- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 2, 2005

OPENING

• As Bees in Honey Drown — Trumpet Vine Theatre Company. Alexa Vere De Vere approaches novelist Evan Wyler about writing the screenplay of her life story, then she disappears without a trace. Opens Tuesday at Theater on the Run. 703/912-1649.

• Cuttin’ Up — Arena Stage, Kreeger Theater. The story of a barbershop and its patrons — the storytellers of their time, sharing the joys and troubles life hands them. Opens tomorrow. 202/488-3300.

• Yemaya’s Belly — Signature Theatre. A coming-of-age tale set in the Caribbean. Opens Tuesday. 703/218-6500.

NOW PLAYING

• Aida — Toby’s Dinner Theatre — ***. The Elton John-Tim Rice version of Giuseppe Verdi’s opera is a pastiche of Broadway belters, easy-listening rock ‘n’ roll and pop balladry. Yet the story of a princess caught between trying to save her people and her love for a conflicted Egyptian soldier packs an emotional wallop. Through Nov. 20. 301/596-6161. Reviewed by Jayne Blanchard.

• The Body Project — Horizons Theatre — ***. Inspired by Joan Jacobs Brumberg’s nonfiction work, this stage version is a series of loosely connected vignettes that delve into the body issues of seven disparate women. It is potent food for thought about American women’s obsessions with weight and flawless looks. At 2 hours, it feels too long. Some of the vignettes are more tightly written than others. The acting ranges from stunning to barely competent and the production values are often distractingly low-tech. Even so, this is an important piece that points up just how far we’ve gone in judging worth solely by looks and sex appeal. Through Nov. 13 at the Warehouse Next Door. 703/578-1100. Reviewed by Jayne Blanchard.

• Born Yesterday — Fichandler Theater, Arena Stage — ***. Arena’s flamboyant, fun production of Garson Kanin’s 1946 comedy evokes postwar America as a “can-do” country. It makes you believe that a junkyard baron who comes to Washington to buy a couple of senators who can help him gain global scrap metal domination can be bested by unlikely forces for good — namely, his ditzy blonde mistress and a good-guy reporter. Suli Holum gives a scene-stealing portrayal of dumb-blonde Billie and Jonathan Fried scarily captures the bullying menace of his junkyard scoundrel. The beguiling show makes you long for a time when good people triumphed over the craven and uncouth. Through Sunday. 202/488-3300. Reviewed by Jayne Blanchard.

• The Chairs — Round House Theatre Silver Spring — **1/2. Eugene Ionesco’s absurdist old saw from 1952 has been reinvigorated in this high-energy production. French director and set designer Alain Timar casts two young actors as Man and Woman — and these goof their way into performing “The Chairs.” So what you see is a play about a production of “The Chairs.” Marcus Kyd and Jessica Browne-White rail against nothingness with aggressive motion and the perpetual arranging and rearranging of chairs; it’s what keeps them alive. The production is visually provoking, but there is nothing to engage us beyond the iconic images. Through Sunday. 240/644-1100. Reviewed by Jayne Blanchard.

• Cinderella — Imagination Stage — ***. British playwright Charles Way’s take on this classic is set in 18th-century Germany yet has a modern sensibility. Cinderella, mourning her mother’s loss and forced to wait on her father’s new wife and her shrieking new stepsisters, so wallows in grief she closes her eyes to all the opportunities in front of her — including Prince Sebastian. The production is shot through with humor, with some blatantly comic moments. Even with realistic characters, it remains the classic tale of put-upon servant transformed into poised, empathetic princess. Through Sunday. 301/280-1660. Reviewed by Jayne Blanchard.

• For the Pleasure of Seeing Her Again — Metro Stage — ***. Canadian playwright Michel Tremblay’s autobiographical work is an unabashedly loving tribute to his late mother, to whom he credits his thirst for the dramatic. The Narrator (Bruce M. Holmes) tells the story of life with the earthy and effervescent Nana (Catherine Flye), from the time he was 10 to Nana’s later years. Nana was a skilled storyteller who could make a trip to the grocery store seem like a five-act Greek tragedy, and Miss Flye is an ideal fit. With her loopy, expressive body language and hectic delivery, she can sell a story like nobody’s business. The play is about how imagination conjures worlds far beyond experience. Through Nov. 27. 703/548-9044. Reviewed by Jayne Blanchard.

• Much Ado About Nothing — Folger Theatre — ***. Director Nick Hutchinson has moved the setting of Shakespeare’s play from Italy to an English manor house immediately following World War II. He also takes a more unorthodox approach to the warring couple Beatrice and Benedict, discarding the cliche that they have always had a crush on each other. Here, theirs is a darker journey, from heartbreak and stubborn defensiveness to the discovery that perhaps they are not as brittle as they imagined. This is one of Shakespeare’s most effortlessly witty plays, and this handsome and affecting new production makes the most of the humor. Through Nov. 27. 202/554-7077. Reviewed by Jayne Blanchard.

• You Are Here — Theater Alliance — **1/2. Jennifer Mendenhall can play anything, and in Canadian playwright Daniel MacIvor’s drama she gives a piercing portrayal of Alison, a feckless woman looking back and realizing how little control she had in shaping her life. The play is structured like a rewinding movie, and Alison, ostensibly an intelligent writer and filmmaker, expands as the play progresses and people from her past pop up. The cast is superb, but the characters are vapid — and Alison is so obstinately passive we have no reason to care about her. This may be a skewering of the movie industry’s vacuous temptations, but it leads us nowhere. Through Nov. 13 at the H Street Playhouse. 800/494-8497. Reviewed by Jayne Blanchard.MAXIMUM RATING: FOUR STARS

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