- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 3, 2002

OPENING

• Agatha Sings Nostalgia Productions. Musical that follows the life of mystery writer Agatha Christie and her secret passion for singing. Opens tomorrow at The Lyceum. 703/836-8643.

• Losing Lawrence Horizons Theatre. Dark comedy about D.H. Lawrence's widow and two of her friends who vied for her husband's affections. Opens tonight at Theatre-on-the-Run. 703/243-8550.

• Man of La Mancha National Theatre. Musical based on Cervantes' classic "Don Quixote" gets a pre-Broadway run in D.C. Opens Tuesday. 800/447-7400.

• Material World Old Town Theater. One-man comedy focuses on materialism in modern life, starring Bob Somerby. Opens tonight. 703/535-8022.


NOW PLAYING

• Anthems: Culture Clash in the District Kreeger Theater, Arena Stage **1/2. Richard Montoya and the comedy and theatrical group called Culture Clash offer a joyous and thoughtful examination of a city interrupted by the harrowing events of September 11. A series of often hilarious vignettes, the play is based on the writers' real-life attempts to chronicle the District. However, the creators gorge on more history than they can digest, and the story becomes a maladroit mix of comedy and political satire. Through Oct. 13. 202/488-3300. Reviewed by Christian Toto.

• Love and Anger Round House Theatre *** This gravelly, intense production of George F. Walker's play, as directed by Daniel De Raey, turns power on its head as a former fat-cat lawyer (Jerry Whiddon) uses his recent stroke as an impetus to overhaul the entire judicial system. In Mr. Walker's world of splendid, often comic, anarchy, it is the articulate poor brave, misguided little misfits who are deeply weird, deeply wounded, deeply courageous who turn the wheel and get things done. Sarah Marshall as a schizophrenic, whose moments of coherence and insight are a glorious sight to behold, is a treasure. Nancy Robinette, who plays a frazzled legal secretary, has many scenes of inspired humor. Mr. Whiddon's dying lawyer embodies twisted goodness. The show is marred by uneven pacing, some real dead spots, and unnecessary sound effects. But you come away knowing that the articulate and ticked-off poor are a force to be reckoned with. Through Oct. 13. 240/644-1100. Reviewed by Jayne M. Blanchard.

• Privates on Parade Studio Theatre ***1/2. This 1977 musical play by Britain's Peter Nichols (with music by Dennis King) is a grand way to start the theater season. It is dashingly directed by Joy Zinoman, who handles it with silliness and sophistication, and combines the broad humor of English music halls and pantos with carefully wrought commentary on racism, miscegenation, homosexuality and homophobia, and the casual cruelties of wartime. The play is based on Mr. Nichols' experiences as a member of a song-and-dance touring unit similar to the USO dispatched to Southeast Asia in 1948 to cheer up British troops mired in a Malaysian guerrilla war. The unit is led by Terri Dennis, a flamboyant queen, played by Floyd King, that most supple of clowns and there is no more joyous sign that the seasons are changing than the sight of Floyd King in a dress. If every show this season is as energetic and inspired as "Privates on Parade," then we needn't concern ourselves with the inevitable letdown after this summer's Sondheim Celebration. Through Oct. 20. 202/332-3300. Reviewed by Jayne M. Blanchard.

• Recent Tragic Events Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company ***. The premise of Craig Wright's play might sound like a tasteless joke: A young Minneapolis woman (Holly Twyford) waits for a blind date (Eric Sutton) to show up on Sept. 12, 2001 even as she tries to cope with the fact that her twin sister, who may or may not have been in the World Trade Center the day before, hasn't been heard from. But Mr. Wright is a playwright of humor and humility, and the play, nimbly staged by director Michael John Garces, is both romantic and rending. Miss Twyford strikes the perfect balance between hysteria and trying to be a good hostess. She and Mr. Sutton are ably supported by Michael Ray Escamilla as a comically stoned musician friend and Dori Legg as his underpants-free, pizza-eating foil. Mr. Wright's play is not ideal, and tends to trail away. But how can you end a play about September 11th? Through Saturday at the D.C. Jewish Community Center. 800/494-8497. 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. The audience-participation murder-mystery farce (set in a Georgetown hair salon) is well-played, though, when the actors refrain from mugging and cracking up one another. Continues indefinitely. 202/467-4600. File review by Nelson Pressley.

• The Winter's Tale Shakespeare Theatre **1/2. Discussions of whether Shakespeare's "The Winter's Tale" is a tragedy, a comedy, a romance or a problem play are dispelled during the first act of this production, directed by Michael Kahn. It is simply an ordeal. The production's sluggish pulse quickens once we are whisked from the airless and cheerless Sicilia, with its death trap of a set, to the flower-bedecked Bohemia, but throughout the cast seems quite reserved. Everyone seems to be racing through the denouement, just wanting to get it over with. This a handsome production, but one that exudes a pale fire. And that makes it a long "Winter" indeed. Through Oct. 20. 202/547-1122. Reviewed by Jayne M. Blanchard.

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