- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 6, 2003

OPENING

• Chronicles of a Kidnapping Gunston Arts Center Theater Two. A game of reality and fantasy, of jailer and jailed, of fact and illusion. Part of the 6th International Festival of Hispanic Theater. Tuesday and Wednesday. 202/882-6227.

• Grease Warner Theatre. A good girl meets a rebellious boy in this 1950s-era musical. Opens Tuesday, runs through March 16. 202/432-SEAT.

• The Philanderer Washington Stage Guild. The U.S. premiere of the original conclusion of George Bernard Shaw's comedy of romantic confusion and marital misadventure. Opens tonight. 240/582-0050.

• 1776 Ford's Theatre. A humorous and musical retelling of the country's founding. Opens Wednesday. 703/218-6500 or 202/347-4833.

• Stefano Gunston Arts Center Theater Two. Immigrants seeking a better life struggle to achieve their dreams in a new country. Part of the 6th International Festival of Hispanic Theater. Tomorrow and Saturday. 202/882-6227.

• That Takes Ovaries Horizons Theatre. True stories by and about women standing up for themselves. Opens tonight at the Hand Chapel, George Washington University. 703/243-8550.

• Things that Lovers Do Lincoln Theatre. Romantic musical with Kenny Lattimore, Chante Moore, Kim Whitley, and Clifton Powell. Opens Tuesday. 202/432-SEAT.

• The Water Falls Quest Productions. A young deaf man must deal with the death of his grandfather. Opens tonight at the Mulitz-Gudelsky Theatre Lab, Olney Theatre Center for the Arts. 800/494-8497.

NOW PLAYING

• Intimate Apparel The Head Theater ***. Lynn Nottage's delicately wrought but surprisingly strong new play centering on a gifted black seamstress (Shane Williams) in 1905 Manhattan whose features are as plain as her needlework with lace, whalebone, satin and silk is exquisite. Externally confident, she is filled with low self-esteem, and at 35 fears going through life without a husband. When a worker on the Panama Canal from Barbados (Kevin Jackson) fuels her romantic dreams with swoony letters from Central America, she pins all her fantasies on him. He turns out to be not only ordinary but clumsy on their wedding night. At its core, this is a play about intimacy. The performances are deeply grounded. Director Kate Whoriskey's production is sensitive, and costume designer Catherine Zuber and set designer Walt Spangler buttress the importance of fabrics, textiles and lingerie to the play's ambiance. Through March 30 at CenterStage, Baltimore. 410/332-4240. 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.

• The Silent Woman The Shakespeare Theatre ***1/2. The spirit of the whoopee cushion, joy buzzer and squirting flower rules in artistic director Michael Kahn's production of Ben Jonson's elaborate 1610 farce. It's raucous and raunchy, its humor permeated with double entendres, sexual innuendo and frank boudoir talk. It's so much fun to look at that you could forget there is a plot. The plot is there, yet it's a mere pretext for comeuppances of all stripes. Practically everyone in the play is duped. This gives the production a feeling of good-natured joy, as all are the butt of a joke at some point or another, and every character is shown to be either vain, a fool or a bit of both. Mr. Kahn keeps his sights squarely on the bedroom, barroom and bathroom, refusing to be distracted by more elevated concerns. His purpose, after all, is not high art, but low comedy. To achieve that, Mr. Kahn has assembled a cast of fine comedic actors and just let them rip, and they ham it up without shame. "The Silent Woman" has rarely been staged in the past 100 years and never in America. It was a long wait, but Jonson's bawdy, witty sendup of snobs and slobs was worth it. Through Sunday. 202/547-1122. Reviewed by Jayne M. Blanchard.MAXIMUM RATING: FOUR STARS

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