- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 10, 2003

OPENING

• Cooking With Elvis — The Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company. Lee Hall’s comedy about a British Elvis impersonator and his eccentric family. Opens Tuesday at the Kennedy Center AFI Theater. 202/467-4600.

• Crowns — Arena Stage. Regina Taylor’s musical adaptation of Craig Mayberry and Michael Cunningham’s book about the legendary “hat queens” of the South. Opens tomorrow. 202/488-3300.

• The Taming of the Shrew — The Royal Shakespeare Company. Shakespeare’s comedy about the battle of the sexes, performed in repertory with “The Tamer Tamed,” John Fletcher’s sequel. Opens Saturday at the Kennedy Center Eisenhower Theater. 202/467-4600.

• The Tamer Tamed — The Royal Shakespeare Company. John Fletcher’s sequel to “The Taming of the Shrew,” performed in repertory with the Shakespeare classic. Opens Wednesday at the Kennedy Center Eisenhower Theater. 202/467-4600.

NOW PLAYING

• Camelot — Arena Stage — ***1/2. Arena Artistic Director Molly Smith clearly has an affinity for Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe’s majestic 1960 musical based on T.H. White’s book “The Once and Future King,” about King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. She has staged one of the most resonant and poignant “Camelots” ever seen, not only revitalizing this tuneful warhorse, but also re-inventing the show for modern sensibilities. Through Jan. 4. 202/488-3300. Reviewed by Jayne Blanchard.

• A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum — Signature Theatre — ***1/2. If your brand of humor tends to be of the baggy toga variety, Signature’s “Forum” is for you. Under the burlesque-brassy direction of Gary Griffin, the 1962 Stephen Sondheim musical is rousing and rowdy, and it’s staged and performed with a warm comedic sense. The humor is bawdy and sexual, but this is low-brow musical comedy at its most irrepressible. Through Sunday. 703/218-6500. Reviewed by Jayne Blanchard.

• Heartbreak House — Round House Theatre — **. The title of George Bernard Shaw’s arsenic-dipped diatribe, written in 1920, refers to a manor house in the English countryside populated by a family of bohemians and their bewildered guests during World War I. The family does nothing to stop the war; everyone remains dreamy and removed while bombs fall. This production has an enviable cast, a poshly baronial set by James Kronzer, and the whip-smart Nick Olcott as director, but the actors never transcend type, so you emerge feeling you have spent nearly three hours with some perfectly respectable, rather tedious company. Through Sunday. 240/644-1100. Reviewed by Jayne Blanchard.

• If Only in My Dreams — American Century Theater — ***. American Century Theater’s throat-catching revue, a salute to World War II soldiers and their loved ones back home, brings lovingly to life the seasonal spirit and patriotism that mingle in wartime holidays. Whether you’re hawk, dove or owl, you no doubt will be moved by this bittersweet show, which reprises many 1940s musical standards, right down to “Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition.” The eight cast members are in fine voice, handling the often wistful holiday melodies with grace and delicacy. Through Jan. 3. 703/553-8782. Reviewed by Jayne Blanchard.

• A Midsummer Night’s Dream — The Shakespeare Theatre — ***. Director Mark Lamos’ update of this most popular of Shakespeare’s plays is wildly witty and works in ways that such improvements rarely do. Winged and sooty modernist fairies tumble and turn in the air, swimming through the mists of time. Oberon and his disgruntled queen, Titania, materialize as towering giants, taking on more human forms as they weave their wondrous spells. Children love the play for its nonsense and will not be damaged in the slightest by the small sprinkling of the Bard’s bawdy japes. Through Jan. 4. 202/547-1122. Reviewed by T.L. Ponick.

• Miss Nelson Has a Field Day — Imagination Stage — **. Joan Cushing turned a picture book by Harry Allard and James Marshall into a joyous and award-winning 2002 musical, “Miss Nelson Is Missing,” about a beloved teacher at Smedley Elementary School. Miss Cushing has returned to adapt “Miss Nelson Has a Field Day,” but though the show has its dynamic moments, it lacks the bounce and fun of the first musical. Through Jan. 11. 301/280-1660. Reviewed by Jayne Blanchard.

• Noel and Gertie — Metro Stage — ***. Noel Coward had a great many loves in his life, but his most enduring affair of the mind and heart was with the actress Gertrude Lawrence, whom he met when they were both child players touring the English provinces. The 40-year relationship between the two stars is entertainingly charted in Sheridan Morley’s play, in a charming, gossamer-light production under the expert direction of Nancy Robillard. Snippets of “Private Lives” provide a loose structure for the story of the friendship, interspersed with ditties and scenes from Coward’s plays. Through Sunday. 703/548-9044. Reviewed by Jayne Blanchard.

• Red Herring — Everyman Theatre — ***1/2. Playwright Michael Hollinger’s sendup of the hard-boiled detectives of film noir and pulp fiction gets a bang-up production at Baltimore’s Everyman Theatre under the daft and deft direction of John Vreeke. The story of murder, espionage and the red scare, set in 1952 Boston at the height of the McCarthy hearings, is told through three wacky couples who converge one night on a foggy pier in Boston. A daffy mood is set by vintage radio jingles, while the set is dominated by an enormous retro billboard hawking Ogilvy Canned Herring. The cast of six plays 18 madcap characters, with 14 scene changes in the breakneck first act alone. Mr. Hollinger furnishes the cast with a stream of swift, snappy patter, and the actors return the favor, rising to helium-giddy heights. It just proves that whether you’re a flatfoot or a commie, all you really need is love. Through Sunday. 410/752-2208. Reviewed by Jayne Blanchard.

MAXIMUM RATING: FOUR STARS


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