- The Washington Times - Friday, June 26, 2009

NOW PLAYING

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 Sunday. 202/547-1122.

King LearShakespeare Theatre — ★★★ Fathers and daughters grapple for domination in director Robert Falls’ sex-, drugs- and rock-‘n’-roll-charged production at the Shakespeare Theatre Company. Originally staged at Chicago’s Goodman Theatre, Mr. Falls’ vision of Shakespeare’s vengeful tragedy about the violent follies of youth and old age eschews the classical fairy tale about ungrateful offspring in favor of an in-your-face approach that centers on politics — sexual, familial, power. Sexual frankness (there is not only nudity, but also depictions of various sex acts and rape) is one of the aspects of this challenging production, but more darkly disturbing is the preponderance of wartime horrors and abuses of power. Stacy Keach makes an interesting Lear, but not a great one. Through July 22. 202/547-1122.

LoopedArena Stage at Lincoln Theatre — ★★★ 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 Sunday. 202/488-3300.

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 12. 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 Sunday. 202/332-3300.

Compiled by Jayne Blanchard

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