- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 11, 2002

OPENING
And She Was Mister Mayhem Studios. Three unusual young women navigate the perils and pitfalls of life in the city. Opens tomorrow at District of Columbia Arts Center. 202/462-7833.
Independence Phoenix Theatre. A family of four women struggles with life in a small Iowa town. Opens tomorrow at District of Columbia Arts Center. 202/462-7833.
Madea's Family Reunion Warner Theatre. Madea faces her granddaughter's wedding, her sister's funeral and a family reunion in the same weekend. Opens Tuesday. 202/432-7328.
Merrily We Roll Along Kennedy Center Eisenhower Theater. Musical that tells the tale of a creative partnership backward, from its failed ending to its idealistic beginning. Part of the Sondheim Celebration. Opens tomorrow. 202/467-4600.
Nocturne Studio Theatre Secondstage. A former piano prodigy recalls the tragic events that tore his family apart. Opens tonight. 202/332-3300.

NOW PLAYING
Big Love Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company ***. Charles L. Mee's play, based on Aeschylus' drama "The Suppliant Women" about 50 sisters pledged since birth to marry 50 brothers, their cousins is one wild toga party that goes off on contemporary tangents about love, masculinity, femininity and justice. The 50 sisters are represented by three who have escaped by boat from Greece on their wedding day and seek refuge in the Italian villa of a wealthy businessman. The grooms pursue them, and the women vow to kill them. This makes for an unusually action-packed reception. The actors hurl themselves into their roles with a mixture of slapstick, acrobatics, performance art and good, old-fashioned wrasslin'. Everything about "Big Love" is as understated as a clown shoe. Through July 21 at the Kennedy Center AFI Theater. 202/467-4600. Reviewed by Jayne M. Blanchard.
Born Guilty
Theater J ***. Ari Roth's haunting play, based on the 1988 book by Austrian Jewish journalist Peter Sichrovsky, investigates the legacy the Nazis left for their children. The protagonist Sichrovsky (Rich Foucheux) pursues the characters as a journalist. Herman Schmidt (Irving Jacobs) is the most compelling. Schmidt, who bought a house formerly owned by Jews from the Nazis for a reduced price, lives with the guilt of doing so. Eight persons play about 30 roles, and it is not immediately clear whether they are continuing a role or introducing a new one. This confusion may represent the overall theme of the play, which shows that each child with Nazi parents faced similar battles. Through Sunday. 800/494-TIXS. Reviewed by Jen Waters.
Crazy Love
Old Town Theater **1/2. Mark Anderson thinks comedy today is too raunchy. His antidote is this humorous celebration of the differences between men and women that illustrates the value of long-term commitment. Mr. Anderson, who plays a psychologist, and co-producer John Branyan, who plays his patient, share the stage for most of the production. Gilly Conklin plays the nurse. The whole show is essentially musical banter and a couple of monologues. But these guys are good at it. Through July 28. 703/535-8022. Reviewed by Jon Ward.
Danny and Sylvia
MetroStage **. MetroStage is remounting this American Century Theatre musical, about the life of singer-comedian Danny Kaye and his wife and principal writer, Sylvia Fine, as the final show of its season. The songs are mostly forgettable, and the plot is thin. Janine Gulisano plays Sylvia. Brian Childers as Danny chews the scenery and overdoes the manic gesticulations. The show provides little more than some sight gags and silly accents. Through July 28. 703/548-9044. Reviewed by Eric M. Johnson.
The Diaries
Signature Theatre **. Playwright John Strand's exploration of the character of Stefan Altsanger (Edward Gero) a brilliant German scientist and novelist reborn as revered entomologist Steve Alton after the war is sympathetic yet fascinating and complex. The play's inspiration is, in part, Ernst Junger, a German writer, entomologist and Nazi captain assigned to occupied Paris who kept a diary of his time in France and on the Russian front in the Caucasus. Years later, Alton is confronted by a historian (Daniel Frith) with the diaries Alton thought were destroyed along with his past. Alton dissolves away to Altsanger as he explains the diaries and their motivations to the historian and to himself. Through Sunday. 800/955-5566. Reviewed by Jayne M. Blanchard.
Laughter at Ten O'Clock: Memories of the Carol Burnett Show
American Century Theatre **1/2. In the tradition of the classic TV comedy series whose taping it purports to re-create, this production provides humorous sketches without the irony of latter-day comedy. The play uses original scripts of many of the show's best-known television skits and is so silly it's funny. It takes its audience back to the 1970s not only through the comedy of Miss Burnett (Nancy Dolliver, who has mastered the comedian's famous facial expressions and body movements), but also through her sidekicks Harvey Korman (Bill Karukas) and Tim Conway (Bruce Alan Rauscher) and guest stars on the show. The play would be better off shorter, but most of the skits are funny. Through July 20 at Theatre on the Run. 703/553-8782. Reviewed by Jen Waters.
The Little Foxes
The Shakespeare Theatre **1/2. The Hubbard clan, the nouveau riche Southern family detailed in Lillian Hellman's play, gives greed a bad name. Miss Hellman's play is a melodramatic hoot meant to make us see the monsters in ourselves while watching the Hubbards plot and steal money from one another. But director Doug Hughes' production is almost camp, with nearly every line delivered with a sneer. And the cast gnaws on every stick of scenery. As long as you relax into the overwrought quality of the show, you can have a walloping good time. Through July 28. 202/547-1122. Reviewed by Jayne M. Blanchard.
Lobby Hero
Studio Theatre ***1/2. Kenneth Lonergan's play, set in the lobby of a Manhattan apartment building, is a richly tangled tale of four people struggling to balance obligation and self-interest. The play brings together a front-desk security guard, his mentor boss, a cock-of-the-walk beat cop and his female partner, a rookie officer. Each has an angle to exploit and a duty to honor, and when those intersect the play really takes off. Through Sunday. 202/332-3300. Reviewed by Carol Johnson.
Lypsinka: The Boxed Set
Studio Theatre ***. With a brassy auburn wig, sparkling ruby lips and eyelashes that would make Tammy Faye Bakker envious, John Epperson lip-syncs to old standards, mixing in dialogue from classic movies and some inspired physical comedy. He embodies the character Lypsinka with the glamour and graciousness of a bygone era then pokes holes in that image with unexpected outbursts of hysteria and raunch. Mr. Epperson's one-man show is a dizzying, hilarious glimpse of what happens when a performer's polish cracks and reveals a bit of insanity underneath. Through Saturday. 202/332-3300. Reviewed by Carol Johnson.
Peter and the Wolf
Theater J *1/2. Ari Roth's sequel to "Born Guilty," with which "Peter and the Wolf" is playing in repertory, unsuccessfully attempts to examine the choices of Peter Sichrovsky, a Jew who becomes general secretary of the far-right Austrian Freedom Party. A a panel debates the motives of the characters and their attitudes, and the playwright assumes that the audience is familiar with the first show and its characters. Mr. Roth has made this play more like a therapy session for his angst rather than a form of entertainment. Through Sunday at the D.C. Jewish Community Center. 800/494-TIXS. Reviewed by Jen Waters.
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. Continues indefinitely. 202/467-4600. Reviewed by Nelson Pressley.

MAXIMUM RATING: FOUR STARS


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