- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 8, 2006

OPENING

• A Christmas Carol: A Ghost Story of Christmas — Ford’s Theatre. Dickens’ classic story of Ebenezer Scrooge and the three ghosts who haunt him on Christmas Eve. Opens Wednesday. 202/347-4833.

• Cinderella — Olney Theatre Center. Rodgers and Hammerstein’s version of the tale of a prince, a pumpkin coach, a fairy godmother and a dreamer with a missing shoe. Opens Wednesday. 301/924-3400.

• The Little Prince — Round House Theatre Bethesda. The stage adaptation of Antoine de Saint-Exupery’s children’s book, which tells the story of an aviator whose plane lands in the Sahara Desert and the mysterious prince he meets. Opens Wednesday. 240/644-1100.

• The Long Christmas Ride Home — Studio Theatre. Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Paula Vogel uses music, puppetry and storytelling to create a portrait of the painful bonds of family. Opens Wednesday. 202/332-3300.

• Tomorrow — Quotidian Theatre Company. An adaptation of William Faulkner’s short story, set in 1905 Mississippi. Opens tomorrow at The Writer’s Center. 301/816-1023.

NOW PLAYING

• The Bluest Eye — Theater Alliance — ****. Toni Morrison’s celebrated 1970 novel is the basis for this incandescent production, directed with a sure hand by David Muse. The story of an 11-year-old black girl in 1941 Ohio who prays for the blue eyes, blond hair and pink skin she thinks will keep people from making fun of her. It’s pitted with sorrow, yet the alchemy created by Lydia Diamond’s agile adaptation, exemplary ensemble acting and well-placed bursts of traditional spiritual music lift Miss Morrison’s work from desperate sadness to tragic grandeur. Through Sunday at the H Street Playhouse. 202/396-0050. — Jayne Blanchard

• Crestfall — Studio Theatre Secondstage — **1/2. Irish playwright Mark O’Rowe?s 90-minute assault drama deals with a day of violence and debasement in a Dublin slum as told by a trio of women, none of whom knows the entire sequence of events. It’s a feral, splendidly acted production under the direction of Joy Zinoman, and its shifting perspectives and heady infatuation with wordplay have fostered comparisons to James Joyce. But at times it is more snuff film than theater, and you find yourself quickly benumbed by its fusillade of violent imagery. Jennifer Mendenhall, Kimberly Schraf and Mari Howells are expert in retelling their stories of sadistic cruelties, most of which cannot be described in a newspaper. A clue: After seeing “Crestfall,” an innocent pony ride or the words “Here, doggie?”will never mean the same again. Through Sunday. 202/332-3300. — Jayne Blanchard

• Equus — Washington Shakespeare Company — ***. Director Lee Mikeska Gardner takes a stylized approach to Peter Shaffer?s oft-performed 1973 play — a psychological detective story in which a child psychiatrist grapples with his own lack of passion as he tries to uncover the reasons why an adolescent blinded six horses with a metal spike. It’s powered by a pair of compelling performances: Christopher Henley?s itchy, fevered turn as the psychiatrist who has lost his sense of purpose, teamed with a volatile Jay Hardee as an adolescent whose pathological passion for horses has robbed him of peace. Signs posted at the theater warn of the use of ?nudity, fog and hay,? but don?t let a little hay keep you from savoring Miss Gardner?s high-pitched vision. Through Nov. 26. 703/418-4808. — Jayne Blanchard

• My Fair Lady — Signature Theatre — **. Signature artistic director Eric Schaeffer has stripped Lerner and Loewe’s romantic musical right down to its grubby underthings. Class differences, Britain’s exacting caste system, and the notion that beneath every socialite lurks a guttersnipe are the prevailing motifs in Mr. Schaeffer’s twisted, darkly sexual vision of the play. Arresting moments do exist in the production, along with some excellent performances, but this “My Fair Lady” isn’t about linguistics, it’s about lust — the nasty, craven kind that is exploitive and is realized in the shadows. Through Nov. 19. 800/955-5566. — Jayne Blanchard

• Jon Spelman’s Frankenstein — Round House Theatre Silver Spring — *1/2. Gloomy, introspective and about as entertaining as cleaning out the lint trap, Jon Spelman’s take on Mary Shelley’s 1816 gothic novel — told from the point of view of the articulate, Plutarch-reading Creature, who sops with low self-esteem — eliminates all the terror and the shivery moments and replaces them with a dull harangue on man’s inhumanity to unsightly creatures. Mr. Spelman is normally a storyteller who conjures vivid and far-reaching images with his words, but by eliminating the creepy aspects of the novel in favor of the touchy-feely, he makes your skin crawl for all the wrong reasons. Through Sunday. 240/644-1100. — Jayne Blanchard

• A Midsummer Night’s Dream — Folger Theatre — ***. Director Joe Banno’s glammed-up, 1930s-style take on Shakespeare’s classic is a delectable art deco fantasy with a Tinseltown feel, with sets that evoke a streamlined sumptuousness and exquisitely tailored, body-conscious costumes. Mr. Banno also borrows from more contemporary sources in his ironic use of 1930s hit parade ditties lip-synched by the actors. The cast is outstanding and the show’s look — like something Noel Coward would whip up for Gertrude Lawrence — draws you in. Through Dec.3. 202/544-7077. — Jayne Blanchard

• 9 Parts of Desire — Arena Stage Kreeger Theater — ***. Performer and writer Heather Raffo’s one-woman show brings the Iraq war home with heart-rending depth and clarity. It explores sex, in the sense of both gender and carnality, and what it means to be a mother, a wife, a lover, a daughter or a sister — women who live in secret, concealing their bodies in long scarves and the traditional Iraqi black robes. The grimness accretes to an almost intolerable degree, but Miss Raffo puts a human, divinely feminine face on it, showing how war and tyranny ravage the souls and bodies of Iraqi women but cannot completely silence their voices. Through Sunday. 202/488-3300. — Jayne Blanchard

• 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. A lot of the political humor is about as fresh as a Tricky Dick impression. 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. If you’re going to pick an easy target, make sure you can hit it at least some of the time. Extended indefinitely on Saturdays at the Warehouse Theater. 202/783-7212. — Jayne Blanchard

• Spring Forward, Fall Back — Theater J — **1/2. Esteemed critic Robert Brustein packs a lot of regret into this world-premiere 90 minutes as he embarks on a nostalgic, frequently unsparing, journey into his childhood, fatherhood as he experienced it and his own son’s early foray into child rearing. A sense of deep loss runs through the play: an ebbing away of life, the loss of Jewish culture and of a strong sense of family, a dwindling appreciation for the classical arts. It’s a noble and honest effort at making sense of one man’s life as he questions his upbringing and the way he raised his child. Through Nov. 26. 800/494-8497. — Jayne Blanchard MAXIMUM RATING: FOUR STARS

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