- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 18, 2002

OPENING
Amphitryon 38 Washington Stage Guild Witty look at love as seen through the eyes of the Roman gods. Opens tonight at Source Theatre. 240/582-0050.
Harm's Way Purchased Experiences Don't Count Theatre Company Darkly comic science fiction tale that follows an outlaw through the Old West. Opens Sunday at Source Theatre. 202/298-1098.
Waiting for the Slow Dance; Precious Lam Keegan Theatre Two works by playwright Eric Lucas feature Irish boys growing up and a former convict trying to go straight. Open tonight at Theatre on the Run. 703/527-6000.

NOW PLAYING
Hedwig and the Angry Inch Signature Theatre **** . Think you couldn't have anything in common with a drag queen with a spectacularly unsuccessful sex-change operation? Think again. Once one gets beyond the blond wigs and glitter makeup, the punk posturing and the platform boots, this is a story about love. Although there are elements of drag, "Hedwig" has more genuine emotions than the outrageousness of camp. Rick Hammerly is tremendous as Hedwig. He emerges first as a drag queen and as entertaining as all get-out, until he begins to reveal sides of himself as he strips off his costumes and gets to the real Hedwig, who turns out to be complete, after all. Mr. Hammerly has an authentic rock voice, and he handles the androgyny of Hedwig's character with style and flash. He is backed up ably by the Angry Inch band, which performs the rocking score that encompasses heavy metal, punk, country-rock, ballads and the occasional torch song. Through May 12. 800/955-5566. Reviewed by Jayne M. Blanchard.
Hot Mikado Ford's Theatre **** . Ford's Theatre hits the jackpot with this adaptation of Gilbert and Sullivan's classic musical. The jazz score (inspired by Duke Ellington and other jazz greats) swings, the funny lines crackle, the singing soars, and the acting and dancing are brilliant. The 20-member cast is tight in all of the 22 dance and song numbers. The land of Titi-Pu, the fairytale Japanese-inspired town where the story unfolds, is expertly created by stage designer Daniel Proett. Director and choreographer David Bell has created a slammin' production, with lots of goodies for both eye and ear. Through June 16. 703/218-6500 tickets; 202/347-4833 information. Reviewed by Gabriella Boston.
Mamma Mia National Theatre ** . The musical "Mamma Mia," inspired by songs from the 1970s Swedish pop phenomenon ABBA, is one of those cute, screamingly bright shows, similar to "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat" in its mishmash of styles and high-octane zestiness. The musical is infectious in its boppy energy but that's about it; it doesn't make a whole lot of sense. The show takes place in the now on a mythical Greek island as a fiercely independent single mother, a free spirit from the 1970s, prepares for the wedding of her daughter. The daughter, obsessed with finding out who her father is, steals her mother's diary and draws from it three prospects, whom she then invites to the wedding. Mirth and mayhem ensue. The soap opera-ish plot is carried out through the songs, and some of them are an awkward fit. You must have a sweet tooth for disco and inane lyrics in order to fully appreciate "Mamma Mia." If not, you are the lone Sex Pistol in a sea of Village People. Through June 8. 800/477-7400. Reviewed by Jayne M. Blanchard.
Polk County Arena Stage ***. Zora Neale Hurston's "Polk County" is a sassy and dizzyingly high-spirited evening of music and mythic-sized characters. Set in a sawmill camp in Florida in the 1930s, the play details the daily dramas and triumphs of a close-knit community of black workers, where people work hard, play hard and love hard. The heated atmosphere is perfect for Miss Hurston's Day-Glo language. The music is a fine collection of traditional Southern folk and blues songs, church music, rags and reels. Miss Hurston's sprawling, virtually structure-free style is fine for a while, but at nearly three hours, the play meanders and then meanders some more. But the actors seem to relish their roles, and maybe structure isn't as important as usual when the language and characters are as full-bloomed as they are here. Through May 12. 202/488-4377. Reviewed by Jayne M. Blanchard.
Prometheus Studio Theatre ** . My, how the mighty have fallen. The denizens of Mount Olympus are reduced to a bunch of malcontents in this adaptation by Sophy Burnham of Aeschylus' towering Greek tragedy, guided by Studio artistic chief Joy Zinoman. Where are the characters larger than life and the hubris that is so magnified and magnificent in the gods and the immortals? Where is the thunderous language that resounds across the ages, language so stark and ideal we could have imagined it once touched by the divine spark? Tragically, none of this is evident in "Prometheus." We are left with only ashes and echoes, both painful to endure. Through April 28. 202/332-3300. Reviewed by Jayne M. Blanchard.
Romeo and Juliet The Shakespeare Theatre *** . It's tough to be star-crossed lovers these days. Everyone knows your story: impetuous young people who defy their parents, only to die unnecessary deaths. The audience has heard your lines a thousand times before. But the Shakespeare Theatre's production is as fresh and unmannered as youth itself although the passion doesn't erupt as violently as it should. Young British director Rachel Kavanaugh, who says she believes in revealing "text-led Shakespeare," commendably plays it straight, lets the plot unfold and the actors act. Although this production isn't perfect, it has a beautiful, endearing simplicity that can only be attributed to Ms. Kavanaugh's living out her credo. Through May 19. 202/547-1122. 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. 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. Continues indefinitely. 202/467-4600. Reviewed by Nelson Pressley.
Surface Transit Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company *** . Spoken-word artist Sarah Jones, who is suing the Federal Communications Commission for banning radio play of what she calls her anti-misogynist song, "Your Revolution," wrote the material for this one-woman show that explores bigotry through slice-of-life New Yorkers. In it she effortlessly changes her persona eight times, bookending the performance as a hunched-over bag lady dressed in a blanket. Her acting is always radiant, but the writing is simplistic at times. Her three male personae, for instance, lack depth and become caricatures. "Transit" shows off Miss Jones' energy, dramatic skill and astute powers of observation. Through Sunday at the Kennedy Center's AFI Theater.202/467-4600. Reviewed by Gabriella Boston.
MAXIMUM RATING: FOUR STARS

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