- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 13, 2002

OPENING

Big Love Woolly Mammoth Theatre . Sisters will do anything to avoid marrying their intended suitors in this contemporary spin on Aeschylus' "The Suppliant Maidens." Opens Monday at the Kennedy Center AFI Theater. 202/467-4600.

• A Clearing in the Woods Rorschach Theatre. A troubled woman seeks solace in the forest and faces the demons of her past and present. Previews begin tonight at Casa Del Pueblo. 703/715-6707.

Lypsinka: The Boxed Set Studio Theatre. Lip-synching becomes high art in this one-man show starring John Epperson. Opens tomorrow. 202/332-3300.

• The Rink Signature Theatre. Musical focusing on the relationship between a mother and daughter at a rundown roller skating rink. Opens Wednesday at Lubber Run Amphitheater. 703/228-6960.


NOW PLAYING

Born Guilty Theater J *** This haunting play asks hard questions and appropriately gives few answers. Ari Roth's play, which is based on the 1988 book by Austrian Jewish journalist Peter Sichrovsky, investigates the legacy the Nazis left for their children. The protagonist is the character Sichrovsky (Rich Foucheux), who pursues the characters as a journalist. Herman Schmidt, who is played by 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. One downfall of the show is that eight persons play about 30 roles. The only actors who continuously play one character are Mr. Foucheux as Sichrovsky and Mr. Jacobs as Schmidt. Because the actors don't change clothing often throughout the performance, at times it is not immediately clear whether they are continuing a role that was presented already or introducing a new one. However, this confusion may represent the overall theme of the play, which shows that each child with Nazi parents faced similar battles. In essence, they all play the same role. Through July 14. 800/494-TIXS. Reviewed by Jen Waters.

Candida Olney Theatre Center for the Arts ***Like many late-19th-century British love triangles, George Bernard Shaw's play presents the beautiful housewife starved for love, the overbearing husband who is increasingly wrapped up in his work, and the ardent younger poet whose arrival sets the household on its ear. But "Candida" also explores illusions of love and license, of art and artlessness, all wrapped up in a veritable cloak of conventions. That can be a difficult thing for any play to dance around, and the Olney's production at times strays from subtlety into mere slapstick. But the cast is strong and so is the production, point to some uncomfortable truths while simultaneously earning more than a few belly laughs from the audience. Through June 23. 301/924-3400. Reviewed by Lisa Rauschart.

Company Kennedy Center Eisenhower Theater **** Director Sean Mathias makes this gorgeously retro, witty production of the 1970 Stephen Sondheim musical soar. John Barrowman brings charm and a terrific voice to the character of Bobby, the commitment-shy, 35-year-old New Yorker besieged by his friends, five affluent married couples who want him to get with the program and find a bride. Lynn Redgrave adds bite and class as the well-to-do WASP Joanne. Mr. Mathias keeps "Company" firmly in the swinging '70s, with the group caught between the dizzying new freedoms of the 1960s youth-quake wave and the old construct of marriage. "Company" has some rough spots, but it is a rich experience because of its sense of recklessness and exhilaration. This is one walloping musical. Through June 29. 202/467-4600. Reviewed by Jayne M. Blanchard.

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 Branyancq#, who plays his patient, share the stage for most of the production. Gilly Conklin plays the nurse. The whole show, which runs a bit longer than an hour, is essentially musical banter and a couple of monologues. But these guys are good at it. The weaknesses of the production are a slight lack of depth and Mr. Branyan's high-pitched imitations of his character's wife, who never appears onstage. Through June 30. 703/535-8022. Reviewed by Jon Ward.

Hot Mikado Ford's Theatre ****. Ford's Theatre hits the jackpot with this adaptation of Gilbert and Sullivan's classic musical. The jazz score (inspired by Duke Ellington and other jazz greats) swings, the funny lines crackle, the singing soars, and the acting and dancing are brilliant. The 20-member cast is tight in all of their 22 dance and song numbers. The land of Titi-Pu, the fairytale Japanese-inspired town where the story unfolds, is expertly created by stage designer Daniel Proett. Director and choreographer David Bell has created a slammin' production, with lots of goodies for both eye and ear. Through Sunday. 703/218-6500 tickets; 202/347-4833 information. Reviewed by Gabriella Boston.

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. Under director J.R. Sullivan, the play is like a powerful locomotive hurtling toward its inevitable destination. Deeply funny observances and small talk temper its heft. None of the characters can extricate themselves from the web of circumstance holding them together in this complex and demanding morality play. Through July 7. 202/332-3300. Reviewed by Carol Johnson.

A Moon for the Misbegotten Kreeger Theater Arena Stage ****. Director Molly Smith's transcendent production of Eugene O'Neill's play has many elements of romantic comedy. The first act is full of playful banter between Josie Hogan (Janice Duclos), a rough-tongued Irish-American farmer's daughter, and Jim Tyrone Jr. (Tuck Milligan), a fading and alcoholic actor, with liberal helpings of blarney from Josie's Irish rascal of a father, Phil, played with rapacious glee by Robert Hogan. But O'Neill takes the conventions of comic romance and goes for something more tremendous and beautiful, in a second act that sees Josie and Jim shedding their fake skins under the midnight moon and expanding into love. This is possibly one of the most devastatingly lovely love scenes in American drama. Miss Duclos, in a luminous performance, allows us to witness Josie's transformation from a "cow" of a woman to a lover. Mr. Milligan combines a matinee idol's profile with the wry cynicism of a confirmed drunk and failure in his masterful performance as James Tyrone. It's a big, gnarled love and a haunting play. Through Sunday. 202/488-3300. Reviewed by Jayne M. Blanchard.

