- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 15, 2005


• Cinderella Classika Theatre—. A young girl, under the heel of her cruel stepmother, is doomed to lifelong drudgery, until a fairy godmother comes along to set in motion a string of adventures that leads to a classic happily-ever-after ending. Opens Saturday.6/18824-0660.


• Anna Christie — Arena Stage, Kreeger Theater — ***1/2. There’s nothing remotely nostalgic in director Molly Smith’s ripely comic, ripsnorting take on the Eugene O’Neill play about the barge captain’s daughter with a damaged past who finds redemption at sea and a chance at a new life with a rescued Irish sailor. The production is vigorous and vibrantly crude. It sings with the crackle of 1920s city slang, the ragtime and jazz-baby rhythms inherent in Mr. O’Neill’s dialogue. Humor and tough-guy patois abound in both the male and female characters, adding to the play’s salty charms, and Sara Surrey attacks the role of Anna with great vigor. Through Sunday. 202/488-3300. Reviewed by Jayne Blanchard.

• Beauty and the Beast — Toby’s Dinner Theatre — ***. Disney’s Broadway musical is notorious for spectacle, but this small dinner theater captures its show-bizzy enchantment with ingenuity, economy, style and Broadway-caliber voices. This is decidedly kiddie fare, but adults, too, will respond favorably to the sophistication of the show’s lyrics and its message: Even the most beastly and odd among us can find love and acceptance. Through July 3. 301/596-6161. Reviewed by Jayne Blanchard.

• Headsman’s Holiday — Theater Alliance — ***. History class was never like this bawdy and risky take on the French Revolution by Hungarian playwright Kornel Hamvai. On a set dominated by a bloodstained guillotine, director Aaron Posner brings to noisy, sprawling life the freewheeling tale of a naive executioner from a small village who is thrust into the hurly-burly of Paris in 1794. His bumbling adventures include raucous bedroom dalliances, a scientific experiment that tests whether a severed head is still capable of thought, and a ride on the first hot-air balloon. The encounters are ripe with dusky humor and the cast of 13 (in 52 roles) is uniformly gifted in creating salient character portraits. Through June 26 at the H Street Playhouse. 800/494-8497. Reviewed by Jayne Blanchard.

• Jason and the Argonauts — Synetic Theater — **. The heroics and missteps of the Argonauts of Greco-Roman myth in their search for the Golden Fleece mostly take second billing here to the sorceress Medea, who enchants Jason and is in turn seized by a cursed love for him, which sets up the tragic denouement. The actors are sinuously in command of their body language, and Synetic deploys its trademark blend of eye-popping visuals and musical soundscape. But the dialogue is absurdly pompous — starchy mouthfuls uttered by people more glib with a visual vocabulary than with the written word. Through June 26 at the Rosslyn Spectrum. 703/824-8060. Reviewed by Jayne Blanchard.

• The Lion King — France-Merrick Performing Arts Center — ****. Director Julie Taymor’s brilliant stage adaptation of the Disney animated movie brings the entire African savannah to pulsing, heat-struck life through the use of African masks, headdresses, textiles and puppetry ranging from traditional marionettes and life-sized animal figures to bunraku and shadow puppet forms. The vibrantly beautiful musical is as visually and musically dazzling as it was when it premiered in 1997. Artistry, spectacle, a terrific score and a talented acting ensemble all combine to make it that rarest of beasts, a perfect musical. Through Sept. 4 at 12 N. Eutaw St., Baltimore. 410/547-7328. Reviewed by Jayne Blanchard.

• Medea — Washington Shakespeare Company — **. This strangely strained and uninvolving production of Euripides’ tale of how rage can overwhelm reason takes a calculated, psychological approach to the classic Greek tragedy of a wronged woman. Instead of passion we get pallid analysis. Set and lighting are striking, and the plainspoken, stark poetry of Alistair Elliot’s translation is a wonder. Yet without a strong Medea, the play flounders, and Delia Taylor’s schizo approach to the character — a keening mess one moment, a tough-minded harpy the next — suggests she is still searching for Medea’s motivations, and so the audience is cast adrift. The production ultimately does not provide gripping insights into the baser regions of human nature. Through July 3 at the Clark Street Playhouse. 703/418-4808. Reviewed by Jayne Blanchard.

• Once on This Island — Round House Theatre Bethesda — ***. This swirling, stirring production of the 1990 Lynn Ahrens-Stephen Flaherty musical, directed with spirit and a sense of spirituality by Scot Reese, is set on a French-Caribbean island — but it’s no mindless trip to the beach. Serious overtones of social prejudice, the caste system and color hierarchy cast fingery shadows across the sunny show, but never overwhelm the Caribbean rhythms of the music or the tingle of the central love story, that of a peasant girl who falls in love with a handsome member of the ruling class. If you’re longing for an island breeze, this is it. Through July 3. 240/644-1100. Reviewed by Jayne Blanchard.

• Pacific Overtures — Signature Theatre — **. This production’s hectic staging, under the direction of Eric Schaeffer, does little to make Stephen Sondheim’s 1976 musical about America’s encroachment into Japan in 1853 — a story of violent culture clash and a crumbling friendship between two men caught between tradition and modernization — more accessible or enjoyable. The cast and orchestra have been radically cut and the actors play multiple roles, hurrying on and off stage before you can get to know their characters. The musical sacrifices song for reams of dialogue and leaden aphoristic tales; you are absurdly relieved when a song comes along. And a smattering of solid production numbers isn’t enough to save it from sinking into a torpor of overthinking, overacting and a general lack of lightness. Through July 3. 800/955-5566. Reviewed by Jayne Blanchard.

• Take Me Out — Studio Theatre — ***1/2. Richard Greenberg’s heart-shaped tribute to the diamond follows the seismic 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 press that he is homosexual. The performances are excellent, but Rick Foucheux wins the MVP award for his exultant, endearing turn as a homosexual accountant and schlubby, Johnny-come-lately baseball fan, a portrayal so memorable it sticks in the mind even more than the full nudity of the locker-room scenes. Through June 26. 202/332-3300. Reviewed by Jayne Blanchard.MAXIMUM RATING: FOUR STARS

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