Death and the Maiden Nomadic Theatre. In a country struggling with democratic change, a woman is confronted with a man who may have been her torturer in a former regime. Opens tonight at Georgetown University’s Bulldog Alley. 202/687-1643.
Festival International de Teatro Hispano (International Festival of Hispanic Theater) Teatro de La Luna. More than half a dozen plays from Puerto Rico, Mexico, El Salvador, Chile and several other countries. Opens Wednesday at Theater on the Run. 202/882-6227.
Harlem Rose Metrostage. Jazz, poetry and be-bop help tell the story of poet Langston Hughes and the Harlem Renaissance. Opens Wednesday. 703/548-9044.
A Liberating Prayer Howard University’s Department of Theatre Arts. Two young revolutionaries fall in love while trying to win the freedom of Mumia Abu-Jamal. Opens tonight at the Environmental Theatre Space. 202/806-7700.
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 Sunday. 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.
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.
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. Directed 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 Sunday at the District of Columbia Jewish Community Center. 202/518-9418. 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 2 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.
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 Saturday 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