- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 27, 2006

NOW PLAYING

Alice in Underwear — Natural Theatricals — * The urge to dis a theater critic apparently is irresistible. Though local playwright Paula Alprin’s New York drama hack, Allison Alice (played by Miss Alprin), is meant to be a portrait etched in acid, instead it’s simply corrosive. There is nothing remotely likable or “love to hate” about this character — she’s a dragon lady without merit — and Miss Alprin’s overacting is aggressive and exaggerated. Like a thong, “Alice in Underwear” is brief and uncomfortable. Through Sunday at the George Washington Masonic National Memorial. 703/739-9338. Reviewed by Jayne Blanchard.

Assassins — Signature Theatre — *** Stephen Sondheim’s stirring, often forlornly funny musical look at nine infamous Americans who tried, successfully and unsuccessfully, to shoot presidents elevates a rogue’s gallery of nut cases — from John Wilkes Booth to Lee Harvey Oswald and John Hinckley — to the level of art. This brash, confrontational production blurs the lines between audience and actor, assassin and citizen. The result is almost uncomfortably intimate. Although Mr. Sondheim’s music is sublime, it is merciful that “Assassins” is presented in a little less than two hours without an intermission. A person can take just so much truth. Through Sunday. 703/820-9771. Reviewed by Jayne Blanchard.

The Complete History of America (Abridged) — The Reduced Shakespeare Company — *** If Ken Burns’ specials are not doing it for you anymore, the Reduced Shakespeare Company has the solution — 600 years of the past compressed comedically into less than two hours. Those not easily offended will find the RSC’s brand of anarchic humor and sight gags a splendid romp through historic milestones. Funny as the show is, the astonishing thing is that you actually might learn a thing or two about American history. Through tomorrow at the Kennedy Center Terrace Theater. 202/467-4600. Reviewed by Jayne Blanchard.

Dog Sees God: Confessions of a Teenage Blockhead — Studio Theatre Secondstage — ***1/2. Bert V. Royal’s sublimely rancid little comedy — an unauthorized parody of Charles Schulz’s long-running comic strip — owes more to “South Park” than to Mr. Schulz. Those not too proprietary over the beloved Peanuts characters — here a bunch of messed-up adolescents — should find plenty of caustic humor and inventiveness in this short work, directed with a talent for the snark by Keith Alan Baker but marred somewhat by a warm-and-fuzzy ending that’s out of place. Through Aug. 6. 202/332-3300. Reviewed by Jayne Blanchard.

Ellington: The Life and Music of the Duke — Metrostage — *** This evening of pop-jazz songs from the legendary Duke Ellington never sheds light on Mr. Ellington’s thoughts or personal compulsions, but anchored by a jazz quartet as tight and swinging as something out of Harlem in its heyday, it is a tuneful and elegant tribute to the jazz great. Through Aug. 6. 800/494-8497. Reviewed by Jayne Blanchard.

Jacques Brel Is Alive and Well and Living in Paris — Olney Theatre Center for the Arts — * The Gallic tang of the Belgian songwriter’s music and lyrics are tarted up like a Pigalle prostitute in this heavy-handed staging. Director Jim Petosa gives the Liberace treatment to this normally entertaining revue of Mr. Brel’s songbook, piling on the pointless production values and unintentionally hooty literal translations of the tunes until the whole show threatens to burst at the seams and drown the audience in “le schmaltz.” Jacques Brel may be alive and living in Paris, but this production makes you wish you were dead and buried in Pere Lachaise with Oscar Wilde and Jim Morrison. Through Sunday. 301/924-3400. Reviewed by Jayne Blanchard.

Love’s Labor’s Lost — The Shakespeare Theatre — *** Director Michael Kahn brings back the ‘60s in a trippy, fun-loving way, raiding the closets of the hippies, the mods and the rockers for a transcendental look back at the peace-and-love decade as he sets Shakespeare’s poetry-drunk romantic comedy at an ashram run by King Ferdinand of Navarre. Here three members of rock royalty retreat, vowing to give up women and their band Plexi Glass for three years in favor of more intellectual pursuits — until four sophisticated and witty Frenchwomen arrive. The play runs out of steam in the second half, but the psychedelic glow and helium high of the first half, along with deliciously shiny, happy tunes, sustain it. Through Sunday. 202/547-1122. Reviewed by Jayne Blanchard.

3 Mo’ Divas — Kreeger Theatre, Arena Stage — *** The time-crunched now have a musical to call their own, a tornadic sampler of musical genres and eras featuring a trio of female performers with powerhouse voices and outsize attitudes. Conceived by Marion J. Caffey, who also came up with the popular “3 Mo’ Tenors,” showcasing the male operatic range, “Divas” gives the soprano, contralto and other female voices their due. It’s affable entertainment that exudes sass and style — though at times the divas speed through the songs so fast you’re unsure if you just saw a musical revue or an infomercial. Through Aug. 13. 202/488-3300. Reviewed by Jayne Blanchard.

MAXIMUM RATING: FOUR STARS

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