- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 8, 2005

OPENING

• Mister Roberts Kennedy Center Eisenhower Theater—. Aboard a cargo vessel anchored in the South Pacific, young Lieutenant Douglas Roberts hungers to trade in his daily war of wills with the ship’s captain for action and glory on the front lines. Opens Saturday.3/12467-4600.

• Moscow: A New Musical — Actors’ Theatre of Washington. Three actors are trapped in a theater with nothing to do except rehearse Anton Chekhov’s play “The Three Sisters.” Opens Sunday at the Clark Street Playhouse. 800/494-8497.

• Regina — Kennedy Center Eisenhower Theater. Patti LuPone stars in this adaptation of Lillian Hellman’s play “The Little Foxes.” Opens tonight. 202/467-4600.

• The Spitfire Grill — Theater Alliance. Percy Talbot comes to Gilead, Wis., a town with no future, and through her job at the Spitfire Grill begins to motivate it. Opens tonight at the H Street Playhouse. 800/494-8497.

• Ten Unknowns — Signature Theatre. When a New York art dealer convinces an aging, alcoholic artist to make his comeback with a solo exhibition, the artist’s spirit is reborn. Opens Tuesday. 703/218-6500.

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 ‘50s. 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.

• Betty Rules — Theater J — ***1/2. This grrl-powered tribute to 20 years of harmony, discord, and uncategorizable independent music will re-energize Washingtonians who remember the lively punk/new wave musical scene of the ‘80s. It also stands on its own as an evening of funny, pun-filled songs and frank insights into what it’s like to be a girl band on the road. Through April 3 at Washington DC Jewish Community Center. 800/494-8497. Reviewed by Jayne Blanchard.

• The Children’s Hour — Rep Stage — ***. Lillian Hellman’s 1934 play was banned in Boston, Chicago and London in the 1930s for its veiled references to homosexuality. But the drama that grows from the viciousness of nasty, gossipy students at a girls’ prep school who spread a false rumor that their two headmistresses are lesbians remains riveting. Miss Hellman’s intent was not taboo thrills but to illuminate how social injustice, intolerance and falsehoods destroy the lives of good people. This taut and involving production emphasizes just how injurious a single lie can be. Through Sunday at 10910 Little Patuxent Parkway, Columbia. 410/772-4900. 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, a mix of Cajun, zydeco, Dixieland, gospel, jazz and the 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 — Olney Theatre Center 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. 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 March 20. 301/924-3400. Reviewed by Jayne Blanchard.

• Two Gentlemen of Verona — Centerstage — ***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.MAXIMUM RATING: FOUR STARS

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