- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 20, 2003

OPENING

• The Mineola Twins — Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company. Twin girls and their diametrically opposed views of feminism, Vietnam. sexuality, family values and politics. Opens Monday at Theatre J. 800/494-8497.

• The Rivals — The Shakespeare Theatre. Richard Brinsley Sheridan’s 1774 romantic comedy that takes a deeper look into the lengths a person will go to capture true love. Opens Tuesday. 202/547-1122.

• Thoroughly Modern Millie — Wolf Trap Filene Center. The Tony-winning musical takes audiences back to the Jazz Age of New York through the footsteps of Millie Dillmount, a Kansas girl, who tries to turn the city upside down with the latest trends in fashion, politics and love. Opens Tuesday. Information 703/938-2404, tickets 703/218-6500.

NOW PLAYING

• Footloose — Toby’s Dinner Theatre — ***. Toby’s rollicking production, based on the 1984 hit movie musical starring Kevin Bacon and John Lithgow, may induce a need for ‘80s pop detox. But no matter how you feel about the decade of big hair and ingratiating synth-pop hooks, this turbo-charged, highly likeable production — about a Chicago teenager who moves to Bomont, a rural town where dancing, rock music and other adolescent pleasures have been banned — could make you an ‘80s convert. Director Toby Orenstein, choreographer Ilona Kessell and musical director Douglas Lawler resourcefully invent myriad ways for the actors to dance and perform in Toby’s intimate setting. There are some overdone moments and some of the effects are a mite cheesy. Yet, no matter how corny it seems, you cannot help but cheer on “Footloose” and the hero’s efforts to bring some liberating footwork to the fun-starved citizens of Bomont. Through Aug. 31. 410/730-8311. Reviewed by Jayne Blanchard.

• Junie B. Jones and a Little Monkey Business — Bethesda Academy of Performing Arts Imagination Stage — ***1/2. Joan Cushing, known to Washington audiences as Mrs. Foggybottom, wrote the music, lyrics and the book for this delightful, Crayola-bright musical for children and any adult who remembers what it was like to be a loud, proud kindergartener. It’s the story of Junie B. (Sherri Edelen), a defiant 6-year-old who faces a daunting challenge, the impending arrival of a new baby brother or sister. Miss Edelen’s Broadway-caliber voice is put to good use in the show’s brisk score. She makes a complete and winning transformation into the bossy Junie B. She and the talented cast make this a bouncy and energetic celebration of what it’s like to be a child. Through Sunday . 301/280-1651. Reviewed by Jayne Blanchard.

• Love in Exile — Hyacinth Theater Company— *1/2. Robert Kapler’s play concerns the extramarital activities of that stolid architect of the Russian revolution, Vladimir Ilyich Lenin. Already involved in a relatively loveless but practical marriage with his political comrade, Nadezhda Krupskaya, Lenin falls for the dashing young radical feminist, Inessa Armand, while he is in exile in romantic Paris. When Krupskaya becomes disenchanted with this uncomfortable triangle, she forces her husband into a final round of “Truth or Consequences.” The acting is decent but the production is pokey, with a stately pace that at times renders anti-climactic some of the most climactic moments of the play. As Lenin, Paul McLane gives a finely nuanced interpretation, credibly portraying Lenin as an introverted romantic straining to escape his own self-imposed intellectual boundaries. Also nicely done are Frank Britton’s portrayal of Grigori Zinoviev, Lenin’s zealous sidekick, and Georgia Schlessman’s acidic realization of the hapless Krupskaya. Jamie Boileau is less effective as Armand, her up-inflections making her sound at times more like a Valley Girl than the crisply effective feminist leader that Armand actually was. Through Sunday at the Warehouse Theater. 202/783-3933. Reviewed by T.L. Ponick.

• The Master and Margarita — Rorschach Theatre — ***1/2. The hyperkinetic Rorschach Theatre company’s over-the-top take on Mikhail Bulgakov’s “The Master and Margarita, or the Devil Comes to Moscow.” Originally penned as a novel, the work was suppressed by the author in the 1930s for fear of Stalin. Its reconstruction and publication in 1967 created a sensation in the Soviet Union. The novel was adapted faithfully and impressively to the stage by Jean-Claude van Itallie, based on a translation by Sergei Kobiakoff. Bulgakov’s work is an anguished indictment of Stalin’s repression of self-expression. Bulgakov himself clearly identified with the Master who worships Margarita, his Muse, and eventually is saved by the Devil in a world that has permanently reversed polarity. Staged with eerie appropriateness in a high-beamed former sanctuary, this production crackles with manic energy. The acting is superb, and director Jenny McConnell keeps this circus of mayhem coherent, entertaining, and thought-provoking. Tim Getman as Woland/Satan is a fantastic Master of Ceremonies, evolving from a dapper tourist into a garish blend of Joel Grey and Tim Curry at their worst. This might be one of 2003’s most astounding theatrical adventures. At least it will have you arguing at a coffeehouse or bar well past closing time. Through Aug. 30 at Calvary Methodist Church. 703/715-6707. Reviewed by T.L. Ponick.

• The Power of the Dog — Longacre Lea Productions — *1/2. Playwright Howard Barker is known as the enfant terrible of British contemporary drama, and his “theater of catastrophe” is on full display in “Dog” as he free-associates Stalin, Churchill and various soldiers, photographers and filmmakers into an unpleasant melange of postmodernist moral equivalency — all commented upon by an irritating Scottish comic who scampers about doing a poor imitation of Lear’s Fool. Ably directed by Kathleen Ackerly, this production is briskly paced, sharply acted and at times quite funny. But alas, Mr. Barker’s 2-1/2 hours of surface profundities will appeal mostly to academics, semioticians and alienated students of lit crit who will find great intellectual amusement in the deconstruction of mass murder. Through Sept. 7 at the Callan Theatre, Catholic University. 202/332-3300. Reviewed by T.L. Ponick.

• 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.MAXIMUM RATING: FOUR STARS

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