- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 20, 2006

OPENING

• Roald Dahl’s Willy Wonka — Kennedy Center Terrace Theater. The musical based on Mr. Dahl’s fantastical novel about a young boy and his journey into the candymaker’s factory. Opens Saturday. 202/467-4600.

NOW PLAYING

• The Boys From Syracuse — Centerstage — ***1/2. Baltimore’s Centerstage brings out your inner vaudevillian with a pun-intended, bawdy and completely nutty production of the 1938 Rodgers and Hart musical adaptation of Shakespeare’s “Comedy of Errors” featuring unapologetic burlesque by George Abbott. The musical is warm, hearty and a little bit naughty — while leaving some things to the imagination. Don’t overthink it. Just put on your pasties and go. Through Jan. 14 at 700 N. Calvert St., Baltimore. 410/332-0033.

• Cinderella — Olney Theatre Center — ***. Sparkly accessories and sparkling performances rule the night in writer-director Mark Waldrop’s version of the Rodgers and Hammerstein classic. This smartened-up, modern take contains the cherished fairytale elements of the Disney movie and the television versions, but also keeps in mind that times and attitudes have changed. And it moves like an intricately designed children’s toy, bright and ingenious. Plus, Cinderella and the prince sign autographs after every show, enchanting every little girl. Through Dec. 31. 301/924-3400.

• The Long Christmas Ride Home — Studio Theatre — *. Too much ho, ho, ho? Dim that seasonal delight by seeing Paula Vogel’s interminable wretchedness-fest, a depressing one-act holiday memory piece that looks back on a dysfunctional family’s Christmas visit to grandma’s. With elements of Noh theater, Bunraku puppetry and Japanese woodblock art, the production looks beautiful and the acting is solid. But this is not really a play; it’s just reworked snippets from older works, random thoughts and a sampling of the playwright’s interests — a bizarre and dreary My Space page. Through Dec. 31. 202/332-3300.

• She Loves Me — Arena Stage, Fichandler Theater — ***. Arena’s production of the old-fashioned, melodic 1963 musical — a tale of two employees of a Budapest perfume shop in the 1930s who clash at work but fall in love through pseudonymous letters — is flowery and romantic. Rather than fiddle with it, director Kyle Donnelly taps into its enduring vitality with young, new talent and a smattering of old pros. It’s old school in the best sense, in which songs convey character and lightly push the plot to a satisfying ending that takes place on that giddiest of days, Christmas Eve. Who could ask for a better wrapped package? Through Dec. 31. 202/488-3300.

• The Skriker — Forum Theatre and Dance — ***. A visually stunning production of English playwright Caryl Churchill’s 1994 cautionary fable, which combines gremlin-like fairies that prey on humans in modern London with a stern social message about the stewardship of the Earth. The shape-shifting Skriker spirits two young women off to the underworld, keeping them until the fairies rule the Earth again and try to salvage it. The arcane subject matter and the surreal, dense dialogue make the play hard to understand without preparation, and the imaginatively staged production relies too much on striking images and hypnotic movement. But the premise and presentation are intriguing. Through Saturday at the Warehouse Theater. 202/489-1701.

• Son of a Bush — Gross National Product —**. Gross National Product’s new political comedy show is a sometimes endearingly low-tech deflation of inside-the-Beltway maneuvers, election-year posturing and the Bush administration. GNP does not bring anything new to the table, instead resorting to Dick Cheney’s gun mishaps and Bushisms we have seen parodied a million times before. Extended indefinitely on Saturdays at the Warehouse Theater. 202/783-7212.

• TempOdyssey — Studio Theatre Secondstage — ***. If playwright Dan Dietz’s hilarious, disquieting comedy is any indication, he must have put in more than his share of time in the bizarro world of the office temp, a queasy alternate universe where temps are invisible, yet blamed for every mistake. Directed with acerbic zest by Christopher Gallu, this is a deluxe revenge fantasy, fiendish and subversive, and is particularly savory for anyone who has been a temporary employee. Yet the play’s lack of meaning or substance keeps it on the level of parody and merely presents a procession of amusing workplace psychos. Through Dec. 31. 202/332-3300. MAXIMUM RATING: FOUR STARS

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