- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 17, 2002

The Duchess of Malfi Shakespeare Theatre. A noblewoman spurns her brothers to marry for love, setting in motion a chain of tragic events in Webster's classic. Opens Tuesday. 202/547-1122.
Getting Married Washington Stage Guild. A bishop's daughter has second thoughts on marriage in George Bernard Shaw's witty tale. Opens tonight at the Source Theatre. 240/582-0050.
I'm Not Rappaport Ford's Theatre. Two elderly men in New York City fight the aging process together with humor. Opens Wednesday. 202/347-4833.
Three Roses Horizon Theatre. Three stories about women struggling against domestic violence. Opens Wednesday at the George Washington University Marvin Center Theatre. 703/243-8550.
The Vagina Monologues National Theatre. Playwright Eve Ensler stars in her final performances of the show celebrating the many aspects of women. Opens Tuesday. 800/447-7400.

Blues in the Night Arena Stage ***. This Sheldon Epps creation directed by Kenny Leon is a solid two hours of music that combines a little bit of plot with a whole lot of singing and gets a fantastic mix. This is not a staid, studied revival show, but an exuberant eruption of riotous music, drawing on blues songs from the era between the world wars. The production centers on a run-down hotel in 1930s Chicago, where three women commiserate about their difficulties in life: men, work, men, money, men. The women Bernardine Mitchell, Cynthia Hardy and Chandra Currelley are in great voice. Susan E. Mickey's costumes are a gaudy array of pinks and oranges and are gloriously flamboyant and trashy. Vicki R. Davis' set design is a similar hodgepodge of clutter. The band supports the singers with inspired tunesmanship and grace. A warning to those thinking about bringing younger spectators: The play contains quite a bit of bawdy humor nothing obscene, but a good dose of innuendo, invariably played for laughs. Through Feb. 3. 202/488-4377. Reviewed by Eric M. Johnson.
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.
Picnic American Century Theater **-1/2. Young director Steven Scott Mazzola's version of William Inge's Pulitzer Prize-winning 1953 play about the arrival of a stud of a drifter in a small, female-dominated Midwestern town, is good but appears to lack polish. It may be a result of the tiny set on which it is staged at a new and seemingly makeshift theater. The clumsiness of the play's younger actors could be explained by a lack of talent. Or perhaps they are trying to work magic on the cramped set. One way or another, one gets a sense of watching a great play struggle. Through Feb. 2 at Theater on the Run. 703/553-8782. 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.
The Thousandth Night MetroStage Theatre ***. Playwright Carol Wolf's one-act, one-man show has nothing but some meager props and actor Ron Campbell's work to sustain it, but that's enough. Mr. Campbell's gift for evocative acting is so expert that he inhabits 38 characters throughout "Night's" potent span, set in 1943 occupied France near the German border. His nomadic actor Guy de Bonheur, clad in a garish, eggplant-purple striped suit, is being held by French police officers on charges of propagating subversive material through his art. To clear his name and avoid a one-way ticket to the nearest concentration camp, he performs snippets of his act to illustrate its benign nature. Each story is meant to delight the officers and prove his point, but the revealing nature of art, we learn, is more subversive than he realizes. As directed by Jessica Kubzansky, Mr. Campbell sweats, but he makes each jarring transformation look easy and reminds us of the power of one-man theater. Through Sunday. 703/548-9044. Reviewed by Christian Toto.

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