- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 13, 2001

Are You There, God? It's Me, Kristin Source Theatre Company. One woman show featuring Kristin Garrison's comic observations on life. Opens tomorrow. 202/462-1073.
Bluebeard Cherry Red Productions. A pirate turns into a mad scientist on a deserted island. Recommended for mature audiences. Opens tomorrow at the Metro Cafe. 202/298-9077.
Cinderella Kennedy Center Opera House. Rodgers and Hammerstein's TV musical spin on the fairy tale about a poor girl who finds her Prince Charming. Opens Tuesday. 202/467-4600.

Hamlet The Shakespeare Theatre **1/2 Call it "Hamlet for Dummies." The Shakespeare Theatre's production telegraphs everything just in case you never have heard of the Melancholy Dane. The staging is about as subtle as a cudgel. Some death scenes are accompanied by "eee-eee-eee-eee" sounds straight out of "Psycho." Many of the actors shout their lines, perhaps to stir up energy, but they give the impression of a kingdomwide hearing problem. Luckily, the hurly-burly dies down during Hamlet's soliloquies, when Wallace Acton, delivering the famous speeches with a divine naturalness, uses nothing but his supple voice and gestures to reveal to us the quicksilver states of the prince's mind. Sybil Lines gives us a Gertrude of dignity and nuance. Also, led by Edward Gero as the ghost of Hamlet's father, the Players a traveling acting troupe hired by Hamlet to put on a play about the murder reach a magic and eloquence using greasepaint and worn props that the rest of the show never achieves. Through Jan. 6. 202/547-1122. Reviewed by Jayne M. Blanchard.
A New Brain Studio Theatre ****. This ebullient production of William Finn's cerebral, stirring musical about getting a second chance at life is a show about living, about feeling grateful, about starting over. Post-September 11, the semiautobiographical musical, which stems from Mr. Finn's brush with mortality in the early 1990s, has an exhilarating message that Mr. Finn could not have figured on when he wrote it in 1997. The half-fantasy, half-reality structure offers up a real grab bag of melodies and moods, but Mr. Finn's consistent quirkiness and odd rhythms and rhymes somehow work. The Studio's production wisely underplays the profundity of the message, with director Serge Seiden delivering a show that is fun, dizzying and a bit impudent and naughty. Through Dec. 30. 202/332-3300. Reviewed by Jayne M. Blanchard.
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. The audience-participation murder-mystery farce (set in a Georgetown hair salon) is well-played, though, 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.
She Loves Me Olney Theatre Center ***. No need for candy canes. This production provides all the sweetness required for the holiday season. The combination of a fetching score, excellent voices, swirly staging and period-perfect costumes would make the Jerry Bock-Sheldon Harnick musical a delight in any season, but it's a special treat this time of year. Adapted for Broadway in 1963 from Hungarian writer Miklos Laszlo's 1937 story, the show is set during the Christmas rush at Maraczek's Parfumerie in 1930s Budapest. It tells the tale of two people who fall in love through anonymous letters they have written to "Dear Friend," and the anonymity gives them unparalleled insight into their hearts and souls. "She Loves Me" takes us back to a sweeter time perfumed with promise. It's an ideal show for this year especially. Through Dec. 30. 301/924-3400. Reviewed by Jayne M. Blanchard.

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