- The Washington Times - Friday, July 25, 2008

NOW PLAYING

The Imaginary InvalidShakespeare Theatre — ★★★½ Rene Auberjonois’ hearty hypochondriac is one of the slapstick pleasures of director Keith Baxter’s mirthful and music-filled production of Moliere’s final work. Mr. Baxter’s lustrous staging is very much in keeping with the playwright’s original intent of a court performance for Louis XIV. Through Sunday. 202/547-1122

The Lion KingKennedy Center — ★★★ This juggernaut of a musical is crammed with scenery, action, vibrant lighting effects, actors tumbling through space, musical power, an orchestra in the pit, a drummer on each side of the stage, belt-it-out soloists and a chorus, with most of the music by Elton John. Whether or not you’re enthralled by this Disney extravaganza probably will depend on your view of the Disney franchise. Through Aug. 24. 202/467-4600

The OverwhelmingContemporary American Theater Festival — ★★★★ “The Overwhelming” focuses on the Twilight Zone of a Rwandan society as seen through the eyes of classic liberal professor Jack Exley (Lee Sellars). He’s just arrived in Kigali, Rwanda, and brings along his new wife, Linda (Tijuana T. Ricks), who happens to be black, as well as his sullen but highly intelligent white son, Geoffrey (Graham Powell). Playing in repertory with other plays at the CATF at Shepherd University, Shepherdstown, W.Va. Through Aug. 3. 304/876-3473; 800/999-2283

Pig FarmContemporary American Theater Festival — ★★★ The surreal world of “Pig Farm” is not too far in the future, when Environmental Protection Agency enforcers pack the kind of heat and authority heretofore limited to G-men like Eliot Ness and the Untouchables. Tom (Lee Sellars) and Tina (Andrea Cirie) run a factorylike pig farm, supporting up to 15,000 porkers and the waste products they produce. Because of federal regulations, they have to cheat a bit around the edges to stay solvent. This attracts the attention of EPA agent Teddy (Anderson Matthews), who decides to try to shut them down. Things are complicated by the oversexed Tina’s desire for a baby — a desire not on Tom’s agenda. Playing in repertory with other plays at the CATF at Shepherd University, Shepherdstown, W.Va. Through Aug. 3. 304/876-3473; 800/999-2283

Stick FlyContemporary American Theater Festival — ★★★ Playwright Lydia R. Diamond’s “Stick Fly” offers an unusual glimpse into the lives of a wealthy, dysfunctional black family summering on Martha’s Vineyard. Miss Diamond is extraordinarily successful, daring to examine the possibility that perhaps it’s not race, but social class and pressures that more strongly influence our personal outcomes. Playing in repertory with other plays at the CATF at Shepherd University, Shepherdstown, W.Va. Through Aug. 3. 304/876-3473; 800/999-2283

A View of the HarborContemporary American Theater Festival — ★ Playwright Richard Dresser takes us to coastal Maine to explore the lives of a declining family of wealthy white industrialists who seem more unhappy than anyone alive, excepting the patriarch of the family, the seemingly heartless Daniel (rousingly portrayed by Anderson Matthews). Sadly, Mr. Dresser’s play is not up to the standards of his earlier installments. Worse, actors fumbled their lines, indicating some changes may have been made during rehearsals. Playing in repertory with other plays at the CATF at Shepherd University, Shepherdstown, W.Va. Through Aug. 3. 304/876-3473; 800/999-2283

Welcome Home, Jenny SutterKennedy Center — ★★½ Julie Marie Myatt’s promising new play, “Welcome Home, Jenny Sutter,” chronicles the struggles of Marine veteran Jenny Sutter (Gwendolyn Mulamba), who returns home after losing her lower leg in an explosion in Iraq. The 30-year-old soldier and mother of two finds herself reluctant to go back to her family and the life she once knew. You’re not completely sure of Miss Myatt’s point of view, or if she even has one. This makes the play very much a work in progress, since it does not take seriously or do justice to the experiences of our fighting men and women. Through Sunday. 202/467-4600

WrecksContemporary American Theater Festival — ★★★★ With “Wrecks,” audience members are instantly greeted by a somber person in a black suit who offers them seating upon entering the theater. They find themselves at a wake in a funeral parlor. A man enters and begins to speak. He is Edward Carr (Kurt Zischke). His late wife is in the casket. Carr rambles on about his beloved spouse, gradually filling in the story of their strange and passionate relationship. The trick is to listen carefully to Neil LaBute’s subtle dialogue. Clues to a deeper story are revealed at the last moment, transforming “Wrecks” into an odd whodunit with a big surprise. Playing in repertory with other plays at the CATF at Shepherd University, Shepherdstown, W.Va. Through Aug. 3. 304/876-3473; 800/999-2283

MAXIMUM RATING: FOUR STARS

Compiled by Jayne Blanchard, Jean Battey Lewis and T.L. Ponick.

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