sunday at the Kennedy Center AFI Theater. 202/467-4600. Reviewed by Carol Johnson.

MAXIMUM RATING: FOUR STARS


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