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Theatre Reviews

The acting is tight, the pace is fast, the one-liners fly and people die

      Take some Neil Simon-like one liners, add a dash of the door-slamming slapstick of Noises Off, mix with some World War II political intrigue, a bunch of mistaken identities and hidden passages in a dark mansion, and what do you get? The Musical Comedy Murders of 1940, running through February 24 at the Bowie Playhouse. 

The Colonial Players’ Quartet

        January has its own distinctive doldrums, and above a certain latitude (not everyone retires to the sunny south) and beyond a certain age, these doldrums can feel especially bleak. Talents diminish, good friends move away or pass over, and if those talents and friends were an integral part of your life purpose — especially if they were more of a goad — you can feel quite lost.

A beautiful fairy tale for fish out of water 

     Orphan Elisa Esposito (Sally Hawkins: Maudie) knows hard times. Mute since a childhood throat slashing, she works as an unnoticed janitor at a secret government facility in Baltimore.       Her life ticks by in lonely minutes until agent Strickland (Michael Shannon: Nocturnal Animals) introduces an amphibious humanoid called the Asset. Worshiped as a god in South America, the Asset was captured to add to America’s Cold War arsenal. 

The grand classic turns intimate 

      Fiddler on the Roof, which hit Broadway in 1964, set longevity records, won nine Tony Awards and has been performed thousands of times by high school and community theaters across the country. It’s usually a big musical with big casts. This month, Compass Rose Theater gives Tevye and his family a more intimate treatment that, in the hands of director Lucinda Merry-Browne, gives us a nice new perspective.

The Colonial Players’ fresh take on this classic offers laughs, emotion and good doses of nostalgia

       What’s Christmas season without nostalgia? What’s nostalgia except a look back at how things were? Or, for George Bailey of Bedford Falls, a look back at how things might have been?

Grief makes monsters in this funny, savage film

     In the seven months since Mildred Hayes’ (Frances McDormand: Hail, Caesar!) daughter was murdered, no progress has been made in the case. Furious, Mildred decides to shame the corrupt, small-town police department into action. She uses her meager savings to rent three dilapidated billboards on the lonely road to her home. 

Theater like you’ve never seen it 

     The U.S. Naval Academy’s Masqueraders chose a daring format for their fall play, The Infinite Wrench: USNA Style.       The Infinite Wrench, according to its creators, the Chicago-based Neo-Futurists troupe, “is a mechanism that unleashes a barrage of two-minute plays for a live audience.” In each theatrical experience, 30 plays delve into the topics of the day as the performers have experienced them.

What’s old is new again

     In 1925, the so-called Scopes Monkey trial adjudicated creationism versus evolution in a battle of legal titans. John Scopes, a substitute teacher in Tennessee, had been charged with breaking a local law that banned the teaching of evolution. Allowing himself to be used as a test case, he became the subject of one of the most closely followed trials in American history, broadcast across the country by radio.

Solving the mystery of Beethoven’s greatest work

      B — as in Bach, Beethoven and Brahms — is the most revered letter in music. One of the three great Bs, Beethoven, devoted five years to the works of another B composer, B as in so-so, like a B actor. 

See these shows — and reach for new levels of understanding

     I admire the local community theater company Twin Beach Players in North Beach, Maryland.