You can’t go home again — and if you do, the old neighborhood will make sure you know you’re an outsider. That’s the gist of Brooklyn Boy at Olney Theatre Center, a funny, pain-soaked memory play by Donald Margulies, who takes a successful autobiographical novelist back to home turf and the miserable mother lode of his material — his caustic, fault-finding father and the old neighborhood. Director Jim Petosa’s production is beautifully acted and visually dazzling, and Mr. Margulies‘ sharp, acutely observed writing is a pleasure. The run ends soon, so now’s the time. 2001 Olney-Sandy Spring Road, Olney. Through Aug. 12. $25 to $46. 301/924-3400.
The Swiss import Vitus no doubt qualifies as “feel-good” entertainment, but it approaches inspirational storytelling with exceptional cleverness and agililty. The title alludes to a child prodigy, embodied at age 12 by an authentic piano prodigy, Teo Gheorghiu, who gives director and co-writer Fredi M. Murer a unique concert-hall advantage when it comes to depicting one of the boy’s remarkable aptitudes.
Vitus turns out to be a multitalented youngster. High finance and aviation also concentrate his attention impressively. He’s not immune to miscalculations, especially when it comes to figuring out the people he’d prefer to please, notably his parents and a beloved babysitter, unwilling to envision herself as the girlfriend of an adolescent, no matter how brilliant. He benefits from an admirable influence, a genial foxy grandpa played by Bruno Ganz, doing a witty turnabout in the wake of his stunning performance as Hitler in “Downfall.” An enviable mentor, Grandpa is about as far removed from dictatorial and destructive as a character could be.
— Gary Arnold