- The Washington Times - Friday, February 20, 2009

NOW PLAYING

DanteSynetic Theater — ★★★★ The road to Hell is paved with good inventions in Synetic Theater’s “Dante,” a divinely inspired adaptation of Dante Alighieri’s “The Divine Comedy.” Sin and corruption become this movement-based, startlingly physical theater troupe under the direction of Paata Tsikurishvili and dancer-choreographer Irina Tsikurishvili. As they proved with previous productions of “Faust,” “Dracula” and “Fall of the House of Usher,” no one portrays the undead and the demonic with more panache and visual artistry than Synetic. This version of Dante’s poetic masterpiece dwells mostly in Inferno but gives us a brief glimpse of Purgatory and Paradise in the beatific, cleansing denouement. Through March 22. 800/494-8497

A Delicate BalanceArena Stage at Crystal City — ★★★½ Arena goes back to its roots for this gleaming production, notable not only for capturing the classy uppercuts of Edward Albee’s upper-crust dialogue, but also for the look of the show. The trappings of East Coast gentry are Mr. Albee’s milieu, and few playwrights capture the neuroses and velvet-shrouded prickliness of this world with such precise wit and insight. In “A Delicate Balance,” which premiered on Broadway in 1966, Mr. Albee examines the domestic lies that bind — and enmesh — a suburban WASP family undergoing a startling invasion. Through March 15. 202/488-3300

EurydiceRound House Theatre — ★★★ With playful touches of surrealism and artfully elliptical language, playwright Sarah Ruhl re-imagines the Orpheus myth from the female point of view in this graceful, seriocomic look at love, loss and the stillness of memory at Round House Theater under the direction of Derek Goldman. In Miss Ruhl’s modernistic and mournful version, Orpheus (Adriano Gatto) gnashes his teeth and pens frenzied love letters to his love, but in actuality, Eurydice (Jenna Sokolowski) takes the more potent journey. Through March 1. 240/644-1387

The Heavens Are Hung in BlackFord’s Theatre — ★ It’s an accepted fact that Abraham Lincoln loved theater, especially Shakespeare. Hard to say what he would make of “The Heavens Are Hung in Black,” a world-premiere commission by Ford’s Theatre to commemorate the great man’s 200th birthday. You probably could surmise, though, that he would rather be at one his wife’s cockamamie seances than endure this loggy and incongruously wacky play. Through March 8. 800/899-2367

Les MiserablesSignature Theatre — ★★★ The turntable? You hardly miss it in Signature Theatre’s emotive, blood-and-guts staging of the megamusical “Les Miserables,” directed by Eric Schaeffer and scaled down to fit in the 280-seat Max Theatre. Mr. Schaeffer’s visceral approach to the material differs from the unfolding magisterial spectacle of the Broadway show. At Signature, there’s no distance between you and the action, so you can almost smell the gunfire, the sweat of the great Gallic unwashed and the scent of spilled blood and red wine. Through Sunday. 703/573-7328

The Little Dog LaughedSignature Theatre — ★★★ A delectably caustic comedy of manners that satirizes the movie industry and our citizenry’s relentless pursuit of happiness. Playwright Douglas Carter Beane is a throwback to such noted wordsmiths as Noel Coward and S.J. Perelman in the sophisticated sparkle of his writing. Adding to the fizz of Signature’s production of “Little Dog,” directed by Michael Baron, is a dandy ensemble cast, including Holly Twyford, Matthew Montelongo, Casie Platt and Ivan Quintanilla, who are more than up to the physical and mental gymnastics the comedy demands. Through March 15.. 703/573-7328

The SeafarerStudio Theatre — ★★ Alcoholism isn’t pretty — in Dublin or Dubuque — but this raggle-taggle collection of incorrigible tipplers makes boozing so becoming you might be tempted to have a go at a lost weekend yourself. They’re losers, but lovable, and you wonder if that is what the playwright intended, instead of what was seen and felt in the hard-edged and clear-eyed production seen in New York last season. Under the direction of Paul Mullins, “The Seafarer,” which is essentially an emotionally bleak work, is instead rendered as an affectionate look at a gang of cuddly Irish drunks. Through Sunday. 202/332-3300

Unleashed!: The Secret Life of White House PetsFamily Theater, Kennedy Center — ★★★½ Tipp the Chihuahua (Matthew McGloin) and his human sidekick, young Alastair (Jessica Frances Dukes), are new to the White House and intimidated by the daunting majesty and history of the place. Their efforts to fit in and assume their first roles are chronicled in this delightfully winsome and informative children’s play by Allyson Currin. The animal companions of presidents from Jefferson all the way to LBJ are introduced as Alastair and Tipp visit these pets in a magical, time-traveling buggy — built to look like a flying White House. Through Sunday. 202/467-4600

The Winter’s TaleFolger Elizabethan Theatre — ★★★ Director Blake Robison crafts a redolent bedtime story for adults with his visually resplendent production of Shakespeare’s 17th-century work. Written in 1611, “Tale” is considered late Shakespeare and falls into the often misleading category of the “problem plays.” If done well, the Bard’s plays are not problematic, and in the case of “The Winter’s Tale,” some of the knotty issues center on the rather abrupt jump from tragedy to comedy. Mr. Robison and his assured cast handle the improbabilities with style and grace in a contemporary staging that emphasizes the dreamy, fairy-tale aspects of the play. Through March 8. 202/544-7077

Zomo the Rabbit: A Hip-Hop Creation MythImagination Stage — ★★★½ This hare-raisingly entertaining show, written and directed by District hip-hop artist Psalmayene 24, features a main character who is a natural successor to the wisecracking coolness of Bugs Bunny. Clever rapper Zomo (Baye Harrell, adroitly playing a rascal with an upright side) is plagued not by the likes of Elmer Fudd and Wile E. Coyote, but by his conscience. Some of the aspects of turning African lore into contemporary street culture seem like a stretch, but Psalmayene 24 shows an abundance of creativity and bigheartedness. Through March 8. 301/280-1660

MAXIMUM RATING: FOUR STARS

Compiled by Jayne Blanchard

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