- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 17, 2006


• The David Dance — Trumpet Vine Theatre Company. David, a homosexual radio talk show host, goes head to head on the air with a born-again talk show host. Opens tonight at Theatre on the Run. 703/912-1649.

• The Elephant Man — Olney Theatre Center for the Arts. John Merrick was taken away from society because of his physical deformity, until he became a mover in London’s high society. Opens Wednesday. 301/924-3400.

• Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune — Quotidian Theatre Company. Terrence McNally’s comedic look into the start of an unlikely relationship between a waitress and a short-order cook. Opens tomorrow at The Writer’s Center, Bethesda. 301/816-1023.

• The Monument — Theater Alliance. A young soldier is about to be executed for war crimes until a mysterious woman steps in to save him — but only if he will obey her for the rest of his life. Opens tomorrow at the H Street Playhouse. 202/396-0050.


• Bal Masque — Theatre J — ***1/2. Playwright Richard Greenberg’s intriguing and stylish chamber play catches three Manhattan couples as they return from “the party of the century,” Truman Capote’s 1966 Black and White Ball at the Plaza Hotel. The ball symbolized the breaking down of social mores during the ‘60s, and Mr. Greenberg explores the cultural shift in this world premiere. The actors are superb and superbly matched, and John Vreeke’s direction is impeccable. “Bal Masque” is an aria for the ears and the intellect. Through Sunday at the D.C. Jewish Community Center. 800/494-8497. Reviewed by Jayne Blanchard.

• Becoming George — Metro Stage — **. As conceived by Patti McKenny and Doug Frew, this new musical is not about 19th-century French author George Sand’s artistically and socially revolutionizing work. Instead it dwells on her sunset years, when she is a reflective duffer ruminating on past loves and the artistic development of the young Sarah Bernhardt. Evidently George Sand’s life wasn’t interesting enough. It’s largely brushed aside in favor of a touchy-feely, “free to be you and me” message about becoming your own woman. Kat’ Taylor is a wise and intelligently benevolent presence as George Sand, but Megan Midkiff as La Bernhardt lacks dramatic heft and comes across as a ninny. Some of the music is catchy and tuneful, and the lyrics contain moments of style and wit. As a whole the musical is merely a sketch that shows tiny glints of promise. Through May 28. 703/548-9044. Reviewed by Jayne Blanchard.

• Faust — Synetic Theater — ***. Adaptor Nathan Weinberger and director Paata Tsikurishvili update Goethe’s moralistic 1775 play to a darkly lush Goth fantasy where the devil’s minions engage in carnal frolics that resemble something out of a Maxim magazine spread. The uninhibited, punked out booty-call production features a supple, youthful cast with runway-worthy physiques and an often goofy, mock-horror-flick take on the Faust legend. Choreographer Irina Tsikurishvili’s dance sequences sometimes recall a frenzied, airborne version of the Kama Sutra. And Dan Istrate as Mephistopheles gives us a devil who is impishly funny, craven and completely irresistible. Never has vice looked so alluring — and aerobic. Through Sunday at the Rosslyn Spectrum. 703/824-8060. Reviewed by Jayne Blanchard.

• Frozen — Studio Theatre Secondstage — ****. Sterling performances, an absorbing and emotionally complex play by British playwright Bryony Lavery, and impeccable direction by David Muse. Who could ask for anything more? This is the kind of small, intense, actor-driven show for which Studio Theatre is known. The play charts the interwoven lives of three psychologically paralyzed characters: a convicted child murderer, an American researcher who believes that serial killers are ill and not evil, and the mother of a 10-year-old girl who was one of the victims. The production thrills in the deepest sense with exquisite acting that burns with intelligence and heat. Through Sunday. 202/332-3300. Reviewed by Jayne Blanchard.

• The Hundred Dresses — Imagination Stage — **. Writer-director Mary Hall Surface has adapted Eleanor Estes’ 1942 young adult novel to the stage, expanding the book to include a subplot concerning the heroine’s getting a second chance to do the right thing. The themes of peer pressure, bullying, and materialism are tenderly imparted, but this Depression-era tale about a child developing a conscience is muted and melancholy, and comes across heavy-handed and didactic, especially in the second act. Through June 11. 301/280-1660. Reviewed by Jayne Blanchard.

• Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill — Arena Stage, Kreeger Theater — **1/2. Lainie Robertson’s stage show does not attempt a definitive biography of Billie Holiday, but instead tries to capture the calamitous spirit of the Baltimore-born singer as she might have been in 1959, the year of her death at age 44 from years of hard drinking and heroin addiction. The place is a gin-soaked jazz club in Philadelphia, where Lady Day (Lynn Sterling) is down on her luck but still wearing the signature gardenias in her hair and immaculate white evening finery. Miss Sterling neatly captures the flavor of Miss Holiday’s singing style, and the evening is melodic and frequently entertaining. However, there’s a tawdriness about the play’s depiction of the legendary vocalist. They didn’t call Miss Holiday “Lady” for nothing, and making her a tramp does her an injustice. Through June 4. 202/488-3300. Reviewed by Jayne Blanchard.

• On the Verge, or the Geography of Yearning — Arena Stage, Fichandler Theater — **1/2. Eric Overmyer’s whimsical 1985 play, in a vibrant production, transports us to the Victorian era and three richly dressed female explorers who travel through space and time to the exotic 1950s, going googly-eyed over hula hoops, “I Like Ike” buttons, and rock ‘n’ roll. Both eras were times when society’s prospects seemed unlimited, yet women were constrained by stern gender roles. The play at times suffers from a twee preciousness: You feel imprisoned either in a Whitman’s Sampler or an episode of “Happy Days.” Yet its tender charm is in its portrayal of a world where everything seemed arching and infinite. Through June 11. 202/488-3300. Reviewed by Jayne Blanchard.

• The Persians — Shakespeare Theatre Company — ***. Ellen McLaughlin’s short, spiky new version of Aeschylus’ powerful and empathetic cautionary play has inspired a visually startling and aurally textured production directed by Ethan McSweeny. The play retells the battle at Salamis, which felled the Persian army at a hideous cost to both sides. The running time may be 80 minutes, but the Shakespeare Theatre packs plenty of spectacle in both the show’s physical aspects and the forthright potency of Aeschylus’ descriptions of the carnage of war. Through Sunday. 202/547-1122. 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, a Lincolnesque widower from Virginia who is adamant about keeping his sons out of the Civil War — a war that by play’s end he cannot avoid. Director Jeff Calhoun’s production features striking staging and winning performances. At times the show feels flimsy and patched together, with interminable narrative passages and a windy first act. The music is catchy but unsubstantial. Nevertheless, it is stunningly relevant today to a battle-fatigued America. Through Sunday. 202/397-SEAT. Reviewed by Jayne Blanchard.

• Silent Partners — Scena Theatre — ***. That charismatic monster of German theater, Bertolt Brecht, receives an etched-in-acid profile in this staging of Charles Marowitz’s vastly enjoyable look at the mutually parasitic relationship between the playwright and his translator, Eric Bentley, a critic and academic. The world premiere work, adapted from Mr. Bentley’s book, “The Brecht Memoir,” revels in delicious humor as it ponders why people allowed Brecht to manipulate them so mercilessly. In his direction Mr. Marowitz is overly indulgent with his own play, which needs some drastic editing. But the play bracingly explores the relationship between idol and sycophant. Through Sunday at the Warehouse Theater. 703/684-7990. Reviewed by Jayne Blanchard.

• Two Rooms — Theater Alliance — ***. Lee Blessing’s bleakly touching play was written in 1988 when the taking of Western hostages by Middle Eastern factions was a new and alarming tactic. It charts the fates of a teacher (David Johnson) captured in Beirut and kept fettered in a filthy cell for three years and his distraught wife in America (Kathleen Coons), who as she battles bureaucratic doublespeak in her attempts to free him, has stripped his home office bare as a way to capture his presence. In effect, both are captive, and after a reporter urges the wife to go public with her story, the consequences are unpredictable and chilling. The play puts you through an emotional wringer, but the sadness is leavened by extraordinary performances and incisive direction by Shirley Serotsky. Through May 28 at the H Street Playhouse. 202/396-0050. Reviewed by Jayne Blanchard.MAXIMUM RATING: FOUR STARS

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