- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 15, 2005

OPENING

• Big River: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn Deaf West Theatre— A musical rendition of “Huckleberry Finn” starring deaf and hearing actors who tell their story using American Sign Language, dance and song. Opens tomorrow at Ford’s Theatre. 202/347-4833.

• Nine Landless Theatre Company The story of a film director’s search for truth, art and his soul. Opens tonight at the Tivoli Theater. 301/515-4494.

• Rent Warner Theatre—. Jonathan Larson’s Tony Award-winning musical about a group of artists in New York City. Opens tomorrow.3/18783-4000.

• The Tempest — The Shakespeare Theatre. Shakespeare’s play about a world of illusions and magic, where the angry sorcerer Prospero manipulates spirits and humans alike in his search for revenge. Opens Tuesday. 202/547-1122.

NOW PLAYING

• The All Night Strut! — Metro Stage — Conceived by Fran Charnas more than two decades ago, this music-and-dance revue is more of a wobble, a lackluster spin through popular songs of the 1920s through the 1950s. It never quite takes off despite the energetic efforts of the four-member cast and director Thomas W. Jones II. There’s much to like, but the songs are overproduced to hammy excess and the set seems low-budget. It’s a viewing experience that often feels as if it takes all night. Through March 27. 800/494-8497. Reviewed by Jayne Blanchard.

• Columbinus — U.S. Theatre— The shootings at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo., took place nearly six years ago but remain a painful memory. This unpitying and heartfelt work by the U.S. Theatre Project, conceived and directed by PJ Paparelli, probes what pushed two boys to unleash their version of Judgment Day on their peers and teachers. The production is a tangled and often overwrought affair that suffers from structural problems and an overall lack of focus. Only in its second half does it escape cliche, as the action shifts, with shocking immediacy and tautness, to the real-life Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, taking much of the narrative and dialogue from interviews, videotapes and transcripts. If only the rest of the production could be this direct and straightforward. Through April 1 at the Round House Theatre Silver Spring. 240/644-1100. Reviewed by Jayne Blanchard.—

• The Goat, or Who Is Sylvia? Arena Stage, Fichandler Theater — **** When a renowned architect falls in love with a goat named Sylvia, his wife and her homosexual teenage son react volcanically. That’s the plot, but Edward Albee’s latest play, a shocking comedy about the unreasonable nature of love, is treated with bristling intelligence by director Wendy C. Goldberg and a simpatico quartet of actors. It’s pointedly, mercilessly funny, with writing of a cutthroat delicacy, a sophisticated veneer that belies the play’s base subject matter. Mr. Albee does not go for the easy answers. His play is more nuanced and dangerous, asking us to consider whether love is indeed boundless, and how willing society is to tolerate those who love in the shadows. Through April 17. 202/488-3300. Reviewed by Jayne Blanchard.

• Petite Rouge: A Cajun Red Riding Hood ***1/2 Washingtonian Joan Cushing wrote the book, music and lyrics for this Tabasco-spiked musical adaptation of Mike Artell’s storybook “Petit Rouge,” and this latest work finds her spirits high and her talent for infectious rhymes as sharp as ever. The production, which transforms the dark forest into a swamp on the bayou, is as snappy as a string of cayenne peppers. The vibrant score, a mix of Cajun, zydeco, Dixieland, gospel, jazz and blues, is infused with sounds from the fiddle, accordion, washboard and harmonica, and the choreography features high-kicking routines. It’s a feast for the senses. Through April 3. —301/280-1660. Reviewed by Jayne Blanchard.

• Saint Joan for the Arts — **-1/2 Director Christopher Hayes’ streamlined new production of George Bernard Shaw’s ponderous 1923 play about the martyred savior of 15th-century France pares down its verbiage and marches swiftly toward Joan’s fate. Then it bogs down in the last act. There’s plenty to savor: The set and atmospheric lighting convey the dank of the era with marvelous economy; the costumes delineate the majestic attire of rulers, judges and pampered priests; and Jennie Eisenhower deftly portrays Joan’s galloping enthusiasm. But Mr. Hayes winds up with Shaw’s pedantic coda and ends with a slide show, trivializing the play and the saint. Through Sunday, March 20— Arena Stage, 301/924-3400. Reviewed by Jayne Blanchard.

• Two Gentleman of Verona ***-1/2 Break out the love beads and flash the peace sign at your neighbor. The Age of Aquarius returns in all its hippie-dippy finery in director Irene Lewis’ staging of “Two Gentlemen of Verona.” This Tony-winning musical adaptation of Shakespeare’s play features music by “Hair” composer Galt MacDermot and trippy, witty lyrics by playwright John Guare. “Two Gentlemen” boasts a mostly mellow rock score, heavy on harmonies that put you in mind of the Mamas and the Papas and the Beach Boys. Miss Lewis and an engaging, enormously talented cast strive to strike an innocent mood indicative of a time before irony and cynicism became the zeitgeist. Through March 27 at 700 N. Calvert St., Baltimore. 410/332-0033. Reviewed by Jayne Blanchard.

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