- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 26, 2005

OPENING

• Kimberly Akimbo — Rep Stage. Kimberly is 16 years old with a rare health condition, her father is rarely sober and her mother is a hypochondriac, but coping with her lunatic family takes a back seat to the thrill of her first love. Opens tomorrow at Howard County Community College. 410/772-4900.

NOW PLAYING

• Black Milk — Studio Theatre — ***. Bile surges through Vassily Sigarev’s pungent 2003 play about the struggle of the spirit in post-Soviet Russia, a Wild West kind of place where the outlaws rule. In a grimy railway station in the provinces, husband-and-wife scam artists from Moscow try to get back to the city after successfully fleecing the local yokels. But when massively pregnant wife Shura (a frightening Holly Twyford) bears their daughter, Shura goes soft on the locals who help her. Menacing husband Lyovchik (Matthew Montelongo, in an electrifying performance) beats her back to her harder self. If this is a parable of Russia, then the country seems fated to be reborn in darkness. Through Feb. 13. 202/332-3300. Reviewed by Jayne Blanchard.

• Bohemians — Classika Theatre — ***. Paata Tsikurishvili and his dancer-choreographer wife, Irina, have taken inspiration from the Bible, Greek mythology, modern-art movements such as cubism and expressionism, and childhood games (in their hands, the game of “pattycake” is at turns poignant and menacing) for a fast-paced, kinetic look at human history. The best way to approach this stunning theater piece is to abandon yourself to it. Don’t try to figure out a plot in this wordless 70-minute meditation on man’s equal capacities for destruction and union. Just sink into this cinematic world of movement, wall-to-wall music and artful imagery. Through March 6. 703/824-8060. Reviewed by Jayne Blanchard.

• Elmina’s Kitchen — Center Stage — ***. The American premiere of Kwame Kwei-Armah’s sobering play about West Indian immigrants living in a London neighborhood known for its polyglot gangs and its “Murder Mile.” Set in a woebegone take-out shop, it’s a frank cautionary tale about how the cycle of violence dehumanizes generation after generation, with dialogue full of linguistic fireworks. Some of the speeches do go off on aimless tangents, but with a playwright this exciting, you can forgive a little chattiness. Mr. Kwei-Armah gives us a heady glimpse into a culture caught between African-Caribbean traditions and assimilation into a white man’s world. Through Sunday at 700 North Calvert St., Baltimore. 410/332-0033. Reviewed by Jayne Blanchard.

• Fallen From Proust — Signature Theatre — ***. The characters in Norman Allen’s randy love-rectangle comedy set in Sausalito not only bed-hop, but cross sexual boundaries of all permutations. No one is who they seem, and everybody’s “gay-dar” is in the shop for repairs. It could be sordid, but Mr. Allen has a snappy way with comebacks and lightly sarcastic riposte that keeps you floating along on a sexy little cloud. Through Feb. 20. 703/218-6500. Reviewed by Jayne Blanchard.

• Romeo and Juliet — Folger Theatre — *1/2. Drawing on the current fashion for “updating” Shakespeare’s works, director PJ Paparelli re-imagines the play as a spruced-up riff on “West Side Story,” but far more deviant. The entire evening is drenched in vulgarity, sexual innuendo and crotch grabbing. Even the dotty old Nurse (Nancy Robinette) has the mores of a minor-league baseball player. The mess has some passionate acting, notably Edward Gero’s pensive Friar Lawrence and Nicole Lowrance’s star turn as a sweetly “tweeny” but ultimately tragic Juliet. But the boisterous meanness of this brutal, postmodernist view of the world betrays the humanity of its young heroes. Through Feb. 20. 202/554-7077. Reviewed by T.L. Ponick.

• The Tattooed Girl — Theater J — ***. Joyce Carol Oates’ talky adaptation of her 2003 novel — about the relationship between a brilliant, disease-addled Jewish writer and his new assistant, who brings with her a dysfunctional, drug-addicted and anti-Semitic past — takes a while to ignite and is not yet completely satisfying on a dramaturgical level. But Michelle Shupe’s galvanizing performance in the title role transforms this intellectually stodgy drama into a crushing, emotional experience. It’s more than enough reason to catch this world-premiere production, directed by John Vreeke. Through Feb. 20 at the D.C. Jewish Community Center. 800/494-8497. Reviewed by Jayne Blanchard.

• Tea and Sympathy — American Century Theater — ***. Robert Anderson’s 1954 play was shocking in its day for its treatment of homophobia as well as for the notion that a lonely 30-ish woman could find comfort in the arms of an equally lonely 17-year-old boy. The play is notable for its almost demure portrayal of those who don’t fit in — in this case an artistic adolescent at a roughhouse boys’ prep school in New England where anyone who is “different” is systematically bullied. He finds a soul mate in the headmaster’s wife, caught in a sham of a marriage. American Century Theater emphasizes the play’s genteel aspects with a tasteful treatment that won’t rattle the teacups. Through Feb. 5 at Theater II, Gunston Arts Center. 703/553-8782. Reviewed by Jayne Blanchard.

MAXIMUM RATING: FOUR STARS

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