- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 18, 2005

OPENING

• Continente Viril (Virile Continent) — Teatro de la Luna. This satire combines biting attacks on society’s love of order with mankind’s war against nature. Opens tomorrow. 703/548-3092.

• Hecuba — The Royal Shakespeare Company. Euripides’ tragedy about the captive Queen of Troy. Opens Saturday at the Kennedy Center Eisenhower Theater. 202/467-4600.

NOW PLAYING

• Anna Christie — Arena Stage, Kreeger Theater — ***1/2. There’s nothing remotely nostalgic in director Molly Smith’s ripely comic, ripsnorting take on the Eugene O’Neill play about the barge captain’s daughter with a damaged past who finds redemption at sea and a chance at a new life with a rescued Irish sailor. The production is vigorous and vibrantly crude. It sings with the crackle of 1920s city slang, the ragtime and jazz-baby rhythms inherent in Mr. O’Neill’s dialogue. Humor and tough-guy patois abound in both the male and female characters, adding to the play’s salty charms, and Sara Surrey attacks the role of Anna with great vigor. Through June 19. 202/488-3300. Reviewed by Jayne Blanchard.

• Beauty and the Beast — Toby’s Dinner Theatre — ***. Disney’s Broadway musical is notorious for spectacle, but this small dinner theater captures its show-bizzy enchantment with ingenuity, economy, style and Broadway-caliber voices. This is decidedly kiddie fare, but adults, too, will respond favorably to the sophistication of the show’s lyrics and its message: Even the most beastly and odd among us can find love and acceptance. Through July 3. 301/596-6161. Reviewed by Jayne Blanchard.

• The Clandestine Marriage — Folger Theatre — ***. Miscued lovers, financial arrangements gone kablooey and secrets badly kept by household servants are the impetus for laughter in David Garrick and George Colman’s 1766 comedy, in which everyone falls in love with the wrong person and matrimony is nothing but a hard-bargained trade pact. Director Richard Clifford’s staging is a fairy-tale confection seemingly fashioned out of marzipan and fondant icing. The entire cast shines, and Ted van Griethuysen proves again he is one of Washington’s acting treasures. Forget true love. Marriage is a bottom-line proposition, and the more conspicuous the wealth, the better. Through Sunday. 202/554-7077. Reviewed by Jayne Blanchard.

• Electra — MetroStage — ***. In Frank McGuinness’ harsh, militaristic rendering of Sophocles’ classic Greek tragedy about revenge, the high-born daughter of Clytemnestra and the murdered Agamemnon is a slave and a pariah in a plastic sensor ankle bracelet and tattered combat dress. Everyone thinks she is crazy, yet she demands to be heard. Under Michael Russotto’s fury-fueled direction, Jennifer Mendenhall plays Electra as an instrument of pure, honed passion, pared down to sinew and anxiety. Not to be believed is a particularly cruel form of madness, and Miss Mendenhall’s rage carries the play. Through May 29. 800/494-8497. Reviewed by Jayne Blanchard.

• Hannah and Martin — Theatre J — ***. How much do we owe our teachers? This is the question for political philosopher Hannah Arendt in this striking and cerebral production of Kate Fodor’s searing play. The Jewish Miss Arendt’s mentor in classroom and bedroom was Martin Heidegger, the controversial thinker and Nazi sympathizer. The play centers on the combustive relationship between the two, and also on Miss Arendt’s post-war dilemma: Can she forgive him for his Nazi views, or would forgiveness let him off the hook? John Lescault as Heidegger is at times unconvincing, but the juicy role of Hannah combines restless intellect and huge, physical rawness — and Elizabeth Rich inhabits every ravenous inch of it. This is a study of anguish, and how it can shape and misshape a human being and a mind. Through June 5 at the D.C. Jewish Community Center. 800/494-8497. Reviewed by Jayne Blanchard.

• Perfectly Persephone: Little Greek Myth — Imagination Stage — ***1/2. Great Zeus: Imagination Stage and playwright Kevin Kling have taken on the herculean task of adapting Greek myths to a young, modern audience. The theme here, the burden of perfectionism, takes the perfect Persephone to the underworld, but the combination of Mr. Kling’s gently comedic writing and Janet Stanford’s direction draws out the fun. Imagination Stage trumps our expectations with a cast made up of disabled actors and those with conventional abilities to bring the Greek myths to life with an ambrosial quickness and lightness. Through May 29. 301/280-1660. Reviewed by Jayne Blanchard.

• Pretty Fire — The African Continuum Theatre Company — ***. Actress-playwright Charlayne Woodard’s one-woman play centers on five stories from her youth — in upstate New York and in her grandparents’ Jim Crow South — and how they shaped and changed her. The play’s title comes from a child’s naive reaction to a burning cross one summer in the South. Racism is everywhere, but the stories are filled with warmth, acceptance and love, each tale growing more complex as Miss Woodard ages, and an ebullient Erika Rose is engaging and animated as the main character. What comes through is how a family’s love can sustain a young girl and strengthen her against life’s ordeals. Through Sunday at Atlas Performing Arts Center. 800/494-8497. Reviewed by Jayne Blanchard.

• The Tempest — The Shakespeare Theatre — ****. This snazzy new production of Shakespeare’s play spices the Bard’s sometimes confusing drama with a bracing blend of exoticism and world politics. By re-imagining a Shakespearean spirit world populated by a pan-African Ariel and a comically Saddam-like Caliban, director Kate Whoriskey draws fresh attention to Shakespeare’s dominant themes of sin, forgiveness and transformative redemption. The sheer theatricality of the production’s colorful pinwheels, primitive monsters and aerial derring-do helps transform this “Tempest” into a thoughtfully entertaining evening of theater. Through Sunday. 202/547-1122. Reviewed by T.L. Ponick.

• The Voysey Inheritance — Centerstage — **. In Harley Granville Barker’s 1905 play, Trenchard Voysey Sr. runs an august British investment firm with a spotless reputation — except that he and his father before him have been defrauding customers. His son Edward is poised to inherit the firm, and the play details Edward’s ethical struggle and his efforts to put things right. The play feels dated and lugubrious, with leaden clouds of expository dialogue. It might have been provocative in 1905, but a century later, it’s a one-note diatribe, airless and devoid of humor and humanity. Through June 5 at 700 N. Calvert St., Baltimore. 410/332-0033. Reviewed by Jayne Blanchard.

MAXIMUM RATING: FOUR STARS

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