- The Washington Times - Friday, January 4, 2008


• Cops — American Century Theater at Theater II, Gunston Arts Center — Terry Curtis Fox’s mid-1970s play with the warts-and-all “Hill Street Blues” sensibility. Opens tonight. Through Jan. 26. 703/998-4555.

• F.U. (Forgive Us — what’d you think we meant … ?) — Charter Theatre at Theater on the Run — A new and bitter dark comedy about facing up to fear. Opens Wednesday. Through Feb. 2. 202/333-7009.

• Life’s a Dream — Journeymen Theater at the Church Street Theater — Pedro Calderon de la Barca’s 17th-century metaphysical play. Opens Wednesday. Through Feb. 2. 202/265-3767, 202/669-7229.

• Rabbi Sam— Goldman Theater, Washington DC Jewish Community Center — San Francisco-based performer Charlie Varon plays a dozen characters including a rabbi newly relocated to the Bay Area and eight of his synagogue’s board members in this one-man show. Monday and Tuesday only. 202/777-3210, 800/494-8497.

• Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind— Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company — Thirty plays in 60 minutes from the Chicago-based Neo-Futurists, the hit of last summer’s Fringe Festival. Opens tonight. Through Jan. 13. 202/393-3939.


• Fiddler on the Roof — Olney Theatre Center — *** Tradition is broken in director John Vreeke’s dark-tinged vision for this venerated 1964 musical, but on the whole, his changes make for a deeply textured, triumphant production about a traditional Jewish community forced to deal with sweeping social and political change in pre-revolution Russia. The vigorous score by Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick and lissome choreography match strong performances starting with the most serious-minded Tevye (Rick Foucheaux) you’ve ever seen. The show works wonderfully well, although missteps exist and the ending’s allusions to pogroms and the Holocaust may disturb “Fiddler” traditionalists, especially because the original ending is touched with a ray of optimism. Through Jan. 13. 301/924-3400.

• The House of Yes — Washington Shakespeare Company —*** For many people, the Kennedy assassination is a horrific, iconic event seared into the retina of our modern consciousness. For twins Marty (Jason Stiles) and Jackie-O (Sara Barker), it is foreplay. Re-enacting the tragedy of Nov. 22, 1963, right down to the president”s hypnotic slow wave and the first lady”s pillbox hat and blood-stained pink suit, is just one of the stunning dysfunctions of the Pascal family, as seen in Wendy MacLeod’s jet-black comedy. Set in a leafy Northern Virginia suburb in the 1980s, Miss MacLeod”s self-described “suburban Jacobean play” is a darkly absurdist look at an American family forever trapped in the shadow of the Kennedys. Miss MacLeod”s work resembles a refined chamber of horrors, and director Colin Hovde astutely accentuates the scary laughs and inappropriateness of the family’s behavior without letting the production descend into camp. Through Jan. 13. 800/494-8497.

KafkaWashington Shakespeare Company *** In the play (directed by Alan Bennett) Kafka, who died of tuberculosis in 1924, abruptly finds himself transported to the 1980s and into the middle-class English living room of Linda (Adrienne Nelson) a former nurse, and her husband, Sydney (John Geoffrion), an insurance wonk with literary aspirations. Fans of Tom Stoppard’s metaphysics and witty verbal pyrotechnics and Joe Orton’s black humor will enjoy “Kafka,” although Mr. Bennett seems to become infatuated with his own cleverness and erudition, and the play natters on longer than seems necessary, especially in the second act. Running in repertory with “The House of Yes” Thursdays through Sundays. Through Jan. 13. 703/418-4808.

• Shlemiel the First — Theater J, Goldman Theater, Washington DC Jewish Community Center. — **1/2 For schlubby slacker Shlemiel, waking up in a mirror image of the town of Chelm proves a boon for his love life and his attitude in general in the slapstick haimish musical “Shlemiel the First,” adapted from Isaac Bashevis Singer’s folk tale about a shrewish yenta along the lines of Fanny Brice and Sophie Tucker. If you are a devotee of klezmer music, especially that of the 1920s and ‘30s that mingles traditional Yiddish folk melodies with the libidinous wail of the clarinet, all the better. The repetitiveness of the gags and songs keeps the show from being a first-rate musical but there is an infectious score, plenty of vaudeville flourishes, tongue-twisting rhymes and double-entendres (“Aye, there’s the rub/But he’s my schlub”) to appreciate even if you are not of the Jewish persuasion. Through Jan. 20. 202/777-3210, 800/494-8497.

• Tamburlaine — Shakespeare Theatre Company — ** The production of this rarely produced play captures all the sweeping, far-flung pageantry inspired by the 14th-century Central Asian warlord of the same name in hyperbolic, action-adventure style. (Think “300” with less buffed flesh.) Upstart shepherd Tamburlaine (Avery Brooks) is a magnetic and prancing dervish with a killer smile and a surprising talent for casual cruelties as he takes over the ancient world, spurred on by his love-struck passion for an Egyptian princess named Zenocrate. With its florid poetry and characters overwhelmed by passion, “Tamburlaine” makes Jacobean tragedy seem minimalist by comparison. The excesses and high-blown language are sometimes unexpectedly comic, and there are not enough of the small moments that make epics deeply felt. The play overall suffers from a sameness of action and pace while remaining beautiful, luxurious and extravagant but monotonous and overheated. 202/547-1122. Through Sunday.


— Jayne Blanchard



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