- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 18, 2003

Audiences of all ages are drawn to A Midsummer Night’s Dream for its affectionate humor, hilarious slapstick and goofy, intertwining love stories. Now director Mark Lamos’ wildly witty update at the Shakespeare Theatre works in ways that such improvements rarely do. Here is a misty otherworld where modernist fairies tumble and turn in the air, swimming through the mists of time. The crafty Oberon, King of the Fairies, and his disgruntled queen Titania materialize as towering giants, taking on more human forms as they weave their wondrous spells. And the production features perhaps the most inventively sidesplitting version yet seen of the Pyramus and Thisbe play-within-a-play that is staged as the final wedding entertainment. At the Shakespeare Theatre, 450 Seventh St. NW, through Jan. 4. Tickets are $16 to $66. Call 202/547-1122 or see www.shakespearetheatre.org.

— T.L. Ponick

To Be and To Have, exclusively at Visions Cinema, extends an already impressive list of documentary features in 2003. A portrait of a dedicated teacher and his classroom in Saint-Etienne sur Usson, a dairy community in the Auvergne, “To Be” distills a winter and spring of elementary education as supervised by schoolmaster Georges Lopez. One of the film’s elegiac elements is that the estimable Mr. Lopez appears a year or so away from concluding his tenure. His students number 13, divided between younger and older ones, most of them bound for larger district middle schools after graduation. Filmmaker Nicolas Philibert, whose cameras and sound equipment are very sensitive to atmospheric nuance, shares impressions of basic learning, by the book, by persuasion and by admonition. The body of experience couldn’t be more essential and the quality of observation couldn’t be more lucid or touching. In French with English subtitles.

The Adventures of Robin Hood shares a birthdate with the original Silver Theatre, which opened for business in Silver Spring in 1938. A newly restored Technicolor print is being revived at the American Film Institute Silver Theatre for two weeks starting tomorrow. This celebration of the exploits of Robin Hood sustained the co-starring glamour of the young Errol Flynn and Olivia de Havilland, menaced by villains of distinction in Claude Rains and Basil Rathbone. 8633 Colesville Road, Silver Spring. 301/495-6700.

— Gary Arnold

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