- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 8, 2005


• All My Sons Quotidian Theatre —Company. Arthur Miller’s first Broadway play focuses on the reality of the American dream and the cost of war. Opens tomorrow6/10he Writer’s Center. 301/916-1023.

• Gilligan’s Island, the Musical — Landless Theatre Company. The classic television series brought to the stage with a new plot and musical score. Opens tomorrow at the DC Arts Center. 301/515-4494.

• Lady Windermere’s Fan — The Shakespeare Theatre. One of Oscar Wilde’s first social comedies — a shrewd satire of Victorian high society. Opens Monday. 202/547-1122.

• The Last Five Years — Metro Stage. A bittersweet love story about a successful novelist and a struggling actress and their unraveling marriage. Opens Wednesday. 800/494-8497.


• 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 June 19. 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.

• Big Death & Little Death — Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company — **1/2. Mickey Birnbaum’s comically morbid play, set in the early ‘90s, gives us a dank world where two teenage siblings are into death metal music, futility, drugs and suburban angst. No one seems sane here; the adult authority figures are either trolling for sex, like mom before she died, or messing with your head, like dad, a Gulf war veteran gone bonkers. Director Howard Shalwitz tries valiantly to overcome the pitfalls in the script with a slew of theatrical whiz-bangs that depict the end of the universe, and more successfully with outstanding performances. Fortunately, Mr. Birnbaum has a way with gallows humor, so you often find yourself shocked into laughter. But there’s no way to cozy up to this. Through Sunday. 202/393-3939. 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.

• Hecuba — Royal Shakespeare Company — **1/2. Euripides’ tragedy, written around 424 B.C., vividly charts the eternal effects of war, how no one is spared the atrocities of the battlefield. This stark production relies on a new, lean-and-mean translation by British poet Tony Harrison. With the Greeks the victors in the Trojan War, Troy is in ruins, its men slaughtered and its women, the Chorus, about to be taken to Greece. Hecuba, the former queen of Troy (Vanessa Redgrave in disheveled hair and sooty gown), can alone give action to their pain and avenge the death of her son and the sacrifice of her daughter. The Chorus, excellent throughout, lift their voices in scenes of astonishing beauty amid cruelties that are almost sadistic. But the acting, though solid, is not inspiring — and though Miss Redgrave’s Hecuba is impressive in diction and bearing, there is an icy, cold core that the audience is not welcome to penetrate. Through Sunday at the Kennedy Center’s Eisenhower Theater. 202/467-4600. 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.

• Lend Me a Tenor — Olney Theater —***1/2. It’s 1934 and the Cleveland Grand Opera Company has managed to persuade world-renowned tenor Tito Merelli (Paul Jackel) to star in its production of “Otello” and the company can’t let anything get in the way of its success — even when the superstar can’t perform. That’s when Max (John Scherer), the opera company’s lily-livered assistant, steps into his tights and the footlights, and in the process realizes his inner matinee idol. The result is dizzy, dizzy fun and director John Going and the cast never let the pace lag or opportunities for shameless mugging go by in this production of Ken Ludwig’s Tony-winning play. Through Sunday at Olney Theater. 301/924-3400 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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