- The Washington Times - Friday, June 12, 2009

NOW PLAYING

ArcadiaFolger Theatre — ★★★★ Director Aaron Posner’s dazzling production is a spring tonic for the soul, a reminder of why we love theater and of the intellect and heart of playwright Tom Stoppard. Written in 1993, “Arcadia” is quintessential Stoppard, a hybrid of highbrow ideas. These include fads in landscape gardening, chaos theory, English algebra, the nature of genius, Lord Byron and the second law of thermodynamics as well as the complications that inevitably arise from carnal embrace. Through June 21. 202/544-7077.

Design for LivingShakespeare Theatre Company at the Lansburgh — ★★★ Playwright Noel Coward combines bons mots and nerviness in his 1933 comedy, a hard-edged jewel of a play stunningly staged by artistic director Michael Kahn — who celebrates the wit and glamour of the piece without sacrificing its serious undertones. Audacious in its day, the play revels in the sexual renegades immersed in a menage a trois. The shocking part of “Design for Living” today is not so much the sexual politics but the blithe cruelty of the threesome’s behavior. Through June 28. 202/547-1122.

Legacy of LightArena Stage — ★★½ In a way, it’s unfortunate that the dazzling production of “Arcadia” at the Folger is running at the same time as Karen Zacarias’ world premiere of “Legacy of Light.” Both plays involve the mingling of past and present and deal with the disparate passions for love and learning. Yet where Tom Stoppard’s “Arcadia” is a masterwork of erudition and heartache, “Legacy of Light” is more flat-footed in its melding of the mysteries of the universe and mathematics with matters of the heart. Through Sunday. 202/488-3300.

LoopedArena Stage at Lincoln — ★★★ Clad in a slinky midnight-blue satin frock by William Ivey Long, Valerie Harper stalks the stage like a Tennessee Williams heroine, and as an unrepentant drunk and high liver, she couldn’t be more entertaining. In Matthew Lombardo’s play, directed for Arena by Rob Ruggiero, she plays Tallulah Bankhead at 62 — riddled with emphysema, washed up as a stage and screen goddess, but still out there swinging with the witticisms. In a bland recording studio in 1965, Miss Bankhead goes at it with an unctuous film editor, Danny (Jay Goede), who needs her to rerecord one line in what would turn out to be her last film, “Die, Die My Darling.” Through June 28. 202/488-3300.

A Midsummer Night’s DreamSynetic Theater at the Kennedy Center’s Family Theater — ★★★½ If you’re going to profane the Bard, you might as well have fun with it, and Synetic Theater’s cheeky take is delightfully mischievous while also retaining the comedy’s romance and magic. Adapter Ben Cunis and director Paata Tsikurishvili distill the play into four acts and 90 minutes, and the result combines visual splendor, astonishing movement and exceptional music by Konstantine Lortkipandze. Synetic’s “Midsummer” is rife with mystical beauty. The scenes of the fairies attending to Titania (Irina Tsikurishvili) and the shimmery dances between her and Oberon (Philip Fletcher) exude Oriental flair. The exoticism is also enhanced by Alex Mills’ extraordinary portrayal of Puck. Through Sunday. 800/444/1324.

Radio GolfStudio Theatre — ★★★ The final installment in August Wilson’s 10-play cycle depicting black life throughout the 20th century, takes place in 1997. Directed by Ron Himes, the production is rendered with a sincerity that does not completely capture the play’s dynamism. “Golf” takes place in Pittsburgh’s Hill District and depicts wealthy upper-class blacks striving to become richer and more powerful. Harmond Wilks (Walter Coppage) aspires to be the city’s first black mayor, and his social-climbing friend and business partner Roosevelt Hicks (Kim Sullivan) wants to be a radio magnate as well as head honcho for their urban-redevelopment project — which would raze much of the community. Nothing seems to stand in their way, except that one of the houses slated for demolition is 1839 Wylie Ave. — which fans of Mr. Wilson’s plays will remember as the home of Aunt Ester, the neighborhood healer who was as old as slavery. Through July 5. 202/332-3300.

Rock ‘n’ RollStudio Theatre ★★★★ Playwright Tom Stoppard gives anarchy a righteous beat in this sublime play, which melds his love of wordplay, cerebral characters and rock music of the 1960s and ‘70s. The play goes between Cambridge and Prague in the intertwining stories of an academic, ivory-tower communist Max (Ted van Griethuysen), and Jan (Stafford Clark-Price), a Czech intellectual and reserved revolutionary. Through June 28. 202/332-3300.

A Sleeping CountryRound House Theatre — ★★½ If you’ve ever experienced the peculiar torture of chronic insomnia, you’ll feel an immediate connection to the plight of Julia (Susan Lynskey), the sleep-deprived heroine of Melanie Marnich’s fitfully funny play, directed by Gregg Henry for Round House Theatre. Julia’s months of wakefulness have turned her into a walking exposed nerve. She can’t concentrate. She’s driving her patient fiance, Greg (Marcus Kyd), insane. Meanwhile, Midge (Connan Morrissey) — Julia’s psychiatrist and best friend — diagnoses Julia by Googling “insomnia” and comes up with some rare — and fatal — genetic disease. So Julia jets off to Italy to track down an eccentric Venetian noblewoman, Isabella Orsini (Brigid Cleary), who has the disease. Through June 21. 240/644-1100.

Compiled by Jayne Blanchard

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