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Theater Minis

- The Washington Times - Friday, February 1, 2008

NOW PLAYING

• Argonautika — Shakespeare Theatre Company —***1/2 Mary Zimmerman's"Argonautika" will enchant you with its stately, lustrous beauty and robust humor. The Apollonian spirit is very much present in the classic lines and serene composition of Miss Zimmerman's luminous adaptation of the classic Greek myth of a hero's epic journey. The production could have used some trimming, especially a leisurely first act that makes the tragic denouement concerning Medea's actions when faced with Jason's waning loyalty seem rushed and hasty. The actors are mostly in fine form, keeping up with the stringent physical and aesthetic demands of the production while still conveying warmth and humanity. The exception to this is Jake Suffian's Jason, who comes off as remote and chillingly unreachable. Through March 2. 202/547-1122.

• Ella — Arena Stage in Crystal City — *** Discreet insights into the inner life of Ella Fitzgerald are mined in this musical bio-play, although nothing particularly surprising is revealed, for as in life, it is the performances of Miss Fitzgerald's hits that give the show its emotional highs rather than the spectacle of a cultural icon spilling her guts. Tina Fabrique lends her supple contralto to spot-on interpretations of Miss Fitzgerald's signature sound that are more than mimicry. The astonishing thing is that she does not do note-for-note impressions but gives us a robust flavor of the singer's distinctive delivery and the progression of her sound from the early days of novelty songs and big-band music to the wild and poetic scatting of bebop. "Ella" is a musical revue loosely grouped around the flimsy premise of Miss Fitzgerald and her band rehearsing and performing at a 1966 concert in Nice, France. The autobiographical aspects are sketchy and somewhat gauche; at times, you feel you are biding time until the next song. The litheness of Miss Fabrique's powerhouse vocals is reason enough to see "Ella," even if the show could have used more decorum, which characterized Miss Fitzgerald's music and public life, and less Sturm und Drang, which didn't. Through Feb. 24. 202/488-3300.

• Glory Days— Signature Theatre —**1/2 Retribution, apathy and nostalgia collide in the slight but engaging world premiere musical "Glory Days" by Washington-area wunderkinds Nick Blaemire and James Gardiner. The two 23-year-olds — friends since high school — have collaborated on a pop-rock musical, savvily directed by Eric Schaeffer, that affectingly reflects on that awkward time after freshman year of college where you feel caught between being a child and taking those first, tenuous steps into independence and young adulthood. The score is in the derivative Jonathan Larson pop vein, with the endless crescendos and the escalating harmonies of the boy-band era. The thing about this music — which seems so '90s — is that it is "rock" sanitized by Broadway traditions and, as a result, is something a young person would probably never listen to or perhaps even hear. There are a few songs of clever promise — the sarcastic charge of the lyrics in "Generation Apathy," for example — and the young cast sings the score with all the brio and testosterone-fueled bravado they can muster. Through Feb. 17. 703/820-9771.

• The K of D — Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company — ***1/2 Actress Kimberly Gilbert populates a Podunk town in Ohio with an Edgar Allan Poe-worthy gallery of scary characters in Laura Schellhardt's wryly macabre play (the title stands for "the kiss of death") about a damaged little girl named Charlotte with a lethal pucker. Miss Schellhardt shimmeringly portrays all 12 characters with protean ease, shifting from a motormouth street punk to a teenager infatuated with gore the way others her age worship the stars of "High School Musical." Her tour-de-force performance and the way she effortlessly slips into one persona after another makes "The Kiss of Death" something to embrace willingly. Through Feb. 10. 202/393-3939.

• Romeo and Juliet — Synetic Theater at the Rosslyn Spectrum — *** Shakespeare's tale of the star-crossed lovers told through movement, music and drama but without words. Through March 9. 703/824-8060.

MAXIMUM RATING: FOUR STARS

— Jayne Blanchard