- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 20, 2002

OPENING
Schoolgirl Figure
Cherry Red Productions. Dark comedy about young girls launching a dieting war to land the cutest boy in school. For mature audiences. Opens tomorrow at Metro Cafe. 202/298-9077.

NOW PLAYING

Born Guilty Theater J ***. Ari Roth's haunting play, which is based on the 1988 book by Austrian Jewish journalist Peter Sichrovsky, investigates the legacy the Nazis left for their children. It asks hard questions and appropriately gives few answers. 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. One shortcoming is that eight persons play about 30 roles. The only actors who continuously play one character are Mr. Foucheux and Mr. Jacobs. Because the actors don't change clothing often, at times it is not immediately clear whether they are continuing a role or introducing one. 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. Through Sunday. 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. "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 Branyan, 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. Through June 30. 703/535-8022. Reviewed by Jon Ward.
The Diaries
Signature Theatre **. Few will want to spend leisure time seeing sympathetic depictions of Nazis. Yet 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 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. As Alton is being feted for a lifetime of studying bugs and butterflies, a historian (Daniel Frith) confronts him with the diaries Alton thought were destroyed with his past. Alton dissolves away to Altsanger as he explains the diaries and their motivations to the historian and to himself, casting himself as a moral man and patriot who defended his homeland in war. Mr. Strand goes to great lengths to exonerate Stefan. Making striking characters out of the unsympathetic can be done, but Stefan's defense that he was just a bystander falls apart: Taking no action is an action in itself. Through July 14. 800/955-5566. 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 July 7. 202/332-3300. Reviewed by Carol 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, and we do want to linger with the people of Grover's Corners, N.H. Through June 30. 240/644-1100. Reviewed by Jayne M. Blanchard.
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. As a panel debates the motives of the characters and their attitudes, the playwright assumes that the audience is already 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. The play isn't general enough for an outsider. Through July 14 at the D.C. Jewish Community Center. 800/494-TIXS. Reviewed by Jen Waters.
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. The play centers on the creation of the masterpiece and the sacrifices to bring such a work into the world. "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. Through June 30. Sold out. 202/467-4600.
Reviewed by Jayne M. Blanchard.

MAXIMUM RATING: FOUR STARS


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