- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 25, 2002

The Cocoanuts The Little Theatre of Alexandria. The Marx Brothers take on the 1920s Florida real estate boom in this slapstick comedy. Opens tomorrow. 703/683-0496.
The Jackie Wilson Story Black Ensemble Theater. Musical charting the rise and tragic fall of musician Jackie Wilson. Opens Wednesday at the Lincoln Theater. 202/432-SEAT.
A Moon for the Misbegotten Arena Stage Kreeger Theater. Eugene O'Neill's autobiographical tale of love between a farmer's daughter and an alcoholic actor. Opens tomorrow. 202/488-3300.
Sea Marks Metrostage. An Irish fisherman and a Welsh spinster are united through words. Opens tonight. 703/548-9044.

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 their 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. But 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 invites to the wedding. Mirth and mayhem ensue. You must have a sweet tooth for disco and inane lyrics in order to fully appreciate "Mamma Mia." 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 the language and characters are full-bloomed. Through May 12. 202/488-4377. Reviewed by Jayne M. Blanchard.
Prometheus Studio Theatre **. 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? Tragically, none of this is evident in "Prometheus." We are left with only ashes and echoes, both painful to endure. Through Sunday. 202/332-3300. Reviewed by Jayne M. Blanchard.
Romeo and Juliet The Shakespeare Theatre ***. 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.
Shakespeare, Moses and Joe Papp Round House Theatre ***. Sharp and entertaining, a slice of theatrical legend that is both tart and satisfying: That is Ernie Joselovitz's story of a clash of egos that shook New York City in the late 1950s, when the brash and headline-grabbing theater impresario Joe Papp (John Lescault) demanded that Central Park's Great Lawn be opened for free Shakespeare and Robert Moses (Gerry Bamman), the father protector of New York City's bridges, tunnels and parks, took it as an invasion of his playground. Mr. Joselovitz juxtaposes two men very different yet very similar one the wealthy, old-school German Jew, the other the gate-crashing, low-born child of newer immigrants from Eastern Europe, both of them imbued with a megalomaniacal passion that obliterated everything in its wake. This makes for some outstanding fireworks between the two men, who embody the lifelong struggle between art and commerce. With its rat-a-tat dialogue and snappy patter, the play has a jazzy, snappy air that reflects the urban energy of New York in the late 1950s. You would not want to hang out with the men in this play, but it is nasty fun to spend a couple of hours watching their gears spin. Through May 5. 240/644-1100. Reviewed by Jayne M. Blanchard.

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