- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 23, 2005

OPENING

• I Am My Own Wife National Theatre—. Doug Wright’s play about the life of Charlotte von Mahlsdorf, a German transvestite caught up in the great European dramas of the 20th century. Opens Tuesday.3/29447-7400.

• Life x 3 — Round House Theatre Bethesda. Two high-maintenance couples have three different takes on a dinner party gone hilariously awry. Opens Wednesday. 240/644-1100.

• The Magical Balloon, The Music Box, and The Misadventures of Dr. Frank-n-Flubber — Classika Theatre. Three productions run in repertory, each employing mime, dance, and physical humor to tell enchanting stories about magicians, crazed scientists, and cowboys. Open Saturday. 703/824-0660.

• Omnium Gatherum — Olney Theatre Center for the Arts. Join an unusual dinner party as a peculiar group of friends gathers to enjoy conversation spiced with wit about Manhattanites and their response to September 11. Opens Wednesday. 301/924-3400.

• Terrorism — Studio Theatre. In a terrorized Russian town, old ladies plot murder and bomb scares plague the airport. Opens Wednesday. 202/332-3300.

• d There Are No Strangers — Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company and Theatre J. When a young woman is targeted in a seemingly random act of violence, she is plagued by two questions: Why was she chosen as a victim? And why was she chosen to survive? Opens Saturday at the D.C. Jewish Community Center. 800/494-8497.

NOW PLAYING

• Afterplay — Studio Theatre — ***. Brian Friel’s slight but winsome work explores what would happen if two characters from Chekhov were to meet in a Moscow cafe in 1921 — 20 years after the end of the action in Chekhov’s plays — and swap life stories. But there is no place for Sonya, the constant niece from “Uncle Vanya,” and Andrey, the put-upon brother from “Three Sisters,” in post-revolutionary Russia, no grand estates, summer houses or devoted servants. So a filigreed sadness hangs over this work of sorrow and ruin, giving it a decorous poignancy. But the conversation that flows between the two characters is as melodic as a duet between violin and balalaika. Through April 17. 202/332-3300. Reviewed by Jayne Blanchard.

• 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. Through Sunday. 800/494-8497. 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 that even the most beastly and odd among us can find love and acceptance. Through July 3. 301/596-6161. Reviewed by Jayne Blanchard.

• Columbinus — U.S. Theatre Project — **. 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 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. 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. Through April 17. 202/488-3300. Reviewed by Jayne Blanchard.

• Petite Rouge: A Cajun Red Riding Hood — Imagination Stage — ***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 is a mix of Cajun, zydeco, Dixieland, gospel, jazz and blues, and the choreography features high-kicking routines. It’s a feast for the senses. Through April 3. 301/280-1660. Reviewed by Jayne Blanchard.

• Two Gentlemen of Verona — Centerstage — ***-1/2. The Age of Aquarius returns in all its hippie-dippy finery in director Irene Lewis’ staging. This Tony-winning musical adaptation of Shakespeare’s play features music by “Hair” composer Galt MacDermot and trippy, witty lyrics by playwright John Guare.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 Sunday at 700 N. Calvert St., Baltimore. 410/332-0033. Reviewed by Jayne Blanchard.MAXIMUM RATING: FOUR STARS

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