- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 21, 2002

Grease Olney Theatre Center For the Arts. Popular rock musical celebrating love in the 1950s. Opens Tuesday. 301/924-3400.
The Great Theater of the World George Mason University Center for the Arts. The stage becomes the scene of creation in this 17th-century Spanish allegory. Opens tonight. 703/218-6500 for tickets, 703/993-8888 for information.
Proof Morris A. Mechanic Theatre. A woman who spent years caring for her ailing father must deal with an estranged sister and her father's old student. Opens Tuesday. 410/752-1200.
She Stoops to Conquer Folger Theatre. Oliver Goldsmith's comedy of manners about a man who mistakes his potential in-laws for innkeepers. Opens Saturday. 202/544-7077.
True West Arena Stage. Sibling rivalry flares between two brothers competing as screenwriters in Hollywood. Opens tomorrow. 202/488-4377.
What Every Woman Wants Warner Theatre. A musical comedy about a black family that finds wealth does not bring happiness. Opens Tuesday. 202/432-SEAT; for information, call 202/628-1818.

The Duchess of Malfi Shakespeare Theatre ****.The Christmas holidays at the Malfi house must have been something. One brother is a cardinal (Edward Gero) and craven in every way. His brother, Duke Ferdinand (Donald Carrier), seems spoiled, petulant and maybe more than a little off his rocking horse. In the middle is the widowed Duchess of Malfi (Kelly McGillis), Ferdinand's twin sister. Her brothers want to rule over both her person and her lands. They don't want her to marry again. For the cardinal, this is a matter of pure greed. For Ferdinand, it is another matter altogether. Director Michael Kahn's production addresses the issue of incest head-on. The duchess does remarry, and in the midst of her bliss comes Bosola (Andrew Long), who starts out as a lackey and a mercenary for the two brothers. This being Jacobean tragedy, the body count rises and rises. Yet a gorgeous grace note is added by Mr. Kahn, who has the elegant, eloquent ghost of the duchess haunt the last half of the play and subtly prick Bosola's conscience. Through March 10. 202/547-1122. Reviewed by Jayne M. Blanchard.
The Gimmick Arena Stage's Living Stage ***. The title of "The Gimmick," a provocative one-woman play, refers to the drugs, sex and emotional hustles that can destroy lives. Alexis, the play's cherubic, clever protagonist, finds through the arc of the play that hope might be the most maddening gimmick of all. Set in East Harlem, the play follows Alexis (Kashi-Tara), a budding writer, and her lifelong bond with Jimmy, the neighborhood artist. Little can dilute the sheer force of Kashi-Tara's performance or the messages it so compellingly reveals about dreams, ambition and cold realities. Through Saturday. 202/488-3300. Reviewed by Christian Toto.
Hambone The Studio Theatre **-1/2. Javon Johnson's play has plenty of meat. That's part of the trouble. A protege of August Wilson's, Mr. Johnson shares his mentor's chatterbox tendencies. He tries to say everything and cram everything into one play. The result, set in a once-vibrant sandwich shop in Anderson, S.C. (the playwright's hometown), in 1988, is stuffed with great gulping speeches, soliloquies, crackling gibes between old friends and a whole lot of chewing the fat. The dramatic tension lies in a clash of generations as youngsters struggle to spread their wings while oldsters try to hold on to what they have. The play also is about long-held secrets, which will shake up everybody's concept of friendship and family when they are revealed. "Hambone" proves entertaining and gripping in parts, but the play has so many plot developments and showdowns that the second act seems like a caffeinated soap opera. The melodrama is leavened by the ensemble acting, so beautifully calibrated that the watching and the listening are just as profound as the dialogue and acting. Through March 3. 202/332-3300. Reviewed by Jayne M. Blanchard.
Harlem Rose Metrostage ***. If you are looking for a way to celebrate the birthday of poet Langston Hughes or just get out and hear some good music, take in the world premiere of "Harlem Rose, a Love Song to Langston Hughes." It's a musical, conceived and directed by Atlanta-based Thomas W. Jones II, who has won eight Helen Hayes awards in Washington. Appropriately running during Black History Month, it offers a vibrant tribute to the great poet and the world he inhabited during the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s and early '30s. Yet for all its magic, this musical leaves you wishing it gave more perspective for audience members who have never heard of Mr. Hughes or the Harlem Renaissance. Through March 10. 703/548-9044. Reviewed by Guy Taylor.
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.
Talking With … Arena Stage's Living Stage *** What do an unhinged housewife, a disillusioned rodeo performer and a baton twirler who has found God through her routine have in common? They are among the characters in this one-woman show, which has no plot to speak of it's just a collection of 11 character studies. Actress Marie Page shows terrific range in bringing these oddballs to life. The material occasionally veers toward the cartoonish, but she manages to keep the characters flesh and blood, humanized by their frailties and humor. Through Sunday. 202/488-3300. Reviewed by Carol Johnson.


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