- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 5, 2006

OPENING

• Bal Masque Theatre J—. Three couples are placed on an emotional fault line in the wee hours at Truman Capote’s Black and White Ball at the Plaza Hotel in 1966. Opens Sunday4/9the D.C. Jewish Community Center. 800/494-8497.

• Frozen — Studio Theatre Secondstage. Three people’s lives are connected by the disappearance of a 10-year-old girl. Opens Wednesday. 202/332-3300.

• The Game of Love and Chance — Folger Theatre. A betrothed couple, meeting for the first time, switch places with their servants in order to learn each other’s true character in Marivaux’s 18th-century comedy. Opens tomorrow. 202/554-7077.

NOW PLAYING

• Fat Pig — Studio Theatre — ****. Neil LaBute’s play confronts our attitudes toward weight and appearance with blistering honesty and wit. It’s almost unheard of for a big woman to be seen in a sexual context, but here, smart, appealing, plus-size Helen (Kate Debelack) gets the guy, a buff, successful executive named Tom (Tyler Pierce) — and gets steamy boudoir scenes as well. Mr. LaBute holds up the cliches “love is blind” and “looks aren’t everything” to almost unbearable scrutiny. Under the disgusted, ruthless gazes of Tom’s friends, this love doesn’t stand a chance. Through Sunday. 202/332-3300. Reviewed by Jayne Blanchard.

• Hamlet — Rep Stage — ***. Director Kasi Campbell has assembled a youth-driven “Hamlet” that looks and feels green and raw, and is plainly meant for the blogger set. It’s ablaze with fresh-faced actors who give the play a sense of immediacy and rash action, with a hotheaded, fixated, dervish-like turn by Karl Miller in the notoriously difficult title role. But there’s not much time for reflection or philosophy in this pared-down work that emphasizes brashness and urgency over introspection. Miss Campbell’s take on the play is all outer-directed, which gives the production surface energy that quickly dissipates into thin air. Through Sunday at Howard County Community College. 410/772-4900. Reviewed by Jayne Blanchard.

• Haroun and the Sea of Stories — Theater Alliance — **1/2. When a master storyteller in an Indian hamlet loses his gift, his daughter Haroun travels to the fabulous Sea of Stories to reconnect her father to the flow of imagination and words. This adaptation of Salman Rushdie’s 1990 novel — a giant allegory depicting his troubles and exile after Iran’s Ayatollah Khomeini condemned him to death for “blasphemous” writing — was written as a way to tell his young son of his troubles and also to depict the price we all pay for silencing a writer’s voice. The play is largely enchanting, but director and choreographer Kelly Parsley ladles on the fanciful touches until the audience is nearly drowning in a sea of decorative language, perfumed metaphors, and quirky movement. Through Sunday at the H Street Playhouse. 800/494-8497. Reviewed by Jayne Blanchard.

• Hip Hop Anansi — Imagination Stage — ***. Adapted by Elsa Davis from the story “Anansi and His Sons,” this hip-hop version features a trickster spider named Anansi (Fred Michael Beam), who wants to win the “golden fly pie” more than anything but must rely on the talents of his children to claim the prize. It’s a hip-hop show to which you’d feel comfortable taking the whole family. The b-boys and fly girls in this production are youthful and fresh-faced. No BET-style, hootchy-kootchy moves or even a wisp of gangsta violence. These are the mean streets of “Sesame Street.” Through April 13. 301/280-1660. Reviewed by Jayne Blanchard.

• Hot Feet — National Theatre — *1/2. This Broadway-bound Maurice Hines musical is an over-produced, over-miked $8 million production jammed with soul-jazz-African-funky rhythms by Maurice White (including some of his old Earth, Wind and Fire hits). With a plot derived from Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Red Shoes,” it’s a heartless tale that centers on an ill-fated ballerina (Vivian Nixon) who sells her soul for success and the chance to wear the symbol of the devil’s triumph — glittering red shoes. The youthful Miss Nixon is appealing, but her character is cruel and self-serving and her triumph in a vaguely pornographic number is tawdry. It’s hard to care about the fate of someone who claims to live only to dance but is willing to jettison everything else in that pursuit. Through Sunday. 800/447-7400. Reviewed by Jean Battey Lewis.

• The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie — Studio Theatre — **. Jay Presson Allen’s adaptation of the Muriel Spark novel, about a self-centered but charismatic Scottish boarding school teacher who tries to mold her students in her own image, needs an actress who is more a force of nature than an everyday human being. As Jean Brodie the cherished Sarah Marshall appears miscast, vacillating between eccentric largesse and a palpable feeling of discomfort, as if the character’s clothes don’t fit. With the central magnetism of the character gone, the play loses its focus and becomes a rather fragmented and slightly tawdry tale of an out-of-control teacher and her wayward pupils. Through April 16 at the Metheny Theatre. 202/332-3300. Reviewed by Jayne Blanchard.

• Radio Golf — CenterStage — ***1/2. This final installment in August Wilson’s 10-play cycle depicting black life in the 20th century, finished before his death from liver cancer last October, looks at a social class rarely seen in Mr. Wilson’s plays — wealthy, upper-class blacks in Pittsburgh trying to get richer. In this case a couple of entrepreneurs want to raze the old neighborhood so they can build an urban development project that means big profits for these social climbers, one of whom gives golf tips over the radio. Mr. Wilson is in fine form, wielding words with virtuoso agility. The pervasive themes of racism and oppression are still powerfully present, but couched in humor. The play is laugh-out-loud funny. Through April 30 at 700 N. Calvert St., Baltimore. 410/332-0033. Reviewed by Jayne Blanchard.

• The Rainmaker — Arena Stage, Fichandler Theater — ***. Set in the American West during the Great Depression, N. Richard Nash’s play, a staple of community theaters for years, has an aura of quiet desperation about it. Every character is parched in some way, hoping for a miracle big and small — none more so than a plain-Jane young woman near the end of her “marrying years,” who begins to appreciate herself only when she’s wooed by a seedy, charming confidence man who blows into town and promises he can make it rain. Director Lisa Peterson’s finely wrought production of the 50-year-old American classic emits a gentle, steady sense of hope, that even in our most despairing moments, relief and release are only a drop away. Through Sunday. 202/488-3300. Reviewed by Jayne Blanchard.

• Shenandoah — Ford’s Theatre — **1/2. This revival of the war-weary 1975 musical about the Civil War presents a pacifist stance within a patriotic, American context, and the question it asks — about the necessity for all that killing and dying — is as appropriate as ever. The play centers on Charlie Anderson (Scott Bakula), a Lincolnesque widower from Virginia who is adamant about keeping his sons out of the Civil War — something that by play’s end he cannot avoid. Director Jeff Calhoun’s production features striking staging and winning performances, especially by Mr. Bakula, who exhibits strong stage presence and an agreeable singing voice. At times the show feels flimsy and patched together, with interminable narrative passages and a windy first act. The music is catchy but unsubstantial. But it is stunningly relevant today to a battle-fatigued America. Through April 21. 202/397-SEAT. Reviewed by Jayne Blanchard.

MAXIMUM RATING: FOUR STARS

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