- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 2, 2001

The Muckle Man Source Theatre. A mysterious man walks into the life of a family in crisis. Opens Wednesday. 202/462-1073.


The Andersonville Trial American Century Theater ***. Written in 1959 by playwright Saul Levitt, "Trial" follows closely the transcript of a post-Civil War trial that found Confederate prison commandant Henry Wirz (Charles Matheny) guilty of atrocities at a prison camp in Andersonville, Ga., where more than 14,000 Union soldiers died. He subsequently was hanged. Director Jack Marshall has created an intense play in which characters explode with powerful lines about a soldier's duty as it conflicts with his conscience. The acting is solid and straightforward. Especially strong is the performance by Mr. Matheny. The two-hour play drags in the second half, as the parade of witnesses becomes repetitive. But it is engaging and diligently moves the audience back 135 years to a trial stuffed with the timeless theme of duty versus conscience. Through Saturday at Gunston Arts Center's Theater II. 703/553-8782. Reviewed by Gabriella Boston.
The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged) The Reduced Shakespeare Company *** 1/2. In 97 minutes you can get a Ph.D.'s-worth of classic plays all 37 of Shakespeare's works, not to mention the sonnets, rendered at a hilarious, hyperspeed pace. Time even is left over for encores, in this case, three different renditions of "Hamlet": fast, faster and backward. Knockabout good fun for everyone, including the children. The spirit of the company's rendition of the canon can be expressed in one sentence: May the Bard be with you. Through Aug. 12 at the Kennedy Center Terrace Theater. 202/467-4600. Reviewed by Jayne M. Blanchard.
Late Nite Catechism West End Theatre - ***. The chalkboard is littered with terms such as "Immaculate Conception," "stigmata," "Easter duty," "limbo" and "purgatory," and the classroom is filled with people of all ages. Jodi Capeless stars as the instructor in this motley classroom, in which audience members serve as the students. She combines doses of the rigid discipline of the habit pre-1950s with some 21st-century understanding, if not tolerance. She isn't quite brusque enough, though. Despite its shortfalls and much of the script's predictability, "Catechism" offers a refreshing, somewhat lighthearted look at otherwise serious subject matter. Through Sept. 16. 703/573-SEAT, 202/432-SEAT or 301/808-6900. Reviewed by Stephanie K. Taylor.
The Pirates of Penzance Interact Theatre Company ***. This production, also billed as "The Picaroons of the Potomac," is a summer treat although it takes a while to get its first act together. "Pirates," written in 1879, is one of the best-loved Gilbert and Sullivan scores. Catherine Flye, the director as well as Interact's artistic director, has set the play in late-18-century Virginia instead of late-19th-century England. Thus, Maj. Gen. Stanley becomes Gen. Boshington, who lives at Vernon Castle in Alexandria. (Get it?) The pirates no longer are from Penzance, but from Potomac. The policemen are turned into militiamen dressed up like British infantrymen, red coats and all. This does not detract from the play, but it doesn't add much, either. Although he suffers under a questionable makeup job, Andrew Wynn's Boshington is the comedic center of the play. Through Sept. 9 at the Folger Theatre. 703/218-6500. Reviewed by Eric M. Johnson.
Shear Madness Kennedy Center Theater Lab **. This corny, hokey tourist trap now in its second decade is doubly maddening because the Kennedy Center displays it as art to the cultural center's unsuspecting pilgrims. But the audience-participation murder-mystery farce (set in a Georgetown hair salon) is well-played when the actors refrain from mugging and cracking up one another. The audience rambunctiously analyzes evidence and chooses the murderer in this campy, shtick-filled goof. Continues indefinitely. 202/467-4600. Reviewed by Nelson Pressley.
Spunk African Continuum Theatre Company ***. The three Zora Neale Hurston tales in this production are of no clearly defined time, but each conveys a strong sense of place. George C. Wolfe's adaptation of the stories offers up varying slice-of-life portraits, from a marriage gone bad to a bruised love redeemed. One of the production's hit-and-miss techniques is the way the actors break the action to narrate the story. It pays off occasionally with some funny juxtapositions, but more often, it just disrupts the drama. It's a rousing intrusion in an otherwise rousing show. Through Aug. 12 at the Kennedy Center AFI Theater. 202/467-4600. Reviewed by Carol Johnson.


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