- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 9, 2002

OPENING
Chain African Continuum Theatre Company. The parents of a 16-year-old girl try to save her from a devastating drug addiction. Opens tonight at Black Box Theater. 800/494-TIXS.
Forget Herostratus Classika Theatre. A shopkeeper hopes to gain fame by destroying one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. Opens Saturday. 703/824-6200.
Lobby Hero Studio Theatre. Security guards and police officers clash over a sibling's indictment for murder. Opens Wednesday. 202/332-3300.
Othello Folger Theatre. One of Shakespeare's darker plays about jealousy, love and betrayal. Opens tonight. 202/544-7077.
Sweeney Todd Kennedy Center Eisenhower Theater. Stephen Sondheim's tale of a half-mad barber who escapes jail to gain an unusual revenge on the judge who imprisioned him. Opens tomorrow. 202/467-4600.

NOW PLAYING
Collected Stories Olney Theatre Center for the Arts *** Donald Margulies' terrifically thought-provoking play explores the right to privacy and to keep a secret in our talk-show world. Halo Wines plays a venerated fiction writer who takes a young woman writer (Carolyn Pasquantonio) under her wing and eventually lets down her guard, telling the younger woman of her affair years ago with the celebrated poet Delmore Schwartz. The protege, spurred by ambition, takes the confidence and makes a book of it. Miss Wines' evocation of hurt, loss and rage is magnificent as she devolves into something like a cornered animal. Miss Pasquantonio is masterful in a canny performance that projects a person at once so smart and so unaware. Director Jim Petosa capitalizes on the intimacy of the space, as well as the intimacy of this friendship and betrayal. Through May 19. 301/924-3400. Reviewed by Jayne M. Blanchard.
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 May 26 at Church Street Theater. 202/265-3748. Reviewed by Eric M. Johnson.
Hedwig and the Angry Inch Signature Theatre **** Think you couldn't have anything in common with a drag queen with a spectacularly unsuccessful sex-change operation? Think again. Once one gets beyond the blond wigs and glitter makeup, the punk posturing and the platform boots, this is a story about love. Although there are elements of drag, "Hedwig" has more genuine emotions than the outrageousness of camp. Rick Hammerly is tremendous as Hedwig. He emerges first as a drag queen and as entertaining as all get-out, until he begins to reveal sides of himself as he strips off his costumes and gets to the real Hedwig, who turns out to be complete, after all. Mr. Hammerly has an authentic rock voice, and he handles the androgyny of Hedwig's character with style and flash. He is backed up ably by the Angry Inch band, which performs the rocking score that encompasses heavy metal, punk, country-rock, ballads and the occasional torch song. Through Sunday. 800/955-5566. Reviewed by Jayne M. Blanchard.
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 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.
Much Ado About Nothing Washington Shakespeare Company *** Director Michael Comlish, a former WSC member visiting from New York City, has fashioned Shakespeare's traditionally fluffy play into a tragicomic semidream in which its characters strut and sweat with simmering energy, yet take themselves none too seriously. Andrew Sullivan, a senior editor at the New Republic, plays a muscular and intense version of Benedick. The fiery and antagonistic Beatrice is played passionately by Brook Butterworth. Yet the semicomic, semitragic genius of the performance is Christopher Henley, WSC's artistic director, who plays both Don Pedro and his illegitimate twin, Don John. This production of "Ado" is entertaining, outrageous and energetically acted. Through May 19. 703/418-4808. Reviewed by Jon Ward.
Polk County Arena Stage *** Zora Neale Hurston's "Polk County" is a sassy and dizzyingly high-spirited evening of music and mythic-sized characters. Set in a sawmill camp in Florida in the 1930s, the play details the daily dramas and triumphs of a close-knit community of black workers, where people work hard, play hard and love hard. The heated atmosphere is perfect for Miss Hurston's Day-Glo language. The music is a fine collection of traditional Southern folk and blues songs, church music, rags and reels. Miss Hurston's sprawling, virtually structure-free style is fine for a while, but at nearly three hours, the play meanders and then meanders some more. The actors seem to relish their roles, and the language and characters are full-bloomed. Through Sunday. 202/488-4377. Reviewed by Jayne M. Blanchard.
Romeo and Juliet The Shakespeare Theatre …. The Shakespeare Theatre's production is as fresh and unmannered as youth itself although the passion doesn't erupt as violently as it should. Young British director Rachel Kavanaugh, who says she believes in revealing "text-led Shakespeare," commendably plays it straight, lets the plot unfold and the actors act. Although this production isn't perfect, it has a beautiful, endearing simplicity that can only be attributed to Ms. Kavanaugh's living out her credo. Through May 19. 202/547-1122. 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 May 26. 703/548-9044. Reviewed by Susan Beving.
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.


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