Forever Swing Warner Theatre. Big-band musical revue set during the peak of the swing-dance era. Opens Saturday 202/628-1818.
Home of the Brave Americn Century Theater. A doctor tries to cure a World War II soldier’s hysteria by having him relive his trauma. Opens today. 703/553-8782.
South Pacific Morris A. Mechanic Theatre. Rodgers and Hammerstein’s classic musical about love in an island paradise during World War II. Opens Tuesday. 410/625-4230 or 800/638-2444.
La Verdad Sospechosa (The Truth Can’t Be Trusted) GALA Hispanic Theatre. Comedy of errors about an ambitious young man who gets caught in a web of lies in 17th-century Madrid. Opens today. 202/234-7174.
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 Kashi-Tara’s performance or the messages it so compellingly reveals about dreams, ambition and cold realities. Through Feb. 23. 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, 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 home town) 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 is also 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 Feb. 24. 202/332-3300. Reviewed by Jayne M. Blanchard.
I’m Not Rappaport Ford’s Theatre ***-1/2. Here’s a chance to see two masters at work. Tony winners Judd Hirsch and Ben Vereen, directed by Daniel Sullivan, star as two friends fighting retirement and the aging process. They pass their days on a Central Park bench trading insults and cementing their fondness for one another. One might think the two were born to play these roles together. They don’t just act. They embody the characters with great chemistry. Mr. Vereen’s body language and gestures are especially effective. The dialogue is hilarious. Anyone who likes to laugh will enjoy this show. Through Feb. 17. 202/347-4833. Reviewed by Jen Waters.
On the Jump Fichandler Theatre ***. John Glore’s play about love, based on a story by his wife, Amy Dunkleberger, is just what we need in January a breath of tender spring air in the midst of winter. A variation on the mistaken-identity scenario, “On the Jump” gives us a young woman who takes advantage of a dead man’s grandparents by masquerading as his widow and digs herself in deeper and deeper to keep the deception going. Wendy Goldberg’s fluid, quick-witted direction strikes the right balance between screwball comedy and wistful romance. Mr. Glore has a way with the quirky line, but charming as the dialogue is, no modern romantic comedy should run two hours and 40 minutes. The length strains the credibility of the plot. If you can not only suspend disbelief, but hogtie it and wrestle it into the trunk of your car, this is a dizzying and engaging play about two misfits who are made for each other. Through Feb. 17. 202/488-3300. 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. 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. Occasionally, the material veers toward the cartoonish, but she manages to keep the characters flesh and blood, humanized by their frailties and humor. Through Feb. 24. 202/488-3300. Reviewed by Carol Johnson.
MAXIMUM RATING: FOUR STARS