- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 1, 2005

Hollywood took 70 years to exploit the inspirational potential in the comeback story of boxer Jim Braddock, but Cinderella Man catches up in a very satisfying way. This Depression-era fable recalls the curious slide and rebound of the unassuming Irish-American slugger from New Jersey. The tenderness between Russell Crowe as Braddock and Renee Zellweger as his wife, Mae, anchors the movie through boxing highlights that culminate in a 1935 title fight against heavyweight champ Max Baer, impersonated with sinister gusto by Craig Bierko. Deference for Clint Eastwood caused the Academy to embrace a boxing saga a year too soon. Unlike “Million Dollar Baby,” “Cinderella Man” is a classic morale booster.

Tom Davenport of Delaplane, Va., began making dramatic shorts adapted from Grimm fairy tales in the 1970s, with a “Hansel and Gretel” transposed to Appalachia during the Depression. This cycle has now reached 11 titles. The American Film Institute Silver Theatre will commemorate the 30th anniversary of Mr. Davenport’s project this weekend with three programs devoted to his work. Ashpet and Jack and the Dentist’s Daughter screen Saturday at 1 p.m. The feature Willa: An American Snow White follows at 5:30 p.m. A bill of Mutzmag and Soldier Jack is scheduled for Sunday at 3:30 p.m. Mr. Davenport will introduce and discuss the films. Tickets are $5.50 to $8.50. 8633 Colesville Road, Silver Spring. 301/495-6700.

— Gary Arnold

You would think the nude locker-room scenes would be the most talked-about aspect of Studio Theatre’s production of Take Me Out, Richard Greenberg’s heart-shaped tribute to the baseball diamond. But it’s Rick Foucheux’s exultant, endearing portrayal of a fan — an isolated, slightly schlubby guy who falls in love with baseball in middle age — that clearly mirrors Mr. Greenberg’s own midlife crush on America’s favorite pastime. When he speaks of the “noble equality” and “divine symmetry” of baseball you know that Mr. Greenberg conceived “Take Me Out” as a Greek tragedy with cleats, and the descriptions of baseball are sheer poetry. The play follows the ups and downs of the fictional world champion New York Empires in a baseball season fraught with drama — as the team’s superstar center fielder reveals to the media that he is homosexual. Through it all, “Take Me Out” keeps its spirits high with an unabashed love of the game. Studio Theatre, 1501 14th St. NW, through June 26. Tickets are $25 to $48. 202/332-3300.

— Jayne Blanchard

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