- The Washington Times - Friday, August 7, 2009

NOW PLAYING

Ain’t Misbehavin’Olney Theatre Center — ★★½ Director Devron Young leads five promising and exuberantly high-energy performers as they tear through the repertoire of Thomas Wright “Fats” Waller, the gifted pianist and composer of the 1920s and ‘30s whose hits “Honeysuckle Rose” and “I Can’t Give You Anything but Love” are hummable to this day. Olney’s Historic Stage is transformed into a Harlem nightclub from the 1930s, although the art-deco bandstand obscures the musicians, and it looks as if the score is being played by a bunch of disembodied heads. While most of the troupe’s dancing is awkward, the athletic Leanto E. Jones performs a naughtily insinuating solo about the joys of weed in “The Viper’s Drag.” Through Sunday. 301/924-3400

Barack StarsSecond City at Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company — ★★★½ The storied improv troupe pokes holes in the puffed-up, deified image of the president in “Barack Stars,” a zany revue of zingers and blackout comedy Second City developed specifically for Woolly Mammoth and D.C. denizens. Obama (Sam Richardson, who has the president’s precise diction and elocution down pat) is portrayed as a superhero — “Fly Obama, fly!” his fans exhort — who takes himself ultraseriously and strives to come up with inspirational catchphrases that, in the words of one member of his staff, sound “hope-y.” Through Sunday. 202/393-3939.

The Color PurpleKennedy Center Opera House — ★★★½ Does an “American Idol” have the chops to pull off a major role in an emotionally complex musical? The answer is a resounding “yes.” Fantasia, winner of the 2004 competition, has the voice and the presence to make an indelible Celie in the musical version of Alice Walker’s 1982 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel. Like the novel, the musical centers on Celie’s struggles and her letters to God as well as the women who figure in her life: her sister Nettie (La Toya London), who is determined to escape a life of victimization and drudgery; the freewheeling blues singer Shug Avery (Angela Robinson), beloved by both Celie and the abusive Mister (Rufus Bonds Jr.); and the inimitable Sofia (Felicia P. Fields), the pugilistic, takes-no-guff wife of Celie’s stepson Harpo (Stu James). Through Sunday. 800/444-1324.

Lyle the CrocodileImagination Stage — ★★★½ Based on two picture books by Bernard Waber and adapted by Minnesota playwright Kevin Kling, the play has an upbeat message about liking people (and other creatures) simply for who they are that will warm up even the most coldblooded humans when coupled with the impishly ingratiating personality of the title character. Who wouldn’t want a croc like Lyle, as lovingly personified by Matthew McGloin in a gymnastic and inventive performance, hanging around? Directed by Kathryn Chase Bryer. Through Sunday 301/280-1660.

MAXIMUM RATING: FOUR STARS

Compiled by Jayne Blanchard

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