Theater;mini-Reviews

Article excerpt

OPENING

* Dimly Perceived Threats to the System - Arena Stage. A modern domestic comedy about a very 1990s family, by Jon Klein. Douglas C. Wager directs. Jan. 23-March 15. 202/488-3300.

* The Gene Pool - Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company. An 18-year-old man being raised by two women begins to ask who his father is in Christi Stewart-Brown's comedy. Through Feb. 8 . 703/218-6500.

* On the Verge - Andrew Keegan Theatre Company. Eric Overmyer's time-traveling cultural comedy about three Victorians looking for a better eggbeater. At the Mount Olivet United Methodist Church in Arlington Jan. 24-Feb. 15. 703/757-1180.

* Peer Gynt - Shakespeare Theatre. Henrik Ibsen's early poetic drama chronicles one man's eye-opening wanderings. Through March 8 . 202/393-2700.

NOW PLAYING

* Anna Karenina - Washington Stage Guild - (THREE STARS). Helen Edmundson has stylishly adapted Leo Tolstoy's mammoth 19th-century novel for the stage by having Anna and Constantine Levin show and tell each other their parallel stories. As we watch the tales unfold, Anna's romantic tragedy is contrasted with Levin's romantic fortune - and a cruel moral drama takes shape as the doomed, compromising Anna is rebuked by the almost fanatically pure Levin. Tricia McCauley and Lawrence Redmond glow with concentrated energy as the ardent leading figures. Through Feb. 1. 202/529-2084.

* Dreamgirls - Kennedy Center Opera House. A revival of the 1981 Tony-winning musical about the rise of a Supremes-style female singing group. Through Feb. 15. 202/467-4600.

* Jack and Jill - Round House Theatre - (THREE STARS). A fractious comedy about the never-ending battle of the sexes by the pseudonymous Jane Martin. Jack is straightforward and nice, Jill is beautiful but difficult; how can romance between them work out? The answer: In fits and starts. What separates this play from run-of-the-mill romantic comedies is the playwright's relentless analysis. Whoever Martin is, he/she digs and digs at the characters' desires and insecurities. He/she also comes up with some great lines about the gender gap and about the frustrating state of modern romance. Marty Lodge and Kathryn Kelley are extremely smart and wonderfully funny as the lovers. Through Feb. 8. 301/933-1644.

* Miss Margarida's Way - Studio Theatre - (THREE STARS). Sarah Marshall is a perfect terror as Miss Margarida, a ferocious and hilarious eighth-grade teacher who teases and bullies her students. Roberto Athayde's play, written in 1977, is really about totalitarianism, and when Miss Marshall jabbers at the audience through a skull she has just ripped off a skeleton, it's pretty eerie. But mostly it's a wild satire of all kinds of authority, with the fierce and wacky Miss Marshall - arguably the funniest actress in Washington - as a leader you dare not disobey. Through Feb. 1. 202/332-3300.

* Playing Juliet/Casting Othello - Source Theatre and the Folger Shakespeare Library - (THREE AND ONE-HALF STARS). A crowd-pleasing comedy of ideas from Caleen Sinnette Jennings. Actually, it's two comedies. The first act is about a multiracial theater company staging "Romeo and Juliet" with a white Romeo and a black Juliet who feels she's not attractive. Act 2 finds the same company rehearsing "Othello" without an Othello until an untried, rather uneducated actor says he's up to the job. Heavy drama and sly comedy are smartly balanced, and the acting is relaxed and winning. At the Folger through Feb. 1. 202/544-7077.

* Psychopathia Sexualis - Source Theatre - (TWO AND ONE-HALF STARS). John Patrick Shanley, author of "Moonstruck," comes up with some very funny stuff in this comedy about a man with an unusual hang-up. A long first-act scene between an almost sadistic Freudian therapist and a man who thinks he's moderately normal and kind is a particular riot. The rest of the writing isn't quite that sharp, but it's always bright, and director Joe Banno's cast (with Allison Currin replacing Lisa Newman-Williams from last fall's popular run) is almost ideal. …