- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 12, 2001

OPENING
The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged) Kennedy Center Terrace Theater. The Reduced Shakespeare Company presents a comedic version of 37 Shakespeare plays and sonnets in under two hours. Opens Tuesday. 202/467-4600.
Glengarry Glen Ross The Keegan Theatre. David Mamet's Pulitzer prize-winning exploration of the cutthroat world of real estate. Opens Saturday at the Clark Street Playhouse. 703/527-6000.
Holiday Olney Theatre Center. A romantic comedy set in the Roaring '20s about a poor man hoping to marry into a wealthy family. Opens Tuesday. 301/924-3400.
Lauretta and the Queen of the Starlight Lounge Source Theatre. Comedy with a southern flavor written and directed by Jeffrey Johnson. Part of the Source Theatre's Washington Theatre Festival. Opens tonight at Metro Cafe. Through Saturday. 202/462-1073.
Pothole Source Theatre. Original comedy about a group of unlucky motorists who fall into a pothole with the D.C. City Council. Part of the Source Theatre's Washington Theatre Festival. Opens Sunday. Through Tuesday. 202/462-1073.
Quilt: A Musical Celebration Washington Improv Theatre. Musical stories about the AIDS memorial quilt. Part of the Source Theatre's Washington Theatre Festival. Opens Wednesday at Metro Cafe. 202/244-8630.

NOW PLAYING

Fuddy Meers Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company *** 1/2. Something wacky this way comes. It's David Lindsay-Abaire's screwball comedy "Fuddy Meers," which is given a howlingly funny production by Woolly Mammoth. Mr. Lindsay-Abaire, whose plays go off on loopy tangents induced by marital strife, has updated this one with rip-roaring adventures reined in with a deft touch of darkness. "Fuddy Meers" centers on a woman with a rare form of amnesia that makes her mind a clean slate every day. Kidnapped by a masked man with a limp and returned to her mother's home, she starts to remember and her mother's place soon becomes a fun house populated with weird people. (The title, "Fuddy Meers" refers to the way her brother pronounced "fun house mirrors" when he was little.) Director Lee Mikeska Gardner keeps things spinning and whirling furiously and humorously. The scenes have a crazed energy and a Marx Brothers sense of anarchy; you're thankful these people are not your relatives. The cast displays enormous energy and caprice with the absolutely demented characters. Through Saturday at the Kennedy Center AFI Theater. 202/393-3939. Reviewed by Jayne M. Blanchard.

Hedda Gabler The Shakespeare Theatre ** 1/2. Hell hath no fury like a woman bored. That is the message of Henrik Ibsen's spellbinding, nastily puzzling play. Director Michael Kahn, working with Doug Hughes' translation, takes a clear, intelligent approach. Judith Light's Hedda is magnificent. In a galvanizing performance, her eyes dance with malice, her rich voice is a stiletto, and she carries herself in such a way as to be inviting even as you know that to touch her would be deadly. But the play is so unbalanced toward Hedda that the rest of the characters become weak and one-dimensional; Hedda just steamrolls over them, and you wonder how a group of people could be so clueless. Through July 29. 202/547-1122. Reviewed by Jayne M. Blanchard.

Jitney The Studio Theatre **. Playwright August Wilson is no cuddly Pooh Bear. But that's the impression ones gets from Studio Theatre's overly sentimentalized production of his "Jitney," an early and rarely performed work from the 1970s that shows him at the beginning of his career and not fully trusting his voice. The production is directed by Regge Life with sitcomish emotional shorthand even to punctuating the play's intense moments with 1970s R&B; make-out music. The excellent cast seems a bit overwhelmed by the superfluous flourishes ladled on, and the actors respond with either over-the-top moments or by playing to the audience. At times, they appear to be pausing for the canned laugh track. To watch an August Wilson play this maudlin and to witness his larger-than-life, truth-telling characters cut down by schmaltz is odd. His characters are ignited by a pure inner flame. There is no need to goose things up or lay on the contrived emotion. Through July 22. 202/332-3300. Reviewed by Jayne M. Blanchard.

Kiss Me, Kate Kennedy Center Opera House ***. Written in 1948 and featuring devilishly witty songs by Cole Porter, this musical version of Shakespeare's "Taming of the Shrew" uses that play as its central conceit. It is a delectable entry in the musical-within-a-musical category. The touring version of this Broadway revival has its corny moments, takes its sweet time getting started and has some music that is too clever by half, but "Kiss Me Kate" is grand, hammy fun. Through Aug. 5. 202/467-4600. Reviewed by Jayne M. Blanchard.

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.

Starting Here, Starting Now MetroStage **. This musical revue, originally presented in 1977, strings together a pastiche of 25 songs about (mostly) romantic love by Broadway veterans David Shire and Richard Maltby Jr. A good bit of charm is mixed in as well. But the production with Jay Crowder doing the musical directing and Thomas W. Jones II of Atlanta as director lacks some key elements. Singers Perry Payne, Michael Sharp and Cindy Hutchins, backed by a pianist, bassist and percussionist, fail to take good advantage of the new, 150-seat theater's intimacy; they belt out the songs as if they're in a 2,000-seat venue. The trios work well, and the musicians and performers are workmanlike, but the show lacks the personality for audiences to truly love it. Through Sunday. 703/548-9044. Reviewed by Eric M. Johnson.

Surviving Grace Kennedy Center Terrace Theater *** 1/2. This witty play about Alzheimer's disease has been expertly crafted by Trish Vradenburg, writer of TV shows like "Designing Women" and "Family Ties" and whose mother died of Alzheimer's in 1991. The script is full of sit-comic punchlines that entertain and propel the plot. Director Jack Hofsiss couples Miss Vradenburg's story daughter comes to terms with mother's decline with a strong cast and good timing, creating a play that's much like a two-hour-plus Seinfeld episode where serious matters are part of the recipe but never boil over. But then comes the ending and after two hours of excellence, the humor exits and the schmaltz enters, providing a sentimental ending to an otherwise great performance. Through Sunday. 202/467-4600. Reviewed by Gabriella Boston.

MAXIMUM RATING: FOUR STARS


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