- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 23, 2002

Our Town Round House Theatre. Thornton Wilder's classic examination of small town life. Opens Wednesday. 240/644-1100.

Hamlet Stanislavsky Theater Studio ***1/2. A "Hamlet" without words might seem like a meal without food, but if you're skeptical, see this production by the Synetic Theater, a new project of the Stanislavsky Theater begun by Stanislavsky co-artistic director Paata Tsikurishvili and his wife, choreographer and pantomimist Irina Tsikurishvili. The play contains a lot of stylized movement and dance, but it isn't simply "re-imagined" as an interpretive dance number, nor is it simply a play without words. Director Tsikurishvili, who also plays Hamlet, cooperates with the script and shows respect for the play's integrity. Miss Tsikurishvili makes an ethereal Ophelia and Catherine Gasta is suitably repulsive as Hamlet's conspiring mother, Queen Gertrude. As the Player Queen and the Courtier, Irina Koval distinguishes herself, in one instance performing a comic striptease without removing any of her clothes. The black costumes and the black set, both by Georgi Alexi-Meskhishvili, contribute to the sense of doom and darkness. The music, taken from works by Georgian composer Giya Kancheli, contributes to a weirdly compelling effect. Synetic Theater has tremendous promise if its future plays are anything like this one. Through Sunday at Church Street Theater. 202/265-3748. Reviewed by Eric M. Johnson.
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 June 16. 703/218-6500 tickets; 202/347-4833 information. Reviewed by Gabriella Boston.
Mamma Mia National Theatre **. The musical "Mamma Mia," inspired by songs from the 1970s Swedish pop phenomenon ABBA, is one of those cute, screamingly bright shows, similar to "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat" in its mishmash of styles and high-octane zestiness. But it doesn't make a whole lot of sense. The show takes place in the now on a mythical Greek island as a fiercely independent single mother, a free spirit from the 1970s, prepares for the wedding of her daughter. The daughter, obsessed with finding out who her father is, steals her mother's diary and draws from it three prospects, whom she then invites to the wedding. Mirth and mayhem ensue. You must have a sweet tooth for disco and inane lyrics in order to fully appreciate "Mamma Mia." Through June 8. 800/477-7400. Reviewed by Jayne M. Blanchard.
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 June 16. 202/488-3300. Reviewed by Jayne M. Blanchard.
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 June 16. 202/544-7077. Reviewed by Eric M. Johnson.
Sea Marks Metrostage ***. MetroStage revives playwright Gardner McKay's tale of a sweet, doomed romance between an Irish fisherman and a divorced career woman. Colm meets Timothea, a Welsh woman and publishing executive who lives in Liverpool, England, when she attends a wedding on Colm's primitive island. She persuades him to come and stay with her in Liverpool. Before he does, he writes her many letters. His words are awash with his love of the sea and so stirring that she wants to publish them. He finds both that and the city debasing and wants to return to his sea island; she cannot bear the thought of the rough life there. Colm is played affectingly by Michael Tolaydo, while Catherine Flye effectively transforms herself from the "lady" on the island to the ambitious editor. The play will resonate with anyone who has ever contemplated pulling up anchor on an established way of life and heading into uncharted waters to be with a loved one. Through Sunday. 703/548-9044. Reviewed by Susan Beving.
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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