• Mostly Sondheim Kennedy Center ***. To say that Barbara Cook has aged well is an injustice. Miss Cook's voice is strong and vital. She brings her longtime collaborator, Wally Harper, with her to Washington, and his piano playing unobtrusively undergirds her soprano tones. Stephen Sondheim helped select the songs for the evening. The show combines the songwriter's own favorite tunes with "other songs he wishes he'd written." When Miss Cook sings lighter ballads, as she did for most of the first half, she doesn't really show off her goods. But when she sings "Ice Cream" from "She Loves Me," however, she explodes on a high B-natural, so she still can nail those notes when she must. Of the two showstoppers, one, ironically, was not composed by Mr. Sondheim. "You Can't Get a Man With a Gun," by Irving Berlin, from "Annie Get Your Gun," is the best thing about the revue. The other highlight, "Send in the Clowns," showcases Mr. Harper's musicality and Miss Cook's emotive subtlety. Through June 16 and Aug. 14 to 18. 202/467-4600. Reviewed by Eric M. Johnson.

Othello Folger Theatre ***. Director Aaron Posner's production of Shakespeare's dark play about jealousy, love and betrayal builds dramatic tension through plot and pacing, instead of reaching for the emotional hot button of race. Craig Wallace as Othello is a formidable actor with a commanding stage presence. Yet he does not come across as the honest, dutiful military man with a childlike trust of his own that we know Othello is. Nor do we see the hotheadedness of character we expect. Trey Lyford's Iago is almost droll, even attractive, which almost makes up for the lack of dramatic heft. The estimable Holly Twyford plays Iago's wife, Emilia, one of the more subtle characters in the play, and Miss Twyford captures her weakness and divided loyalties nicely. Dwayne Nitz excels at playing the wronged, virtuous Cassio. Suli Holum, as Desdemona, has an appropriately virginal look to her and a mellifluous singing voice. This "Othello" has no low points, and no major flaws. With a bit more energy it could be near-perfect. Through Sunday. 202/544-7077. Reviewed by Eric M. Johnson.

• Our Town Round House Theatre **1/2. Thornton Wilder's folksy and contemplative "Our Town," which addresses the gorgeousness of ordinary life, has been a staple of the world stage since its debut in 1938. Even though the third act takes place in a graveyard, the play offers something comforting and beautifully dignified. Director Jerry Whiddon smartly does not impose the Norman Rockwell aspects too thickly. Pat Carroll, who plays the Stage Manager (or narrator), commands the production from the beginning. She is a solid delight from start to finish. The production's biggest problem, other than the many sound problems stemming from the bare stage, is that its pace is too sleepy. Yet there are bright spots. The stillness of the third act also acts as a balm. When Miss Carroll tells us "Our Town" is over, there is a tiny shock. We want to linger with the people of Grover's Corners, N.H. both the quick and the dead a while longer. They seem so much at peace. Through June 23. 240/644-1100. Reviewed by Jayne M. Blanchard.

• Sunday in the Park With George Kennedy Center Eisenhower Theater ***1/2. The French painter Georges Seurat has no trouble connecting the light-filled dots for his masterpiece, "Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte," in Stephen Sondheim's coolly luminous 1984 musical "Sunday in the Park With George." His problem is connecting with people, most notably his mistress, Dot (played by Melissa Errico), a lovely artist's model with rippling hair and a smile that just begs to be painted by Monet. He treats the world as fodder for the canvas. The tension between art and life is explored with shimmering precision in this production. The play centers on the creation of the masterpiece and the sacrifices to bring such a work into the world. The first act takes place in the late 1880s, as George (as he is called in the play), played by Raul Esparza, creates the painting. The second act is set nearly 100 years later, with George and Dot long gone, leaving only the magnificent painting and their daughter, the elderly Marie (Miss Errico). Marie tries to teach her artistic grandson George (Mr. Esparza) a jaded 1980s conceptual artist how to open up his heart to love and his head to genius. When George goes to Paris and visits the island where the painting is set, the ghost of Dot appears, and with exquisite tenderness, advises him to "give us more to see" in the glorious song "Move On." "Sunday in the Park With George" is not easy to warm up to it is a cerebral show. But if you enter the musical the way an artist lives in the painting, the show glimmers like no other. Through June 28. 202/467-4600. Reviewed by Jayne M. Blanchard.

Sweeney Todd Kennedy Center Eisenhower Theater ****. You haven't seen "Sweeney" until you've seen this "Sweeney." The kickoff to the summerlong Sondheim Celebration at the Kennedy Center, this bold, thrilling and impeccably sung and acted production of Stephen Sondheim's dark musical makes you feel as though you are seeing it for the first time. Director Christopher Ashley reinvigorates the masterwork impeccably. Brian Stokes-Mitchell captures the obsessive menace of Sweeney, the barber whose best friends are his razors, but he also imbues him with a grim allure. His sublime baritone and bearing are thunderous. Christine Baranski's Mrs. Lovett, the pie maker who dices Sweeney's victims into her pastries, is daffy and flirtatious, with diction and timing perfectly suited to Mr. Sondheim's tongue-twisty lyrics and rapid stylistic changes. The other roles also are beautifully cast, with some outstanding performances. Performances are sold out, but if you could you would want to see this again, and again and again. Through June 30. Sold out. 202/467-4600. Reviewed by Jayne M. Blanchard.

MAXIMUM RATING: FOUR STARS

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