- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 23, 2003

OPENING

• Coyote Woman Cherry Red Productions. A comedy about a woman whose life is transformed after she is attacked by a coyote. Opens tonight at Warehouse Next Door. 202/298-9077.

• George Gershwin Alone Ford's Theatre. The story of the life of George Gershwin. Opens tonight. 202/347-4833.

• Sing Down the Moon: Appalachian Wonder Tales George Mason University Center for the Arts Concert Hall. Musical retelling of Appalachian folk tales. Opens tonight. 703/218-6500.


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.

• Twelfth Night Folger Shakespeare Library ****. Shakespeare's often-melancholy comedy about mistaken identity, misplaced ardor and mischief takes its name from the final night of Christmas festivities, the Feast of the Epiphany. Celebrated in the Elizabethan era as a festival of misrule, this holiday of music, revels and pranks saturates Shakespeare's play. And in Aaron Posner's tune-filled, fresh and sexy new staging we get the jokes, we like the music, and we share in the fun. The enthusiasm of the cast is contagious; a standout performance by Rick Foucheux as Malvolio adds to the delight. If you are looking for a fresh and intoxicating interpretation of "Twelfth Night," look no further. Through Feb. 9. 202/544-7077. Reviewed by Jayne M. Blanchard.MAXIMUM RATING: FOUR STARS


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