- The Washington Times - Friday, February 8, 2008

OPENING

• All That I Will Ever Be — Studio Theatre — Playwright Alan Ball explores the relationship of two men living in Los Angeles — one white, one from the Middle East. Opens Wednesday. Through March 9. 202/332-3300

• Doubt: A Parable — Olney Theatre Center for the Arts — John Patrick Shanley sets his Pulitzer- and Tony-winning drama in a ‘60s-era Bronx Catholic school, where a nun suspects a popular new priest of improper conduct with a male student. Opens Wednesday. Through March 9. 301/924-3400

• Fool for Love — Spooky Action Theater — Feuding lovers in a motel room at the edge of the Mojave Desert lay bare their relationship in Sam Shepard’s play. Opens Thursday at Montgomery College’s Black Box Theatre. Through March 9. 202/248-0647

• Low Tide Hotel — Happenstance Theater at Round House Theatre — Straight from the 2007 Capital Fringe Festival, this “dada day at the beach” draws its inspiration from vintage maritime luggage labels, literature and song. Opens Thursday. Through Feb. 24.

• Long Day’s Journey into Night — Firebelly Productions at Theater on the Run — Eugene O’Neill”s masterwork follows the Tyrone family on one fateful, heart-rending day in the summer of 1912. Opens tomorrow. Through March 2. 703/409-2372

• The Mansaku-no-Kai Kyogen Company — Kennedy Center Terrace Theater — Two programs of kyogen, a type of spoken drama based on laughter and comedy: Traditional kyogen works on Monday; “The Kyogen of Errors,” based on Shakespeare’s play, Wednesday and Thursday. In Japanese with English surtitles. Part of the Japan! Culture + Hyperculture Festival. 202/467-4600

• Mari Natsuki’s The Impressionist ‘08 — Kennedy Center Family Theater — Tokyo-born singer/dancer/actor Mari Natsuki in the Washington premiere of her self-produced theater piece. Part of the Japan! Culture + Hyperculture Festival. Wednesday only. 202/467-4600

• Shintoku-Maru — Kennedy Center Opera House — Drama, music and spectacle merge in Yukio Ninagawa’s adaptation of an ancient Japanese noh play, starring celebrated young film actor Tatsuya Fujiwara. In Japanese. Part of the Japan! Culture + Hyperculture Festival. Tonight and tomorrow only. 202/467-4600

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 Sunday. 202/393-3939.

• Trad — Solas Nua at Flashpoint — *** Caring for an aging parent takes on the dimension of comic yearning with “Trad,” Irish playwright Mark Doherty’s entertaining and wistful yarn about a 100-year-old man’s late-in-life epic quest with his feckless son. Think “Don Quixote” without the Spanish heat, or “Waiting for Godot” without the tree in this soulfully engaging production about a garrulous geezer determined to pass on family stories, many fantastically hyperbolic, before he dies. Mr. Doherty has a comedy and stand-up background, which shows in the Abbott and Costello-like patter and there is a music hall rhythm to the pair’s well-worn exchanges that is so outrageous it recalls the Monty Python troupe at its most absurd. “Trad” wryly revels in its Irishness, yet its gently humorous meditation on how present and future generations sculpt and contest a country’s identity resonates in any culture. Through Feb. 17. 800/494-TIXS

• 5 Questions for a Jewish Mother — Theater J — **** The quintessential yenta is the inspiration for Judy Gold’s wildly funny and affecting one-woman play, which will have tears of laughter and poignant recognition rolling down your cheeks. Based on her mom, Ruth’s ferocious, anxiety-riddled love for her children, the play incorporates choice bits from Miss Gold’s stand-upact with deft, pain-etched portrayals of some of the Jewish women she and co-writer Kate Moira Ryan met met during their research. While Ruth is a marvelous piece of work, “25 Questions” reaches another level of artistry with its depictions of the other women interviewed. They range from Orthodox mothers who insist they would sit shiva if their children married outside the faith to Holocaust survivors. In between, Miss Gold talks about her journey and running as far away as she could from her smothering, religious childhood. “The 25 Questions” is a beautifully detailed, deeply felt exploration of identity as Miss Gold moves from denial to accepting that she is indeed a Jewish mother herself — and proud of it. Through Feb. 24.

MAXIMUM RATING: FOUR STARS

— Jayne Blanchard

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