- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 27, 2004

OPENING

• A Bad Friend — Theatre J. A 16-year-old girl struggling with the changes of adolescence in a 1950s communist family befriends a potential informer, endangering her family. Opens Saturday at the D.C. Jewish Community Center. 202/777-3229.

• Becoming Adele — Rep Stage. A spunky Brooklyn waitress struggles with screwball situations and colorful characters in an effort to carve out a future for herself and her daughter. Opens tomorrow at Howard County Community College. 410/772-4900.

• Ivanov — Studio Theatre. A man is plagued by guilt and frustration when he finds himself drawn to a beautiful young girl who threatens to destroy the moral foundations of his world. Opens Wednesday. 202/332-3300.

• Pound — The Washington Stage Guild. A look at one of St. Elizabeths Hospital’s most famous patients, poet Ezra Pound. Opens tonight at Arena Stage. 240/582-0050.



• The Weir — Quotidian Theatre Company. A haunting tale of locals swapping ghost stories in an Irish pub. Opens tomorrow at The Writer’s Center. 301/816-1023.

NOW PLAYING

• Anna in the Tropics — Kreeger Theater at Arena Stage — ****. The catalyst of Nilo Cruz’s voluptuous Pulitzer Prize-winning play about the startling effect words have on a group of Cuban-American cigar-factory workers in Florida in the 1920s is Juan Julian (the princely Jason Manuel Olazabal). The plant’s new “lector,” who reads aloud to the workers as they bunch tobacco and roll cigars, he chooses the bodice-ripper “Anna Karenina” as his first effort, unaware of how this book will ignite passions both grand and violent in the men and women. The play is an orgy of language, with metaphors that accrete like the finest silk lingerie. The actors capture the tone perfectly. Sometimes the prose gets purplish, but for the most part, you just lie back and think of Cuba. Through Nov. 21. 202/488-3300. Reviewed by Jayne Blanchard.

• Blithe Spirit — Olney Theatre Center for the Arts — **. Noel Coward’s caustic comedies should go down like a faultlessly mixed dry martini. This production is closer to a warm shot of Gatorade. The play itself is a tart honey, full of razored dialogue and airy sophistication, about a novelist researching the occult at an English country estate who sits in on a seance that calls up his first wife, who decides to linger — a stay that wreaks havoc on the writer’s second marriage. The play depends for its success on a certain daffy insouciance that’s lacking here — in spite of fine performances by Kate Goehring as the spirit Elvira, naughty and lighter than air, and Halo Wines as the minxish and kooky medium, Madame Arcati. Olney’s staging of “Blithe Spirit” remains doggedly earthbound, haunted by the presence of what might have been. Through Nov. 7. 301/924-3400. Reviewed by Jayne Blanchard.

• Bunnicula — Imagination Stage — ***. Bunnicula is the fearsome vampire bunny that arrives in the Monroe household to the consternation of the family dog and cat. With cape-like black markings on his back, with beady, burning eyes and teeth more Bela than Bugs, the rabbit springs open the doors of his cage at night and preys on innocent salad fixings. The erudite and thoughtful resident animals’ comic attempts to warn the family provide much of the fun of this nicely scary play, a Halloween treat. Jon Klein’s adaptation of the literate and wry children’s book by Deborah and James Howe reaches a wide range of ages without dumbing down the sophistication of the original text. Through Nov. 7. 301/280-1660. Reviewed by Jayne Blanchard.

• Miss Saigon — Toby’s Dinner Theatre — ****. The Claude-Michel Schonberg and Alain Boublil musical incited controversy when it debuted in 1991, with its combination of soaring music and caustic, cynical commentary on both the French and American involvement in Vietnam. In this production at Toby’s space-strapped theater-in-the-round, director Toby Orenstein concentrates on casting the best voices and talent she can find. And as with last year’s big-budget, big-cast staging of “Ragtime,” Toby’s accomplishes what is seemingly impossible: transferring an expensive and highly technical Broadway show to a smaller dinner-theater venue without relinquishing style and emotional impact. Through Nov. 21. 410/730-8311. Reviewed by Jayne Blanchard.

• Tabletop — Round House Theatre — **. Rob Ackerman’s fitfully funny play portrays the insular world of the “tabletop” ad technicians — those camera tricksters who make “ice cream” out of mashed potatoes — with hectic, almost bruising comedy. The play does give us a glimpse into a world to which most of us are not privy, but its one-note extremism is wearing. Even the rhythms become predictable — hissy fit, recovery, hissy fit, recovery. For a play lambasting our culture’s preference for image over substance, “Tabletop” comes off as oddly shallow, as pea-brained as the people and the industry it portrays. Through Sunday. 240/644-1100. Reviewed by Jayne Blanchard.

MAXIMUM RATING: FOUR STARS

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