- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 17, 2007

OPENING

• The Jitney — Ford’s Theatre. August Wilson’s play re-creates 1970s Pittsburgh, where jitney drivers must struggle with gentrification, individual responsibility and the definition of community. Opens tomorrow. 202/347-4833.

• The Snow Queen — Classika Theatre. A holiday fable of a sister’s journey to save her brother from being turned into ice by the evil Snow Queen. Opens Saturday. 703/824-6200.

• The Tempest — Keegan Theatre. Shakespeare’s tale of freedom, temperance, repentance and forgiveness. Opens tonight at Church Street Theater. 703/892-0202.

NOW PLAYING

• Desire Under the Elms — American Century Theater — ***. For his 1924 foray into American realism, Eugene O’Neill looked to the Greeks, incorporating elements of the Oedipus trilogy, “Medea” and “Phaedra” into his tragedy about a New England farming family. It’s a bodice-ripper, a tale of sex, revenge and a 19th-century game of “Who’s your daddy?” Character and psychological forces drive this stark and taut production, under the firm guidance of William Aitken. The strong acting and the epic characters make this “Desire” one that deserves to emerge from the shadows. Through Feb. 3 at Gunston Theater II. 703/553-8782.

• Noises Off — Arena Stage, Kreeger Theater — ****. You’ll find yourself helpless with laughter during Arena Stage’s production of British playwright Michael Frayn’s rowdy 1982 backstage comedy in which a third-rate British theater company tries to put on a third-rate sex farce while everything falls apart on both sides of the curtain. It’s a delirious depiction of backstage dramatics and the scarcely contained hysteria that goes into the making of live theater that will delight both showbiz insiders and innocents. Through Jan. 28. 202/488-3300.

• Son of a Bush — Gross National Product —**. Gross National Product’s 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 mishap and Bushisms we have seen parodied a million times before. Extended indefinitely on Saturdays at the Warehouse Theater. 202/783-7212.

• This Is How It Goes — Studio Theatre — ***. Playwright Neil LaBute’s latest foray into our knee-jerk reactions is a race-themed “Rashomon” with twists and kinks reminiscent of that master of suspense, Alfred Hitchcock. The issue is ingrained racism, and Mr. LaBute suggests that Generation X-ers and beyond may not be as colorblind as they profess. You’d never believe that bigotry could be entertaining, but Studio Theatre’s lively production, directed by Paul Mullins, makes an uncomfortable discussion a stinging pleasure. Through Feb. 11. 202/332-3300.

• Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? — Kennedy Center Eisenhower Theater — ***1/2. Marriage ain’t for sissies, and there’s a lurid, perverse joy in watching this touring revival of the 1962 drama that playwright Edward Albee revised for the 2004 Tony Award-winning Broadway run. The play, set in a New England college town in 1960, takes place during one long, drunken night after a faculty party and reveals that the bitter, shared stories of the toxically married George and Martha have created an intricate alternate reality that welds them miserably together. Bill Irwin and Kathleen Turner are malignantly magnificent, displaying an exultant ugliness on the cellular level. In real life you wouldn’t want to share even their air space, but at the Eisenhower Theatre you can watch with comfortable, ironic detachment as these old gladiators hack away at one another. Through Jan. 28. 202/467-4600.

MAXIMUM RATING: FOUR STARS

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