- The Washington Times - Friday, September 5, 2008

NOW PLAYING

mJerry Springer: The Opera - - … This British import, which premiered at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival before enjoying a sold-out run in the West End, manages to be filthier than the talk show itself - and that’s saying something. That’s not to say the high-energy, blasphemous show should be avoided - quite the contrary because the nervy cast is exceptional, and it’s not every day you see tap-dancing Ku Klux Klansmen. Just know before you go that the sleaze bar is set pretty high. Through Sunday. 202/332-3300.

* Maria/Stuart - - Jason Grote’s esoteric and earthy family drama is about as far removed from its German Romantic inspiration, Friedrich Schiller’s 1800 drama “Mary Stuart” (about the 16th century’s Mary Queen of Scots, whom Elizabeth I had executed to secure her claim to the throne) as you can get. Family rivalries are never pretty, but between middle-aged women, it is particularly unbecoming. Sisters Lizzie (Emily Townley) and Marnie (Amy McWilliams) grapple for supremacy amid a boozy, profanity-laced battlefield and they seem to have little regard for whom they sacrifice - whether it is their adult children Stuart (Eli James) and Hannah (Meghan Grady); their old and addled mother, Ruthie (Sarah Marshall); or their allegedly psychotic younger sister, Aunt Sylvia (Naomi Jacobson, who manages to wade through the chaos and come up with a weirdly hilarious performance as a survivor who merrily spears junk food with her prosthetic hands). Because the writing is so incoherent, an air of desperation settles over the production and filters down to the actors, who are required to resolve conflict with food fights, spilled beverages and incongruous twists of fate. In “Mary/Stuart,” the supernatural and the sordid are an unholy pairing - it’s like asking Ray Bradbury to rewrite “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf.” Through Sept. 14. 202/393-3939

mRabbit Hole - …. David Lindsay-Abaire’s play bears no resemblance to Wonderland, yet in its portrayal of the surreal aftermath of tragedy, it is a world of wonders. The playwright expertly navigates this terrain in the exquisitely painful “Rabbit Hole,” the 2007 Pulitzer Prize-winning drama that is receiving a must-see area premiere under the impeccable direction of Mitchell Hebert. The drama centers on an upper-middle-class couple, Becca (Deborah Hazlett) and Howie (Paul Morella), coping with the accidental death of their 4-year-old son. Subtle and wise, “Rabbit Hole” carefully regards the different ways men and women mourn and notes that their timetable of sorrow is rarely in sync. It would be easy to fill the play’s unearthly stillness with sentiment and bustle, but the skilled cast makes more intelligent, nuanced choices. Miss Hazlett plays Becca with tightly wound rawness that makes her seem like a dam of anguish about to burst. Mr. Morella’s Howie seems more easygoing, but the actor also lets us glimpse the cracks in his amiable facade. Through Sunday 301/924-3400.

mRooms - …1/2 The Great White Way and anarchy in the United Kingdom? Strange bedfellows, indeed. Ian (Doug Kreeger) and Monica (Natascia Diaz are the pogoing protagonists in this winning world-premiere musical about love, ambition and safety pins at MetroStage. It’s directed with unruly aplomb by Scott Schwartz and features a five-piece rock band kicking out the jams onstage. What’s rather wild and unexpected is that although the musical influences may be the Damned and the Stooges, the show also clearly is inspired by the establishment movie musicals “Funny Girl” and “A Star Is Born.” Miss Diaz (a powerhouse performer whose vocals sometimes evoke those of the late Kirsty MacColl) and Mr. Kreeger (both tortured and magnetic as Ian) bring such unflagging enthusiasm and intensity to the material that you find yourself surprisingly moved by the note of rueful hope struck at the end. Through Sunday. 800/494-8497.

MAXIMUM RATING: FOUR STARS

Compiled by Jayne Blanchard

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