- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 13, 2006

OPENING

• The Light in the Piazza — Kennedy Center Opera House. The wife of an American businessman and her daughter are traveling the Tuscan countryside, where the daughter falls in love with a handsome Florentine. Opens Tuesday. 202/467-4600.

• Noises Off — Arena Stage, Kreeger Theater. The backstage antics of a third-rate theater troupe touring their third-rate farce. Opens tomorrow. 202/488-3300.

• The Santaland Diaries — Rep Stage. A one-man comedy featuring Crumpet, a slacker employed as Santa’s helper at Macy’s during the Christmas season. Opens Wednesday at Howard County Community College. 410/772-4900.

NOW PLAYING

• The Christmas Foundling — Journeyman Theatre Company — … In local playwright Norman Allen’s dead-earnest tale, inspired by the stories of Bret Harte, it’s all spittin’, drinkin’ and bellyachin’ among a group of crusty coal miners living in the Sierra foothills of gold-rush California in the 1850s. They adopt and raise a foundling boy, but by the time he’s 10 his rich aunt from back East comes to claim him, raising the question of what really makes a family and leading to the syrupy, contrived ending in which everyone gets along. It’s unrelentingly heartwarming, and you OD on good cheer pretty quickly. A high tolerance for hokum and a taste for gee-tar are recommended. Through Dec. 30 at H Street Playhouse. 800/494-TIXS.

• Cinderella — Olney Theatre Center — …. Sparkly accessories and sparkling performances rule the night in writer-director Mark Waldrop’s version of the Rodgers and Hammerstein classic. This smartened-up, modern take contains the cherished fairytale elements of the Disney movie and the television versions, but also keeps in mind that times and attitudes have changed. And it moves like an intricately designed children’s toy, bright and ingenious. Plus, Cinderella and the prince sign autographs after every show, enchanting every little girl. Through Dec. 31. 301/924-3400.

• The Long Christmas Ride Home — Studio Theatre — .. Too much ho, ho, ho? Dim that seasonal delight by seeing Paula Vogel’s interminable wretchedness-fest, a depressing one-act holiday memory piece that looks back on a dysfunctional family’s Christmas visit to grandma’s. With elements of Noh theater, Bunraku puppetry and Japanese woodblock art, the production looks beautiful and the acting is solid. But this is not really a play; it’s just reworked snippets from older works, random thoughts and a sampling of the playwright’s interests — a bizarre and dreary My Space page. Through Dec. 31. 202/332-3300.

• She Loves Me — Arena Stage, Fichandler Theater — …. Arena’s production of the old-fashioned, melodic 1963 musical — a tale of two employees of a Budapest perfume shop in the 1930s who clash at work but fall in love through pseudonymous letters — is flowery and romantic. Rather than fiddle with it, director Kyle Donnelly taps into its enduring vitality with young, new talent and a smattering of old pros. It’s old school in the best sense, in which songs convey character and lightly push the plot to a satisfying ending that takes place on that giddiest of days, Christmas Eve. Who could ask for a better wrapped package? Through Dec. 31. 202/488-3300.

• The Skriker — Forum Theatre and Dance — …. A visually stunning production of English playwright Caryl Churchill’s 1994 cautionary fable, which combines gremlin-like fairies that prey on humans in modern London with a stern social message about the stewardship of the Earth. The shape-shifting Skriker spirits two young women off to the underworld, keeping them until the fairies rule the Earth again and try to salvage it. The arcane subject matter and the surreal, dense dialogue make the play hard to understand without preparation, and the imaginatively staged production relies too much on striking images and hypnotic movement. But the premise and presentation are intriguing. Through Dec. 23 at the Warehouse Theater. 202/489-1701.

• Son of a Bush — Gross National Product —… Gross National Product’s new political comedy show is a sometimes endearingly low-tech deflation of inside-the-Beltway maneuvers, election-year posturing and the Bush administration. GNP does not bring anything new to the table, instead resorting to Dick Cheney’s gun mishaps and Bushisms we have seen parodied a million times before. Extended indefinitely on Saturdays at the Warehouse Theater. 202/783-7212. MAXIMUM RATING: FOUR STARS

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