- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 4, 2007


• The Heidi Chronicles — Arena Stage, Fichandler Theater. The late Wendy Wasserstein’s play explores the life of Heidi Holland, a fictional feminist art historian. Opens tomorrow. 202/488-3300.

• References to Salvador Dali Make Me Hot — Rorschach Theatre. Strange things happen in a moonlit back yard on the edge of the California desert. Opens Wednesday at the Sanctuary Theatre. 202/452-5538.

• Saving Aimee — Signature Theatre. Kathie Lee Gifford’s play is based on the life of Aimee Semple McPherson, the charismatic founder of the Four Square Gospel Church. Opens Tuesday. 703/820-9771.


• Ah, Wilderness! — Center Stage — **. Eugene O’Neill’s nostalgic comedy about youthful rebellion and familial tolerance is largely lost in the woods in this bumpy production. Some of the cast seem to be on intimate terms with Mr. O’Neill’s wistfully autobiographical play about the Millers, an idealized family living in a seaside Connecticut town in 1906. Others seem to have first met each other shortly before curtain time. The rhythms are thrown off to such a point that when the Millers gather, you are not bathed in the glow of a loving and supportive family but glad you are sitting a safe distance away. Through April 15 at 700 N. Calvert St., Baltimore. 410/986-4008.

• Eubie! — Olney Theatre Center — **. Director Tony Parise’s revamped edition of the original 1978 Broadway production, a celebration of the legacy of the famous black Baltimorean musical pioneer Eubie Blake, sputters when it should sizzle. Just two of the nine cast members show any skill at tap-dancing. The ensemble, in ill-fitting costumes, shows so little affinity for Mr. Blake’s catchy ditties or even the complexities of ragtime music that the vocalists might as well be singing “The Battle Hymn of the Republic.” Pitch problems, wobbly vocals and a few instances of miscasting make ragtime a drag time in this “Eubie.” Through April 29. 301/924-3400.

• Family Secrets — Theater J — ***1/2. Sherry Glaser’s solo turn exploring love and neurosis in the five members of a Jewish family became off-Broadway’s longest-running one-woman show in 1993. Now reprised, it’s still filled with hilarious and heart-catching moments. Miss Glaser transforms herself into a Buddha-bellied accountant, a housewife who mistook her son for Jesus, a frantically angry teen, a New Age daughter, and a grandma savoring a late-in-life marriage. All share a New York nasal whine, a rebelliousness and a sense of humor as dry as yesterday’s matzo. And all carry the message that love and family are all that matter, regardless of how miserable and inconvenient they may seem. Through April 15 at the D.C. Jewish Community Center. 800/494-8497.

• Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune — Arena Stage, Kreeger Theater — ***. The gulf between sex and intimacy is explored with earthy joie de vivre in Terrence McNally’s 1987 working-class fairy tale about a one-night stand in a cramped New York apartment that could turn into something lasting. Under the expert guidance of director David Muse and with two splendid actors (Kate Buddeke and Vito D’Ambrosio) in the title roles, its unbridled raunch and honesty grab you, as does the emotional, unretouched nakedness the actors are willing to display. The play is full of simulated sex and blue talk, but get beyond that and you have frightened people clinging to a tendril of hope. Through Sunday. 202/488-3300.

• Meet John Doe — Ford’s Theatre — ** This uneven new work, a world-premiere musical adaptation of Frank Capra’s classic 1941 film — about a Depression-era schmo who becomes a beacon of hope when he steps into the role of a fictional Everyman cooked up by a newspaper columnist — shows how difficult it is to craft a stage musical. Theatrical artistry abounds, but music and lyrics are doggedly unmemorable; the play’s structure is awkward, and neither of the lead characters is convincing. You just don’t buy it. Through April 29. 202/347-4833.

• The Pillowman — Studio Theatre — ****. The images in “The Pillowman” are ghastly enough to make even John Waters, the prince of puke, want to lose his lunch. Sick, twisted, profoundly disturbing — these are high accolades for Martin McDonagh’s Grand Guignol masterpiece about the power of story. Mr. McDonagh, a playwright who usually confines himself to squalid visions of modern Ireland, turns to the horror genre for “The Pillowman,” giving Stephen King and Clive Barker fierce competition with 10 grisly little stories he concocts as a through line for a theatrical work that moves as seamlessly as a morbid musical under Joy Zinoman’s thrilling direction at Studio Theatre. Through April 29. 202/332-3300.

• That Championship Season American Century Theater — —**.2 starsiller’s hairy-chested 1972 play about the 20th reunion of a high school basketball coach and his winning team that sinks beneath self-loathing and dissension, seethes with the acrid anger of men who blame everyone and everything but themselves. This intense and uneven production, set now in a small Southern city with an all-black cast, doesn’t try to temper the work’s salty language and vehemently anti-Semitic and misogynistic sentiments. The acting acumen varies erratically, with stumbling and subpar performances from most of the cast. More consistent acting would have helped, but as it stands, it isn’t even a contender. Through April 28 at Gunston Theater II. 703/553-8782. MAXIMUM RATING: FOUR STARS

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