- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 26, 2005

OPENING

• Hapgood — Washington Shakespeare Company. Tom Stoppard’s end-of-the-Cold War farce involves espionage and the law of physics. Opens tonight at the Clark Street Playhouse. 703/418-4808.

• If We Are Women — The Washington Stage Guild. Four very different women who happen to be what remains of one family gather to help each other move from the past into the future. Opens tonight. 240/582-0050.

• A Streetcar Named Desire — The Keegan Theatre. Tennessee Williams’ 1948 Pulitzer-winning drama about a Southern belle driven to madness by her brother-in-law. Opens tonight at the Church Street Theater. 703/527-6000.

• Teahouse — Kennedy Center Eisenhower Theater. Set in Beijing, the play chronicles the 50-year rise and decline of the teahouse during three crucial periods in modern Chinese history. Tonight through Saturday. 202/467-4600.

• The Violet Hour — Rep Stage. It’s the dawn of the Jazz Age, and a fledgling publisher must decide which book will be his first financial gamble. Opens tomorrow at Howard County Community College. 410/772-4900.

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.

• 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 Nov. 6. 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 re-arranging 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 Nov. 6. 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 Nov. 6. 301/280-1660. Reviewed by Jayne Blanchard.

• Dracula — Synetic Theater — ****. This fever-dream vision of the Dracula legend delivers — and then some — in an erotic and highly charged production directed by Paata Tsikurishvili, with sensuous choreography by Irina Tsikurishvili. This is a perfect project for Synetic, bringing together the intrinsic theatricality of the vampire myth with the troupe’s original blend of movement, dance, spoken word, music and dazzling visuals. It’s a sexy and epic look at the undead. You’ll start wishing they sold garlic necklaces at the concession stand. Through Sunday at the Rosslyn Spectrum. 202/462-5364. 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 conjure worlds far beyond experience. Through Nov. 27. 703/548-9044. Reviewed by Jayne Blanchard.

• Morning’s At Seven — Olney Theatre Center for the Arts — ***. Paul Osborn’s gentle back-porch comedy gives us four quirky sisters who live within shouting distance of each other in a demure Midwestern town in the late 1920s. The action is anything but snoozy: When a stranger arrives in their midst, long-kept resentments and secrets bubble to the surface. The play makes you nostalgic for big Sunday suppers and close-knit families, yet the play’s overarching feeling is that of tender solitude, with the characters alone in their grief, their insecurities and their secrets. The ensemble cast works beautifully and the production is enchantingly staged by director John Going. Through Sunday. 301/924-3400. Reviewed by Jayne Blanchard.

• Othello — The Shakespeare Theatre — ***. In this emotionally charged new production, expertly directed by Michael Kahn, stars Avery Brooks and Patrick Page break new ground with their unconventional interpretations. Mr. Brooks’ brave portrayal of Othello is deep and comprehensive, adding sophistication and touching vulnerability to a seemingly two-dimensional character. Mr. Page as Iago conjures forth the icy instincts of a true psychopath, a loveless, guiltless individual caring little for the death and mayhem left in his wake. The ensemble cast adds notable heft. The result is a superb opening act for the company’s 2005-2006 season. Through Sunday. 202/547-1122. Reviewed by T.L. Ponick.

• 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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