- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 19, 2001

OPENING
Diary of a Mad Black Woman Warner Theatre. An upper middle class black couple struggles to save their marriage. Opens Tuesday. Through July 29. 202/783-4000.
The Pirates of Penzance The Folger Theatre. A new twist on Gilbert and Sullivan's classic musical puts the infamous pirates on the Potomac shocking George Washington and a host of Redcoats. Opens tonight. 703/218-6500.
Wonderland Alice The Studio Theatre. An edgy, dark take on Lewis Carroll's "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland." Opens tonight. 202/332-3300.


NOW PLAYING

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 Sunday. 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.
MAXIMUM RATING: FOUR STARS


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