- The Washington Times - Friday, October 16, 2009

NOW PLAYING

Angels in America, Part I: Millennium ApproachesForum Theatre at Round House Silver Spring — ★★★½ Although it was written in the early ‘90s and is set in the mid-1980s, many of the issues raised in Tony Kushner’s Pulitzer Prize-winning epic and intimate drama are as relevant and profound as ever. We’re still deeply divided politically between Republicans and Democrats, homophobia still exists, and gay rights have gained little ground. Director Jeremy Skidmore adeptly juggles the play’s exhilarating extremes — the lofty speeches about democracy and freedom and the almost painfully small moments between two people that are anything but. Playing in repertory with “Perestroika;” see www.forumtheatredc.org for full schedule. Through Nov. 22. 240/644-1100.

Ferdinand the BullImagination Stage — ★★★½ The flower-sniffing and kindhearted horned hero of Munro Leaf’s 1936 picture book “Ferdinand the Bull” has been brought to the stage in a stampede of color, music and flamenco dance in the rich musical adaptation by Karen Zacarias and Deborah Wicks La Puma. Miss Zacarias expands on the simple story by adding characters and additional plot entanglements without detracting from the sweetness of its central character or the main theme that standing up for who you are takes bravery beyond fighting. Through Nov. 1. 301/280-1660.

A Flea in Her EarConstellation Theatre at Source Theater — ★★★ Laughter runs rich and true throughout Constellation Theatre Company’s frisky production of “A Flea in Her Ear,” and while some of the credit goes to David Ives’ fresh updating of Georges Feydeau’s 1907 farce, it is largely thanks to the exuberant comic ingenuity of the cast. It certainly isn’t the plot, which probably was first jotted down in cuneiform. Director Allison Arkell Stockman has moved the action to Jazz Age Paris, which makes the show racier and sleeker (no bustles or bloomers or powdered wigs, thank heavens) and also sets the physical comedy in the silent era of Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton. Through Nov. 8. 202/204-7741

Jersey BoysNational Theatre — ★★★½ As a production polished to sequined sheen by director Des McAnuff, “Jersey Boys” is different on several levels. This documentary-style show traces the turbulent story of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, who went from harmonizing street punks to ‘60s sensations and a berth in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Mr. Valli (Joseph Leo Bwarie) may sing like an angel, but he and the other members of the group were no saints. Problems with drinking, gambling, booze and broads plagued the Seasons, as well as personal betrayals of “Sopranos” dimensions. There’s also the music. If you’re a die-hard Four Seasons fan, the pitch-perfect renditions of “Sherry,” “Big Girls Don’t Cry,” “Walk Like a Man,” “Stay” and “Working My Way Back to You” will transport you back to a time of transistor radios and beach-blanket bingo. Through Dec. 12. 800/447-7400

The Quality of LifeArena Stage at Crystal City — ★★½ Arena Stage’s first show of the season does not come across as a play, but a cable talk show on an unusually atmospheric set. To say the cast goes beyond the confines of the script in Jane Anderson’s drama is an understatement. Annette O’Toole is astounding as the chatty, conflicted Dinah. As her husband, Kevin O’Rourke brings gentle comedy to Bill’s reticence. Johanna Day comes off like the sexy earth mother who has it all together until she makes you see the heartsickness of Jeannette. Stephen Schnetzer’s Neil is the play’s soul, a man almost on the outskirts of life who still seeks undiminished passion. Through Sunday 202/488-3300.

MoonlightStudio Theatre — ★★½ Harold Pinter’s wife, Lady Antonia Fraser, once noted that the playwright penned “Moonlight” as a livid meditation on the death of his mother. With Mr. Pinter’s own death last Christmas Eve, this melancholy and mournfully funny work takes on a deeper ache. As staged at Studio by Joy Zinoman, “Moonlight” becomes a gloomy tribute to death and disconnection. There are no confrontations or expressions of impotent anger. Through Sunday. 202/332-3300

The Musical of MusicalsMetroStage — ★★★★ First presented in 2007, this razzle-dazzler hasn’t dimmed one watt. And with the addition of Matthew A. Anderson to the original cast of Janine Gulisano-Sunday, Bobby Smith and Donna Migliaccio, the star power and unabashed joy have even increased. Directed with high-energy cheekiness by Larry Kaye, “Musical of Musicals” lovingly parodies 50 years of Broadway conventions and song styles in less time than it takes to sit through “Les Miserables.” Through Nov. 1. 703/548-9044.

MAXIMUM RATING: FOUR STARS

Compiled by Jayne Blanchard

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