- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 2, 2007

OPENING

• Sleeping and Waking — Charter Theatre. It’s 60 years in the future and it is now possible to attach a human head to a donor body, and professor Sullivan Daniels is the first to undergo the procedure. Opens tomorrow at Theater on the Run. 202/333-7009.

• The Tempest — Folger Theatre. Old enemies and new lovers find themselves cast ashore in a world they never imagined in Shakespeare’s final play. Opens Wednesday. 202/544-7077.

NOW PLAYING

• The Director: The Third Act of Elia Kazan — Round House Theatre Silver Spring — ***. A confessional memoir by local writer and director Leslie A. Kobylinski, this one-man show is an impressionistic look into the mind of the brilliant Broadway/Hollywood director whose achievements were overshadowed by his decision to cooperate with investigators probing communist influence in Hollywood in the 1950s — and his consequent shunning by the artistic community for more than 40 years. Rick Foucheux gives a laser-sharp performance, but the unstructured play sheds no new light on this complicated man. Through May 13. 240/644-1100.

• The Heidi Chronicles — Arena Stage, Fichandler Theater — ***. Arena Stage revives the late Wendy Wasserstein’s 1989 work about women struggling with identity and compromise from the 1960s to the cusp of the 1990s with a deft touch and edgy darkness. Director Tazewell Thompson and an on-fire cast depict the stages in these women’s lives with conviction — especially the consciousness-raising and sisterhood movement of the 1970s — which gives the scenes power and clarity. It’s a warm and affectionate tribute to the late playwright that asks whether things are actually better for women today or if their subjugation is more subtly ingrained. Through May 13. 202/488-3300.

• The Musical of Musicals (The Musical!) — MetroStage — ****. Eric Rockwell and Joanne Bogart’s melodic and pun-filled parody of Broadway titans — Rodgers and Hammerstein, Sondheim, Andrew Lloyd Webber, Jerry Herman, and Kander and Ebb — is an unabashed joy for devotees of musical theater. Directed with tongue-in-cheek razzle-dazzle by Larry Kaye, MetroStage’s peppy production gives you plenty of reasons to do the old soft shoe. In fact, you’ll probably want to return a few times to catch the stuff you might have missed from laughing too hard. Through June 3. 800/494-8497.

• St. Nicholas — Scena Theatre — **. The supernatural wafts through much of playwright Conor McPherson’s work. In this one-man show the Man (Brian Hemmingsen), a burned-out Dublin theater critic, becomes besotted with a young actress, falls in with a London vampire and ends up sucking blood — a small step for a drama critic, the playwright seems to suggest. The play conjures a woozy, atmospheric climate, but it is more a staged reading. The velvety rasp of Mr. Hemmingsen’s voice and the acidic gush of his anger go far to bring the Man to derelict life, but the spell is broken by Mr. Hemmingsen still grasping the script in his hands. His inability to be off book by this point compromises the power of the piece. Through Sunday at the Source Theatre. 703/683-2824.

• Saving Aimee — Signature Theatre — **1/2. The flamboyance of Aimee Semple McPherson — the famous and glamorous female radio evangelist of the early 20th century whose religious empire was rocked by scandal — make her rich fodder for a musical. Passion for the subject matter is certainly evident in this world premiere: An almost Pentecostal fire roars through it, beginning with Carolee Carmello’s feverish, gripping lead performance. But the score is derivative, repetitive and unmemorable, and all the show-biz razzle-dazzle cannot conceal that as it stands, this musical just has no soul. Through May 13. 703/820-9771.

• Titus Andronicus — Shakespeare Theatre Company — ***. Hats off to the Shakespeare Theatre Company for having the courage to mount a new production of this bloody-minded curiosity, traditionally demeaned as Shakespeare’s worst play and very possibly not entirely written by the Bard. Kudos as well to director Gale Edwards and her highly skilled troupe of actors, who transform the drama’s two-dimensional roles into surprisingly complex character studies. This is not an evening for the squeamish, but the production subtly transforms the Bard’s gory revenge tragedy into an attack on the use of violence as a universal solution. Through May 20. 202/547-1122. — T.L. Ponick MAXIMUM RATING: FOUR STARS

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