- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 16, 2003

OPENING
110 in the Shade Signature Theatre. A musical about a man who promises to bring rain to a drought-ruined town and love to a plain girl's heart. Opens Tuesday. 703/218-6500.
The Silent Woman The Shakespeare Theatre. The home of a bachelor seeking solitude is ironically filled with pomp and circumstance after his marriage to a seemingly reserved woman. Opens Tuesday. 202/547-1122.
A Woman's Revenge Warner Theatre. A wife continues to trust amidst the lies that are told when her husband's ex-girlfriend enters their lives. Opens Tuesday. 202/432-SEAT.

NOW PLAYING
Runaway Home The Studio Theatre ** Playwright Javon Johnson galvanized Studio audiences last year with the musicality and ease of his play "Hambone." With his new work, "Runaway Home," Mr. Johnson tackles the disintegration of family, emotional abuse, abandonment and other powder-keg issues. But tackling is not the same as rigorous exploring, and as a result, "Runaway Home" is a gaseous heap of issues and tragedies thrown onstage and then left to rot. With one exception, none of the scenes get off the ground. They just go on and on, with reams of exposition and wooden, statement-laden dialogue that verges on parody. The pacing is sloppy and a dramatic or comic arc is non-existent, leading to flubbed dialogue and actors stepping on each other's lines. A directorial hand is all but invisible. The top-notch cast is not given enough to work with. The main character, BettyAnn (Rosalyn Coleman) is so crudely drawn you tire of the character's single dimension very quickly. And without a great BettyAnn, there is no play. Through Feb. 16. 202/332-3300. Reviewed by Jayne M. Blanchard.
South Pacific Arena Stage ***. So many songs from this Rodgers and Hammerstein classic have been burned into the collective memory that Arena Stage has to warn the audience before the performance not to sing along. That's OK, since you won't want to miss the fine voices and ebullient energy exuded by this production. Artistic Director Molly Smith's staging is fluid and fetching. Baayork Lee contributes lissome choreography. Richard White's stage-filling turn as Emile de Becque shows off an imposing physique and a gorgeous matinee-idol singing voice. Kate Baldwin as Nellie Forbush proves a delightful foil, though her vocal inflections could be better. The production is not so exuberantly on fire as it might be, but it's hard not to like an R&H; musical. Through Feb. 2. 202/488-3300. 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.MAXIMUM RATING: FOUR STARS


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