- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 8, 2006


• Death and the King’s Horseman — Washington Shakespeare Company. Wole Soyinka’s play, based on a true story, explores what happens when a colonial administrator interferes with a Yoruba rite — the suicide of a horseman who is bound to follow his dead king to heaven. Opens Tuesday at Clark Street Playhouse. 800/494-8497.

• The Dybbuk — Theatre J and Synetic Theater. A cornerstone of the Yiddish theatrical repertoire involves ill-fated lovers, a transmigration of souls, exorcism and cruel class snobbery. Opens Saturday at the D.C. Jewish Community Center. 800/494-8497.

• The Heiress — Olney Theatre Center for the Arts. A young woman’s heart is caught between a fortune hunter and her protective, penny-wise father in 1850s New York. Opens Wednesday. 301/924-3400.

• This Lime Tree Bower — Scena Theatre. The Washington premiere of Conor McPherson’s play about a robbery in a chip shop in South Dublin, as related by three participants. Opens Saturday at the Warehouse Theater. 703/684-7990.

• Savage in Limbo — Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company and the University of Maryland Department of Theatre. A comedy of love and loathing — five “thirty-somethings” bring their outsized personalities and thwarted desires to a hole-in-the-wall bar in the Bronx. Opens tonight at the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center’s Kogod Theatre. 301/405-ARTS.


• Awake and Sing! — Arena Stage, Kreeger Theater — **. Zelda Fichandler, founding artistic director at Arena Stage, has returned to the District to direct this Clifford Odets classic of a first-generation Jewish-American family in the Bronx as it struggles through the Depression. Miss Fichandler has assembled a superior cast headed by Robert Prosky as the family’s waning patriarch. But the Odets message is that capitalism is dead and that we must look to Russia and other “progressive” countries for inspiration, a device that lends a rather quaint Bolshevik air to the play and results in a lot of windy, stagy speechifying. Take away the left-wing proselytizing and what’s left is a drearily commonplace ethnic family drama. Through March 5. 202/488-3300. Reviewed by Jayne Blanchard.

• Don Juan — The Shakespeare Theatre — ***. Director Stephen Wadsworth, using his own new, brashly conversational adaptation/translation of Moliere’s comedy, floridly attempts to recapture the anxious bluster of that opening night in Paris on Feb. 15, 1665, when Moliere’s company performed it before King Louis XIV. Scandal and suppression followed, but not because of the sex. It was Don Juan’s libertine mind that flipped everyone’s periwigs. The staging is beautiful, the costumes and lighting opulent, the performances devilishly good. But Mr. Wadsworth’s histrionic production emphasizes extremes and ends up compromising the subtlety and charm of Moliere’s play. Through March 19. 202/547-1122. Reviewed by Jayne Blanchard.

• 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. And under the disgusted, ruthless gazes of Tom’s friends, this love doesn’t stand a chance. The tragedy here is that Tom is simply not “big” enough for Helen, in every sense of the word. Through March 12. 202/332-3300. Reviewed by Jayne Blanchard.

• Mame — Toby’s Dinner Theatre — ***. Has your tinsel lost its twinkle? Free-spirited auntie Mame (Cathy Mundy) and her cohorts in the whoopee-driven life will put you in the proper mood with this spry production of Jerry Herman’s musical about the jazz baby from the Roaring 20s who is determined to live each moment to the fullest. Mr. Herman’s music and lyrics shine with a sis-boom-bah brand of optimism that wins you over with their unremitting good cheer. The show is old-fashioned in structure, melody and its drive to deliver a feel-good musical. No sense resisting — old-timey can be timeless. Through Feb. 19. 800/88TOBYS. Reviewed by Jayne Blanchard.

• Measure for Measure — Folger Theatre — ***. Shakespeare’s labyrinthine plot revolves around the contradictions arising when those who legislate morality for others arrogantly deny their own moral failings. The production itself is a discordant amalgam of art deco backdrops, bizarre, allusively symbolic costuming and occasionally ineffective musical interludes. Happily, it usually works. And the acting is first-rate, abetted by an inspired decision to cast minor characters and disguised principals as nearly life-sized commedia dell’arte-style puppets. Dramatically, this is not Shakespeare’s most gripping play. But the production does challenge the audience to debate its own certainties. Through Feb. 26. 202/554-7077. Reviewed by T.L. Ponick.

• Nevermore — Signature Theatre — ***. The personal and literary excesses of the tormented Edgar Allan Poe — his drinking, gambling, philandering and drug-taking, his marriage to his 13-year-old first cousin and his mysterious death after being found semiconscious in a Baltimore gutter — are the inspiration for a new work by Matt Conner that uses Poe’s poetry as the lyrics for a nonlinear song-cycle. Directed by Eric Schaeffer, it’s over the top in an Anne Rice-Vampire Lestat way, laying on the emotion and passion with a velvet-cloaked dagger. It could use some work and more variation in the music, but those who are not afraid of heightened states and otherworldly dimensions will find it frighteningly effective. Through March 5. 703/218-6500. Reviewed by Jayne Blanchard.

• Trying — Ford’s Theatre — **. Judge Francis Biddle of the Main Line Philadelphia family was a law secretary for Oliver Wendell Holmes, served as attorney general under Franklin D. Roosevelt and was a Truman-appointed chief U.S. judge at the Nuremberg Trials. He was a brilliant, irascible witness to world history. Yet playwright Joanna McClelland Glass, his secretary during 1967-1968, the last year of his life, focuses only on the elderly and severely ill Biddle as he struggles to put his memoirs and other papers in order. He becomes a pussycat grandpa in a cardigan sweater, and despite a commanding performance by the octogenarian James Whitmore, the play remains repetitive and the pace glacial. Through Feb. 19. 202/347-4833. Reviewed by Jayne Blanchard.

• Two Queens, One Castle — MetroStage — ***. This deeply affecting musical parable about trust within a marriage tells the autobiographical story of the celebrated entertainer Jevetta Steele, of the gospel singing family The Steeles, who discovered that her husband and the father of her two sons was a closet homosexual and HIV-positive. Fluidly staged by Thomas W. Jones II, with a tuneful mix of funk, blues, jazz, R&B, and gospel provided by William Hubbard and J.C. Steele (Miss Steele’s brother), this story of the Wife (Felicia Curry), the Husband (TC Carson), and the Lover (Gary E. Vincent) makes of Miss Steele’s private anguish a blazing public confession. Her lyrics often crackle with an anger that cannot be vanquished either by faith or years of therapy. It’s a testament that with strong faith and a community of formidable women, you can deal with any outrageousness that comes your way. Through March 5. 800/494-8497. Reviewed by Jayne Blanchard.MAXIMUM RATING: FOUR STARS

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