- The Washington Times - Friday, May 29, 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.

GiantSignature Theatre — ★★★ Sprawling, far-reaching and nearly woozy with some of the most epic and stirring music composer Michael John LaChiusa has ever written, the musical, which clocks in at nearly four hours, lives up to its name. Based on Edna Ferber’s novel which was made into a classic 1956 film, “Giant” depicts the growing pains — and pride — of the Lone Star State. Through Sunday. 703/573-7328.

HeroesMetroStage — ★★★½ Small pleasures can be found in this quiet comedy, directed with exquisite care by John Vreeke and featuring a trio of bravura actors. Originally titled “Le Vent des Peupliers” (“The Wind in the Poplars”), Gerard Sibleyras’ 2002 play — translated by Tom Stoppard in 2005 — centers on three old men, veterans of World War I, who pass their days at a soldiers home outside of Paris. Through Sunday. 800/494-8497.

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 June 14. 202/488-3300.

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 14. 202/332-3300.

See What I Wanna SeeSignature Theatre — ★★★ Composer Michael John LaChiusa presents endless versions of the truth in his intricate, meditative chamber musical, directed with brooding sophistication by Matthew Gardiner. With equal parts elegance and eroticism (this is not a show for the “High School Musical” set), “See What I Wanna See” explores the pliability of truth and how lies become real. Through Sunday. 703/573-7328 (Ticketmaster), 703-820-9771 (theater).

Woman and ScarecrowSolas Nua — ★★★½ A dreamy and acidic look back at life is the theme of Irish playwright Marina Carr’s invigorating deathwatch play, enjoying its American premiere at Solas Nua under the astute direction of Des Kennedy. The poetry-laden play depicts an earthy and mordantly funny, free-flowing conversation between terminally ill Woman (Jennifer Mendenhall) and Scarecrow, a supernatural creature and alter ego (Nanna Ingvarsson), but it is actually the self talking to the soul. Through Sunday. 800/494-8497.

The Woman Who Amuses HerselfTheatre Alliance — ★★★ Playwright Victor Lodato is the latest to fall under the spell of “Mona Lisa” in this entrancing play, featuring Nigel Reed in a virtuoso one-man performance. Based on a true incident, the play centers on a house painter and glazier at the Louvre who steals the famous painting one morning in 1911. Through June 6. 866/811-4111.

MAXIMUM RATING: FOUR STARS

Compiled by Jayne Blanchard

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