- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 11, 2006

OPENING

• Fair Ladies at a Game of Poem Cards Rorschach Theatre—. Threatened with death by a jealous lord, two pairs of young lovers embark on a adventure through a world of dueling samurai, courtly intrigue and spiritual redemption. Opens Wednesday at Calvary Methodist Church. 800/494-TIXS.

• Two Queens, One Castle Metro Stage—. A gospel musical that explore life’s complexities a catapulting career, motherhood, marriage, extended family and more. Opens Wednesday.—1/18494-8497.

NOW PLAYING

• Damn Yankees — Arena Stage, Fichandler Theater — ***. The bubbly 1955 musical about a middle-aged, rabid Washington Senators fan who sells his soul to the devil to get his team to win the pennant, is an exuberant throwback to a time of innocence. Arena artistic director Molly Smith gives us colorful, no-holds-barred choreography and high-spirited singing for a kicky, kitschy vision of the 1950s. If you’re willing to excuse the era’s dismissive treatment of any woman not a vamp, “Damn Yankees” can be terrific fun. Through Feb. 5. 202/488-3300. Reviewed by Jayne Blanchard.

• Fat Pig — Studio Theatre — ****. Neil LaBute’s play confronts our attitudes toward weight and appearance with blistering honesty and wit. It’s almost unheard of for a big woman to be seen in a sexual context, but here smart, appealing, plus-size Helen (Kate Debelack) gets the guy, a buff, successful executive named Tom (Tyler Pierce) — and gets steamy boudoir scenes as well. Mr. LaBute holds up the cliches “love is blind” and “looks aren’t everything” to almost unbearable scrutiny. And under the disgusted, ruthless gazes of Tom’s friends, this love doesn’t stand a chance. The tragedy here is that Tom is simply not “big” enough for Helen, in every sense of the word. Through Feb. 12. 202/332-3300. Reviewed by Jayne Blanchard.

• Mame — Toby’s Dinner Theatre — ***. Has your tinsel lost its twinkle? Free-spirited auntie Mame (Cathy Mundy) and her cohorts in the whoopee-driven life will put you in the proper seasonal mood with this spry production of Jerry Herman’s musical about the jazz baby from the Roaring 20s who is determined to live each moment to the fullest. Mr. Herman’s music and lyrics shine with a sis-boom-bah brand of optimism that wins you over with their unremitting good cheer. The show is old-fashioned in structure, melody and its drive to deliver a feel-good musical. No sense resisting — old-timey can be timeless, particularly during the holiday season. Through Feb. 19. 800/88TOBYS. Reviewed by Jayne Blanchard.

• Once on This Island— Centerstage— *** s Downtown Baltimore gets a welcome • blast of tropical heat with this sunstruck musical production, a calypso variation on Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Little Mermaid,” re-imagined by composers Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty. Inspired by Rosa Guy’s 1985 novel “My Love, My Love,” the story transplants the Andersen story to an island in the French Antilles, where its rueful romance is complicated by class differences and distinctions of skin color within the black community. The costumes, the music’s infectious island rhythms, and the affecting story combine to make the musical a parade that satiates the senses and the emotions. Through Jan. 22 at 700 N. Calvert St., Baltimore. 410/332-0033. Reviewed by Jayne Blanchard.

Wicked— — Kennedy Center Opera House*** arsn the 1995 novel by Gregory Maguire, this Broadway smash making its District debut fleshes out the back story to “The Wizard of Oz,” revealing the unlikely bond between Glinda the Good Witch and Elphaba, the so-called Wicked Witch of the West. It brings to the task all the razzmatazz a musical can muster, which is more than enough to distract from its sundry flaws a meandering book and lyrics packed with too much story. But these imperfections are sprinkled throughout the show like fairy dust and never bring it tumbling down. All performances are sold out. Through SundayJan. 15. 202/467-4600. Reviewed by Christian Toto

MAXIMUM RATING: FOUR STARS

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