- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 16, 2004

OPENING

• Beehive: The ‘60s Musical Sensation — Kennedy Center Terrace Theater. Six women bring the singing stars of the ‘60s to life in this comedic musical. Opens tonight. 202/467-4600.

• Machinal — American Century Theater. A young girl in her quest for love is driven to murder and alienation by a conspiracy of words, expectations, and tradition. Opens Saturday at Theater II, Gunston Arts Center. 703/553-8782.

• The Producers — Kennedy Center Opera House. Mel Brooks’ hit musical comedy, the biggest Tony Award winner in Broadway history. Opens Wednesday. 202/467-4600.

• The Underpants — The Washington Stage Guild. A government clerk attempts to preserve his anonymity after his wife drops her underpants in public in the new version of the hit comedy. Opens tonight at Arena Stage. 240/582-0050.

NOW PLAYING

• Cats — Toby’s Dinner Theatre — ***. Toby’s is one of the first theaters to try to re-create the kittenish allure of this Andrew Lloyd Webber musical warhorse, which premiered on Broadway in 1982. The intimacy of the space makes the show less of an empty spectacle and aligns it more closely with its source material, T.S. Eliot’s book “Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats.” Through Aug. 8. 410/730-8311. Reviewed by Jayne Blanchard.

• The Cripple of Inishmaan — Studio Theatre — ***. Irish playwright Martin McDonagh’s mean and funny play dashes the idea of Ireland as the land of sweetly singing tenors and twinkly-eyed natives. The people on this barren western Irish island in the 1930s are a cruel and violent lot. But gallows-humor comedy springs from their plight, and the black humor is brought to bouncy and bawdy fruition in this production.. Through June 27. 202/332-3300. Reviewed by Jayne Blanchard.

• Mahalia, a Gospel Musical — MetroStage — ***. Hankering for some of that old-time religion? Look no further than this soul-stirring show, charting the life of gospel great Mahalia Jackson —which bears more of a resemblance to a gospel revival meeting than to theater. The incomparable Bernardine Mitchell stars with S. Renee Clark and William Hubbard. Through July 11. 800/494-8497. Reviewed by Jayne Blanchard.

• Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris — Everyman Theatre — ***1/2. A rundown of 25 songs from Jacques Brel, the singer-songwriter whose theatrical and sometimes cynical songs expressed a certain “je ne sais quoi” during the 1950s and 60s, this revue is a simple show without unnecessary narrative.Through Sunday at 1727 North Charles St., Baltimore. 410/752-2208. Reviewed by Jayne Blanchard.

• The Master and Margarita — Synetic Theater — ***. Synetic Theater is known for its non-traditional, movement-based productions, a natural fit for the black magic and black humor of Mikhail Bulgakov’s dizzyingly experimental novel, “The Master and Margarita.” Through Sunday at the Rosslyn Spectrum. 202/462-5364. Reviewed by Jayne Blanchard.

• Necessary Targets — Olney Theatre Center for the Arts — . There is something gallingly offensive about plays like playwright Eve Ensler’s ego-driven piece, which transports the self-indulgent American culture of “me, me, me” to Bosnia. Using other people’s tragedies to “get real” with yourself is an abomination. Through June 27. 301/924-3400. Reviewed by Jayne Blanchard.

• Orpheus Descending — Arena Stage Kreeger Theater — **1/2. Tennessee Williams’ 1957 play is a potboiling stew of majestic lunacy and rococo characters, and this production could send you right over the edge. The plot is squalid, but the robust acting makes the characters something ripe and distinct on their own. Through Tuesday. 202/488-3300. Reviewed by Jayne Blanchard.

• Picnic — Center Stage — ***1/2. William Inge’s 1953 play about the passions stirred up in a small, conformist Kansas town when a brawny outsider saunters into town during its Labor Day picnic is receiving a punchy, imaginative staging at Baltimore’s Center Stage under the guidance of director Irene Lewis. This is a revival in the best sense. Through Sunday. 410/332-0033. Reviewed by Jayne Blanchard.MAXIMUM RATING: FOUR STARS

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