- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 5, 2003


• Anger Box — Cherry Red Productions. The world premiere of Jeff Goode’s play, 10 comedic monologues about God, cars, Santa Claus and other subjects. Opens tomorrow at the Source Theatre. 202/298-9077.

• Heartbreak House — Round House Theatre. George Bernard Shaw’s play stands as one of the great classics of Western drama. Opens Wednesday. 240/644-1100.

• The Underpants — The Washington Stage Guild. Adapted by Steve Martin from Carl Sternheim’s 1911 farce, this comedy tells the story of a government clerk trying to preserve his anonymity after his wife exposes herself in public. Opens tonight. 240/582-0050.

• Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? — The Keegan Theatre. A play investigating the power and brutality of love and the illusions we use to keep ourselves alive. Opens tonight at Clark Street Playhouse. 703/527-6000.


• Bounce — Kennedy Center Eisenhower Theater — **. You would think a musical called “Bounce” would have some. But there is a surprising lack of buoyancy and lift to composer Stephen Sondheim’s first new musical since 1994’s “Passion.” Seamy and passionless, “Bounce” is filled with unappealing characters and a score that’s brilliant only in fits and starts. It’s based on the lives of two notorious con artists, the irascible Mizner brothers, Addison (Richard Kind) and Wilson (Howard McGillin). The real-life brothers hobnobbed with the rich and titled and were celebrated in song and story — so they must have had some charm. But as portrayed with yeomanly dedication by Mr. Kind and Mr. McGillin, Addison and Willie are just two-bit creeps. That’s the biggest problem with “Bounce”: You want to get as far away from this family as you can. “Bounce” may be a tribute to “the game,” a never-ending succession of tricks and frauds, but when the audience feels taken, where’s the fun in that? Through Nov. 16. 202/467-4600. Reviewed by Jayne Blanchard.

• The Grapes of Wrath — Ford’s Theatre — **. This production of John Steinbeck’s novel is so arduous that at times you feel as though you, too, are stuffed aboard the Joad family’s over-burdened jalopy as they rattle along Route 66 on a spirit-busting journey to a better life in California. They are hot, tired, dirty and broke — Oklahoma victims of the Depression and the Dust Bowl. Despite a transcendent performance by Annabel Armour as Ma Joad, much of “Grapes” is slow, rough going. The central character, Tom Joad (Craig Walker), is played as a sulky, overgrown and immature character with a hair-trigger temper and a mean streak. And without a strong Tom Joad, “Grapes” becomes not a young man’s journey from undisciplined ruffian to champion of workers’ rights but a severely episodic look at suffering. Everyone is miserable and it just gets worse — until you envy those who died along the way. What is lacking is the sense of unquenchable spirit in these people who left their homes behind for the great unknown. Through Nov. 15. 202/347-4833. Reviewed by Jayne Blanchard.

• The Life of Galileo — Studio Theatre — ***. Ted van Griethuysen brings to rugged, flawed life the brilliant 17th-century scientist Galileo in this production of Bertolt Brecht’s play, newly and bracingly translated by playwright David Hare. And the portrait of Galileo — an intellect who can plot the heavens, but a man oblivious to the intentions of the people surrounding him — is what gives the play mercy and depth. Director David Salter keeps each character in perpetual, swirling orbit around him, giving the production a swift, celestial rhythm. Helen Q. Huang’s burnished-gold and hammered-copper set features interlocking circles and spheres that give the sensation of being inside a model of the solar system. The large cast does an admirable job, fleshing out their characters so they are more than pawns in Galileo’s personal cosmos. This is a play of ideas, but what ultimately impresses is how expertly it engages the intellect without sacrificing the heart. Through Dec. 7. 202/332-3300. Reviewed by Jayne Blanchard.

• Proof — Arena Stage — ****. David Auburn’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play is a finely wrought piece, blending psychological drama with romance and elements of an intellectual whodunit. The advanced mathematics sketched out in “Proof” form the basis for the play, but it is essentially about relationships — between father and daughter, siblings and two people in the early stages of a love affair. It satisfies on multiple levels. The four well-delineated and tightly interwoven characters are heightened by a quartet of superior performances, and Wendy C. Goldberg’s direction is sharp and perceptive. Through Nov. 23. 202/488-3300. Reviewed by Jayne Blanchard.

• Ragtime: The Musical — Toby’s Dinner Theatre — ***. The last great musical of the 20th century, based on E.L. Doctorow’s novel, is epic in scope, depicting a turning point in American life when people were caught between the racing present and the familiar past. The Broadway version was huge. Yet director Toby Orenstein has brought it to a cramped 300-seat dinner theater without sacrificing quality or compromising its innate bigness. Through Nov. 23. 410/730-8311. Reviewed by Jayne Blanchard.

• Topdog/Underdog — The Studio Theatre — ***1/2. Suzan-Lori Parks’ Pulitzer Prize-winning play gives the age-old Cain and Abel story a raw, bruising immediacy. Here the plot centered on two brothers — fittingly called Booth and Lincoln — bound by sibling rivalry, jealousy, love, loyalty and parental abandonment feels new, its emotional territory unsurveyed. Jahi Kearse is musical and muscular as Booth; Thomas W. Jones II as Lincoln is more measured and slick. Together they create such an intimacy that you almost feel reluctant to intrude upon it. Through Sunday. 202/332-3300. Reviewed by Jayne Blanchard.


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