- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 18, 2001

OPENING
Cat on a Hot Tin Roof Keegan Theatre. Tennessee Williams' tragic tale about a dysfunctional Southern family. Opens tonight. 703/527-6000, opt. 2.
Macbeth Folger Theatre. Shakepeare's classic tale of twisted ambition and calculated murder. Opens Saturday. 202/544-7077.
Nathan the Wise Theater of the First Amendment. A Muslim ruler, Christian knight and Jewish merchant are brought together during the Crusades. Opens Wednesday. 703/218-6500.
One of the Few The Center Company. A Jewish dressmaker and a Catholic housewife form a dangerous friendship in Warsaw during World War II. Opens Wednesday at the Jewish Community Center, Fairfax. 703/323-7965.
A Skull in Connemara The Washington Stage Guild. Dark comedy about a gravedigger coming to terms with his past. Opens tonight at Source Theatre. 240/582-0050.

NOW PLAYING
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 flutey 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, the scion of a Milwaukee brewery family and 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 definitely makes for a worthwhile journey. Through Nov. 4. 202/332-3300. Reviewed by Susan Beving.
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 that 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
The Oedipus Plays The Shakespeare Theatre ***. Artistic Director Michael Kahn has crafted a blazing, immediate production of "The Oedipus Plays" by Sophocles, and has masterfully compressed "Oedipus Rex," "Oedipus at Colonus" and "Antigone" into a single theater experience. Using a new translation by Nicholas Rudal which is so plain-speaking at times the shades of humor shine through and a sun-deepened North African setting and palette, "The Oedipus Plays" are a far cry from the declamatory speeches and togas we normally associate with Greek tragedy. From the almost dancing colors of Charles McClennahan's rough stone and hammered gold set to the tribal-ritualistic singing and movements of the chorus, this show really flies. The pacing is swift and absolute as the various characters march toward their destinies. Avery Brooks plays Oedipus with a rich, rumbly baritone and a swagger befitting a king. "The Oedipus Plays" are a worthwhile experience, especially for Mr. Brooks' performance, the stupendous look of the production, and the opportunity to see three classic Greek plays in a single day. Through Sunday. 202/547-1122. 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. 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.

MAXIMUM RATING: FOUR STARS

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