- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 23, 2003


• Interrogation Room — Source Theatre. Gritty cop-on-cop action. Part of the Washington Theatre Festival. Sunday to Tuesday only. 202/462-1073.

• Malena, A Dream of Tango: A Historical Fairy Tale — Source Theatre. A rhythmic and sultry dance of words. Part of the Washington Theatre Festival. Wednesday only. 202/462-1073.

• Twelve Days of Christmas — Source Theatre. Oklahoma city blues. Part of the Washington Theatre Festival. Sunday to Tuesday only. 202/462-1073.

m The Will Rogers Follies, a Life in Revue — Lyric Opera House. Larry Gatlin stars in the Tony Award-winning musical. Opens Tuesday, runs through Aug. 3. 888/397-3100.


• All the Great Books — Kennedy Center Terrace Theater — ***1/2. In less than two hours of this infinitely zany remedial literature class, the Reduced Shakespeare Company zips through 83 classics in the Western canon. These masters of compression — the Professor (Austin Tichenor), the Coach (Reed Martin), and the Student Teacher (Matthew Croke) — use props, silly wigs, spit takes and drag to illustrate such classics as “Moby Dick,” “War and Peace” and “Green Eggs and Ham.” All three players exhibit rowdy enthusiasm and inventiveness, whether they are lovingly lampooning “Don Quixote” or “Plato’s Republic.” They appear to have not only actually read the great books, but know their essence and what can be skewered. It’s great fun for students of all ages. Through Aug. 1. 202/467-4600. Reviewed by Jayne M. Blanchard.

• Closer than Ever — MetroStage — ***. This high-energy revue of showstoppers by the contemporary Broadway songwriting duo of Richard Maltby Jr. and David Shire is a deft production. MetroStage is a small theater, and the cast socks these songs — many of them from the hit musical “Baby” — across the footlights as if they are belting them out in the middle of Times Square. The songs were written in the go-go ‘80s and ‘90s and reflect their times. They constitute a bright evening of musical theater about people who lead busy, complicated lives and are unafraid of change. Through Aug. 3. 703/548-9044. Reviewed by Jayne Blanchard.

• Dear World — American Century Theater — ***. Composer Jerry Herman’s delicately fantastic adaptation of Jean Giraudoux’s satiric farce, “The Madwoman of Chaillot,” premiered in 1969. Conceived as an intimate chamber musical, it became an overproduced train wreck that was stomped by the New York critics and slipped into obscurity. Now, American Century is using the original book, which emphasizes the simple magic of Mr. Giraudoux’s tale (written during the Nazi occupation of France as a speculation on life after liberation). Mr. Herman’s score is glorious, lilting and romantic. As the Countess Aurelia, the town’s beloved eccentric who saves Paris from ruthless industrialists, the veteran performer Ilona Dulaski is naturally elegant and not so much crazy as someone who chooses her own reality. Unfortunately, the cast ranges from excellent to embarrassingly amateurish, and these extremes throw off the show’s gentle rhythm. Still, this is a neglected treasure of a musical. Through Aug. 9 at Theater II, Gunston Arts Center. 703/553-8782. Reviewed by Jayne Blanchard.

• Donna Q — Signature Theatre — ***. It’s a double-dip pleasure to have Nancy Robinette performing in Paulette Laufer’s beguiling one-woman show, loosely based on “Don Quixote.” Wisconsin denizen Donna Q is a comfy-bodied, middle-aged woman who, faced with unemployment after doing the same clerical job for more than 20 years, reinvents herself as an adventurer and visionary. Her “possible dream” is to take a frigid dip into Lake Michigan on New Year’s Day as part of the annual Polar Bear Plunge; this mad quest not only shakes her staid foundations, but alters the lives of relatives and friends whose lives she touches. Miss Robinette plays these other characters and more with clarity and affection, and is radiant as Donna Q. The play loses focus in the middle and becomes fuzzy with the various crises of the peripheral characters until Miss Robinette regains control of the piece near the end. Through Sunday. 703/218-6500. Reviewed by Jayne Blanchard.

• Ghosts — The Shakespeare Theatre — **. Director Edwin Sherin has slapped Henrik Ibsen’s 1881 masterpiece about lies and retribution clear into 1981 in an attempt to make the play as vigorous and shocking to audiences as it was more than 100 years ago. Instead, the modifications and add-ons have pushed “Ghosts” into the unfortunate realm of melodrama. Even the august Jane Alexander, as the wealthy widow Helen Alving in her Shakespeare Theatre debut, cannot elevate this production beyond seeming like something you’d see on the Lifetime cable network. Nor can the rest of the excellent cast save this version of “Ghosts” from being anything but a stifling modern museum piece. Through Sunday. 202/547-1122. 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, outspoken 6-year-old who faces the most daunting challenge of her life, the impending arrival of a new baby brother or sister. Miss Edelen, whose Broadway-caliber voice is put to good use in the show’s brisk score, makes a complete and winning transformation into the bossy Junie B. She is surrounded by a talented cast that makes this a bouncy and energetic celebration of what it’s like to be a child. Through Aug. 17. 301/280-1651. Reviewed by Jayne Blanchard.

• Monster — Olney Theatre — .***. For a Gothic good time, you can’t do better than Neal Bell’s harrowing, freakish “Monster,” a free-form adaptation of Mary Shelley’s novel “Frankenstein.” Directed with audacity by Jim Petosa, it’s a play of extremes and deep-purple emotions, both disturbingly erotic and almost absurdly romantic. At the same time, its tone is so swampy and delirious it would put a Tales of the Crypt comic book to shame. The cast is top-notch and Christopher Lane is extraordinary as the innocent, bewildered Creature. The adaptation is not up to the Shelley masterpiece. But if you are willing to go along for the creepy ride, you’ll get plenty of hair-raising scares and some food for thought as well, since Mr. Bell’s play touches on the ethical issues of cloning a human being and taking responsibility for what we create. Through Aug. 10. 301/924-3400. Reviewed by Jayne 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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