- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 8, 2001

OPENING

Jubilee Scena Theatre. Ghosts of victims killed by Nazis during World War II recall their lives. Part of the George Tabori Festival. Opens tomorrow, runs through Sunday at the Warehouse Theatre. 703/684-7990.
A New Brain Studio Theatre. A songwriter must face a personal crisis while trying to maintain artistic dignity. Opens Wednesday. 202/332-3300.
Rent Warner Theatre. Musical about a group of artists bonding through struggle. Opens Tuesday. 202/432-SEAT.
Shylock Theater J. One-man show that explores Jewish stereotypes through Shakespeare's famous character, Shylock. Opens Wednesday at the District of Columbia Jewish Community Center. 800/494-TIXS.

NOW PLAYING
Art Olney Theatre Center ***1/2 Can a painting splinter a friendship? That is the main question posed in French playwright Yasmina Reza's droll and cool drawing-room comedy. The modernist Serge (Alan Wade) loves it, the classicist Marc (Paul Morella) loathes it, and the nerdy patsy Yvan (Christopher Lane) plays spineless middleman. Miss Reza uses erudite discussions about art and the absolute nothingness of the disputed painting to get into the messy stuff about friendships and just how hard it is to forgive someone who you suddenly realize thinks radically different thoughts from yours. Director Jim Petosa mines more humor in his production of "Art" than most others. He keeps things taut, going for the throat and for the laugh in equal measure. He gets three brilliant performances out of the actors, and brings a warmth and humanity to a very cold and distancing play. That is an art in itself. Through Sunday. 301/924-3400. Reviewed by Jayne M. Blanchard.
Eleanor: Her Secret Journey Kreeger Theatre ***. Rhoda Lerman's one-woman play, starring Jean Stapleton of "All in the Family" fame, focuses on the former first lady's life after FDR how she coped with what life threw at her and learned to think for herself and trust her perceptions and opinions. Miss Stapleton adeptly captures the fluty and upper-crusty voice of Mrs. Roosevelt and her delicately wily mannerisms. What charms and inspires you about this show is how the ugly-duckling Mrs. Roosevelt made a magnificent life, where looks were irrelevant. Through Nov. 18. 202/488-4377. Reviewed by Jayne M. Blanchard
Far East The Studio Theatre. ***1/2. The A.R. Gurney play may have a 1950s military setting, but the social issues in the romantic drama still resonate. Studio Theatre gives the play a vivid staging, with strong acting by the entire cast. Handsome New York actor Matthew Montelongo is especially engaging as bright-eyed, fresh-faced Lt. W.W. "Sparky" Watts, scion of a Milwaukee brewery family and a Princeton graduate who joins the Navy for adventure and experience. The "experience" includes a love affair with a Japanese woman, romantic sparks with the wife of a senior officer and a brush with the issues of anti-Asian bigotry that simmer beneath the surface. Directed by Studio Artistic Director Joy Zinoman, the play is an entertaining production with some clever lines and a somewhat contemporary feel. It makes for a worthwhile journey. Through Sunday. 202/332-3300. Reviewed by Susan Beving.
Macbeth Folger Shakespeare Library ***. In director Joe Banno's staging, Shakespeare's "Scottish play" becomes a tale of political corruption in circa 1960 Louisiana. King Duncan (Tom Quinn) thus becomes an elected politician, and certainly the most clever moment comes in the first scene, when instead of casting spells, the witches are counting ballots by holding them up to the light recalling the Florida recounts of last year. The cast is solid, as one might expect from the Folger. Michael Tolaydo as Macbeth Duncan's lieutenant, who is disappointed when Duncan names his son as heir is every inch an American democrat. He is in fine form as he descends into despair and nihilism, with mannerisms that seem particularly inspired. Of the supporting players, Scot McKenzie is unnervingly good as Duncan's heir, Malcolm. Mr. Banno's interpretation is commendable in many ways and undeniably well-executed. It is irretrievably limited, though, by its circumstances. Since Sept. 11 a bloodless, lawyer-dominated struggle over the presidency doesn't seem so terribly important. And even the dullest spectator must admit that concluding a play with a good sword fight is more grand than what we have here: a "Reservoir Dogs"-style shootout. Through Dec. 2. 202/544-7077. Reviewed by Eric M. Johnson.
Nathan the Wise Theater of the First Amendment **1/2. Paul D'Andrea's play, adapted from a work by G.E. Lessing, takes up the issue of religious tolerance in Jerusalem during a truce in the Third Crusades. The question it poses: Can't we all just get along? The answer it offers: We can, as long as no one claims to have "the one true faith." Islam is represented by Saladin (Craig Wallace), a a progressive Muslim warrior prince who holds power in Jerusalem; Christianity by Heraklios (Ralph Cosham), a patriarch who needs to be convinced of his faith; and Judaism by the businessman Nathan (Mitchell Hebert), who proves his wisdom as he goes on trial before Saladin and Heraklios, where he is asked what the one true faith is. The plot is full of twists and fateful turns, and moves along quickly under the direction of Tom Prewitt. Through Nov. 18 at Theater Space, George Mason University. 703/218-6500. Reviewed by Carol Johnson.
To Kill a Mockingbird Ford's Theatre *1/2. Because millions of schoolchildren have read Harper Lee's play the past four decades, most audience members have some familiarity with the book and bring some expectations to the play. They are likely to be disappointed with this adaptation by Christopher Sergel. Squeezing the novel into 100 minutes of action destroys the languid pace Miss Lee used to great effect. Director Timothy Childs has the actors recite their lines too quickly, and the actors don't even have time to respond to one another. Miss Lee truly loved the people she wrote about, seeing them as decent but stained by the racism of their culture. Because of the breakneck pace and desultory character development, we barely get to see them as people. Through Nov. 18. $703/218-6500 or 202/347-4833. Reviewed by Eric 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. 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.
MAXIMUM RATING: FOUR STARS



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