- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 26, 2002

OPENING

• Anna Lucasta Rep Stage. A young woman shunned by her family is brought back into the fold to try and wed a wealthy suitor. Opens tomorrow at Howard Community College. 410/772-4900.

• Driving Miss Daisy Olney Theatre Center. Story explores the odd friendship between a cantankerous Southern matron and her black chauffeur. Opens Tuesday. 301/924-3400.

• Exercises in Style Le Neon Theatre. One basic story is told over again in many different forms, from French farce to classic tragedy and opera. Opens tonight at Rosslyn Spectrum. 703/243-2744.

• 42nd Street Mechanic Theatre. A chorus girl gets her big break in this popular Broadway musical, featuring "We're in the Money" and other familiar tunes. Part of the "Broadway in Baltimore" series. Opens Tuesday. 202/432-SEAT.

• El Lugar Ideal (The Ideal Place) GALA Hispanic Theatre. Light-hearted farce about a communist sympathizer who finds that a Cuban family's life is different from her fantasy. In Spanish with simultaneous English translation. Opens tonight at Warehouse Theater. 202/234-7174.

• The Misanthrope Arena Stage. Moliere's courtship comedy about a suitor who becomes tangled up in lies while trying to woo his flirtatious beloved. Opens tomorrow. 202/488-3300.

• The Vindication of Senyora Clito Mestres Classika Theatre. A one-woman show, starring Dragana Varagic, about the life of an aging actress. Opens Saturday. 703/824-6200.


NOW PLAYING

• Anthems: Culture Clash in the District Kreeger Theater, Arena Stage **1/2. Richard Montoya and the comedy/theatrical group called Culture Clash offer a joyous and thoughtful examination of a city interrupted by the harrowing events of September 11. A series of often hilarious vignettes, the play is based on the writers' real-life attempts to chronicle the District. However, the creators gorge on far too much history than they can digest, and the story becomes a maladroit mix of comedy and political satire. Through Oct. 13. 202/488-3300. Reviewed by Christian Toto.

• Privates on Parade Studio Theatre ***1/2. This 1977 musical play by Britain's Peter Nichols (with music by Dennis King) is a grand way to start the theater season. Dashingly directed by Joy Zinoman, who handles it with silliness and sophistication, it combines the broad humor of English music halls and pantos with carefully wrought commentary on racism, miscegenation, homosexuality and homophobia, and the casual cruelties of wartime. The play is based on Mr. Nichols' experiences as a member of a song-and-dance touring unit similar to the USO dispatched to Southeast Asia in 1948 to cheer up British troops mired in a Malaysian guerrilla war. The unit is led by Terri Dennis, a flamboyant queen, played by Floyd King, that most supple of clowns and there is no more joyous sign that the seasons are changing than the sight of Mr. King in a dress. If every show this season is as energetic and inspired as "Privates on Parade," then we needn't concern ourselves with the inevitable letdown after this summer's Sondheim Celebration. Through Oct. 20. 202/332-3300. Reviewed by Jayne M. Blanchard.

• Recent Tragic Events Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company ***. The premise of Craig Wright's play might sound like a tasteless joke: A young Minneapolis woman (Holly Twyford) waits for a blind date (Eric Sutton) to show up on Sept. 12, 2001 even as she tries to cope with the fact that her twin sister, who may or may not have been in the World Trade Center the day before, hasn't been heard from. But Mr. Wright is a playwright of humor and humility, and the play, nimbly staged by director Michael John Garces, is both romantic and rending. Miss Twyford strikes the perfect balance between hysteria and trying to be a good hostess. She and Mr. Sutton are ably supported by Michael Ray Escamilla as a comically stoned musician friend and Dori Legg as his underpants-free, pizza-eating foil. Mr. Wright's play is not ideal, and tends to trail away. But how can you end a play about September 11th? Through Oct. 5 at the D.C. Jewish Community Center. 800/494-8497. Reviewed by Jayne M. Blanchard.

• 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. File review by Nelson Pressley.

• The Winter's Tale Shakespeare Theatre **1/2. Discussions of whether Shakespeare's "The Winter's Tale" is a tragedy, a comedy, a romance or a problem play are dispelled during the first act of this production, directed by Michael Kahn. It is simply an ordeal. The production's sluggish pulse quickens once we are whisked from the airless and cheerless Sicilia, with its death trap of a set, to the flower-bedecked Bohemia, but throughout the cast seems quite reserved. Everyone seems to be racing through the denouement, just wanting to get it over with. This a handsome production, but one that exudes a pale fire. And that makes it a long "Winter" indeed. Through Oct. 20. 202/547-1122. Reviewed by Jayne M. Blanchard.

MAXIMUM RATING: FOUR STARS

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