- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 4, 2005

OPENING

• Anna Christie Arena Stage, Kreeger Theater—. Eugene O’Neill’s poignant portrait of a Swedish barge captain and the mysterious past of his estranged daughter. Opens tomorrow.5/6/488-3300.

• Big Death and Little Death Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company—. A dark comedy about the end of the world as we know it. Opens Tuesday.5/10393-3939.

• Cigarettes and Moby Dick Venus Theatre Company. Miranda must choose either her lover or her partners in this seductive play by Migdalia Cruz. Opens tonight5/5the Warehouse Theater. 202/236-4078.

• Jason and the Argonauts Synetic Theater—. Jason becomes intoxicated by the beauty and sorcery of Medea, which drives them into a tangled web of witchcraft, fiery passion and bloodstained victory. Opens tonight5/5the Rosslyn Spectrum. 703/824-8060.

• Lend Me a Tenor Olney Theatre Center for the Arts—. It’s 1934, and the Cleveland Grand Opera Company has managed to persuade world-renowned tenor Tito Merelli to star in its production of Othello and the company can’t let anything get in the way of its success. Opens tonight.—5/5/924-3400.

• Pretty Fire — The African Continuum Theatre Company. A young black woman tells funny and often moving stories of growing up and finding her voice within a diverse, supportive family. Opens tonight at Atlas Performing Arts Center. 800/494-8497.

• Real Women Have Curves — GALA Teatro Hispano. A comedy about five Latina women toiling at a sweatshop. Opens tonight. 800/494-8497.

• The Shakespeare Project — Catalyst Theatre Company. Seven actors with “blood as their argument” tear into and rebuild “Macbeth.” Opens tonight at the Capitol Hill Arts Workshop. 800/494-8497.

• Side Man — The Keegan Theatre. The Tony-winning play told from the standpoint of a jazz trumpet player and set in an era when the glory days of big bands were fading away. Opens tonight at Church Street Theater. 703/527-6000. Ext. 2.

NOW PLAYING

• 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 Theatrestars— 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 people 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 May 22. 202/554-7077. Reviewed by Jayne Blanchard.—

*** 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.—

**** Omnium Gatherum — Olney Theatre Center for the Arts —— The title means “a peculiar collection of souls,” and this 90-minute feast of wit and haute cuisine gives us a Manhattan hostess and the kaleidoscope of guests she has assembled for her sumptuous and surreal dinner party, which takes place in post-September 11 New York. Imagine at one table a best-selling novelist, a hard-drinking Briton, a Middle Eastern scholar, a black writer on morality and spirituality, a vegan feminist peacenik, a New York firefighter, and just in time for dessert a curse-hurling Arab terrorist. They argue, they console, they pontificate anything to keep away the pervasive darkness and panic they have felt since September 11. The acting is uniformly fine, and Halo Wines directs with master-chef skill. Through Sunday—May 8. 301/924-3400. Reviewed by Jayne Blanchard—.

*** The Piano Lesson — • Arena Stage, Fichandler Theater — August Wilson’s play about a Pittsburgh family’s battle over an heirloom piano carved with the faces of ancestors whether to keep it as a reminder of the old ones’ struggles with slavery or sell it and so cast off the white man — is saturated with the playwright’s bluesy poetry and vivid characters. Director Seret Scott brings out the fullness of the play’s humor and the emotional friction between the two central characters, a brother and sister. Harriett D. Foy is a powerhouse as the strong-willed sister, and the music of Mr. Wilson’s play comes through loud and clear. Through May 15. 202/488-3300. Reviewed by Jayne Blanchard ****.

The Tempst **** 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 Whoriskeycq 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 May 22. 202/547-1122. Reviewed by T.L. Ponick.

MAXIMUM RATING: FOUR STARS

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