- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 8, 2002

Tales From Ovid Theater Alliance. Ten ancient Ovid tales of love, violence and betrayal are brought to life, from a translation by Ted Hughes. Opens tonight at H Street Playhouse. $20. 800/494-8497.

Crazy Love Old Town Theater **1/2 Mark Anderson thinks comedy today is too raunchy. His antidote is this humorous celebration of the differences between men and women that illustrates the value of long-term commitment. Mr. Anderson, who plays a psychologist, and co-producer John Branyan, who plays his patient, share the stage for most of the production. Gilly Conklin plays the nurse. The whole show is essentially musical banter and a couple of monologues. But these guys are good at it. Through Aug. 31. 703/535-8022. Reviewed by Jon Ward.
The Laramie Project Olney Theatre Center for the Arts **1/2 If literary awards were given for good intentions, this docudrama by Moises Kaufman would be a shoo-in. The play fairly glows with earnestness and altruism. It grew out of a trip to Laramie, Wyo. (the town where Matthew Shepard, a young gay man, was brutally tortured and murdered in 1998) by Mr. Kaufman and his New York-based Tectonic Theatre Project. The play is based on more than 200 interviews with the people of Laramie and details the efforts of the playwright and his writers to talk things out with the citizens, as well as record their own feelings and impressions. The production, directed with grace and simplicity by Jim Petosa, has powerful moments. The cast does an excellent job portraying the Laramie residents working through their reactions to the murder. Yet the Olney cast also has to portray the New Yorkers portraying the locals. Confusing? You bet. It also dilutes the message. The show's length, over two and a half hours, helps it descend into repetition and tedium. Finally, why is this a play? The cause may be better served through another medium. Through Sunday. 301/924-3400. Reviewed by Jayne M. Blanchard.
Mostly Sondheim Kennedy Center *** To say that Barbara Cook has aged well is an injustice. Miss Cook's voice is strong and vital. She brings her longtime collaborator, Wally Harper, with her to Washington, and his piano playing unobtrusively undergirds her soprano tones. Stephen Sondheim helped select the songs for the evening. The show combines the songwriter's own favorite tunes with "other songs he wishes he'd written." When Miss Cook sings lighter ballads, as she did for most of the first half, she doesn't really show off her goods. But when she sings "Ice Cream" from "She Loves Me," however, she explodes on a high B-natural, so she still can nail those notes when she must. Of the two showstoppers, one, ironically, was not composed by Mr. Sondheim. "You Can't Get a Man With a Gun," by Irving Berlin, from "Annie Get Your Gun," is the best thing about the revue. The other highlight, "Send in the Clowns," showcases Mr. Harper's musicality and Miss Cook's emotive subtlety. Wednesday through Aug. 18. 202/467-4600. Reviewed by Eric M. Johnson.
Passion Kennedy Center Eisenhower Theater .**1/2 Stephen Sondheim takes the beauty and the beast concept to a deep, creepy level in his gorgeous, grotesque 1994 musical, "Passion," which director Eric Schaeffer has revived with searing forthrightness and emotion. The musical, based on the novel "Fosca" by Amino Tarchetti and the movie "Passion D'amore" by Ettore Scola, takes place in 1863, in Italy in the Romantic era. It explores the more disturbing aspects of love a dangerous, annihilating love of a sort that sucks the air out of the room. It isn't pretty. Obsession and stalking rarely bring out the best in a person, yet in the case of "Passion" you could make the case that the young soldier Giorgio (Michael Cerveris) was never more alive than when forced to love the wretched Fosca (Judy Kuhn in a brilliant turn). The power of Fosca's shameless love changes him irrevocably. It is a jolt to see something this twisted on the musical stage. But Mr. Sondheim imbues the musical with a gorgeous, soaring score that is operatic in its heightened emotions and Mr. Schaeffer has assembled an outstanding cast. Through Aug. 23. 202/467-4600. Reviewed by Jayne M. Blanchard.
Potomac Theatre Project Olney Theatre Center for the Arts *** "Awakening/Awareness" is the theme of this year's Potomac Theatre Festival, and its two evenings of short plays effectively demonstrate the endless ways people either face up to reality or avoid it entirely. Evening A is devoted to five works by Harold Pinter, alertly directed by Richard Romagnoli. These are not plays as much as they are sketches, emotional jottings. Between the jottings and the "Pinter pauses," some times you don't know where you are. The standout of Evening A is "A Kind of Alaska," Mr. Pinter's searing meditation on the book "Awakenings," by Oliver Sachs, which documented patients in years of deep "sleep" coming to with an injection of L-Dopa. Evening B, much more accessible and entertaining, features Caryl Churchill's bitterly hilarious "The After-Dinner Joke," and Jeffrey Hatcher's intriguing "Scotland Road." All the plays are not wowers, but all do vividly portray how we face and deface the truth. Through Sunday. 301/924-3400. 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. Continues indefinitely. 202/467-4600. Reviewed by Nelson Pressley.

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