- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 24, 2002

OPENING
By Tooth or By Tongue Source Theatre. A young woman meets strange characters on a road trip from Virginia to Florida. Opens Monday. 202/462-1073.
The Marriage Classika Theatre. A bachelor's decision to get married turns into comedic farce in Nikolai Gogol's classic play. Opens Saturday in the Village at Shirlington. 703/824-6200.
The Weir Round House Theatre. A group of Irish pub regulars swap ghost stories to impress a woman and grow closer in the process. Opens Wednesday. 240/644-1100.

NOW PLAYING
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.
Miklat Theater J ***. Sometimes laughter is the only way to deal with serious issues. That's the approach of Joshua Ford's play "Miklat" (the Hebrew word for "shelter"), a comedy about the struggle of nonobservant Jewish parents to reconnect with a newly religious son. Ddirected by Nick Olcott, this world premiere gives us an American couple who travel to Jerusalem to bring their son home from a college semester abroad during the Persian Gulf War in 1991. When they learn of his recent conversion to Orthodox Judaism and agreement to an arranged marriage, they wish he had stayed home. Even the non-Jewish audience members should be able to relate to one of these characters. The struggles are not limited to those in the Jewish community. Through Feb. 3 at the District of Columbia Jewish Community Center. 202/518-9418. Reviewed by Jen Waters.
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.
MAXIMUM RATING: FOUR STARS


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