- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 26, 2001

OPENING
At the Rim of a Purple Volcano Source Theatre Company. A mother tries to influence her son's life after death. Part of the Source Theatre's Washington Theatre Festival. Opens Sunday. Through Tuesday. 202/462-1073.
Return to the Forbidden Planet The Little Theatre of Alexandria. A rock and roll musical that combines a science fiction B-movie with Shakespeare's "The Tempest." Opens tomorrow. 703/683-0496.


NOW PLAYING
The Andersonville Trial American Century Theater ***. Written in 1959 by playwright Saul Levitt, "Trial" follows closely the transcript of a post-Civil War trial that found Confederate prison commandant Henry Wirz (Charles Matheny) guilty of atrocities at a prison camp in Andersonville, Ga., where more than 14,000 Union soldiers died. He subsequently was hanged. Director Jack Marshall has created an intense play in which characters explode with powerful lines about a soldier's duty as it conflicts with his conscience. The acting is solid and straightforward. Especially strong is the performance by Mr. Matheny. The two-hour play drags in the second half as the parade of witnesses becomes repetitive. But it is engaging and diligently moves the audience back 135 years to a trial stuffed with the timeless theme of duty vs. conscience. Through Aug. 4 at Gunston Arts Center's Theater II. 703/553-8782. Reviewed by Gabriella Boston.
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, hyper-speed 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 Aug. 12 at the Kennedy Center Terrace Theater. 202/467-4600. 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 Sunday. 202/547-1122. 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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