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Arlington Theaters Offer A Wide Variety For The Holidays

While some of Arlington's theater companies are taking time off during the holidays, the lights are bright in three theaters offering six shows directed at different audiences. From children's fare to distinctly adult tastes, there is a wide range of live theatrical entertainment to chose from.

At the Clark Street Playhouse just north of Crystal City two different theater companies are alternating in the large flexible space sharing a set designed to accommodate both plays.

The brand new Catalyst Theater Company has the dark story of insanity, "Woyzeck." Written in the early nineteenth century about one of the most controversial criminal cases of its day, it tells the story of a murderer whose questionable sanity raised both social and legal issues. The author died before completing the play, leaving a jumble of unconnected scenes which Catalyst saw as a marvelous opportunity to display what it hopes will be its trademark — fluid productions of shows that emphasize "expression, song, style and movement."

Director Jesse Terrill not only moves the ten actors in his cast all over the platformed set, he has composed almost 20 minutes of incidental music which becomes the connecting tissue between the scenes. Scott Fortier plays the ill-fated Woyzeck with an effective performance that progresses toward mania in measurable steps. The world of dementia he and his colleagues create is progressively disturbing but the presentation so stylish that, like a scene of a bad car wreck, you can't avert your eyes.

Sharing the space is the Washington Shakespeare Company's "Macbett," Eugene Ionesco's absurdist 1972 play which, while it has many funny moments, is distinctly serious. Ionesco is best known for "Rhinoceros" and other plays that attempted to expose the absurdity of the real world. With this parody of "Macbeth," though, he seems to be turning on theater itself and lampooning the make-believe world rather than the real one.

The cast of nine works very hard throughout a lengthy three-hour show. Some perform multiple roles but the key characters are portrayed by such solid leads as Jenifer Deal, Helen Hayes Award nominee for "Dancing at Lughnasa" for Keegan Theatre, and Ashley Strand who just graduated from Michael Kahn's new Academy of Classical Acting.

At the 64 seat black box Theatre on the Run on South Four Mile Run Drive, ASIA (which stands for Asian Stories In America) is offering San Francisco playwright Prince Golmolvilas' "The Theory of Everything," a warm comedy about a set of quirky but very sympathetic characters in a strange situation. An extended family of Asian-Americans gathers weekly on the roof of a Las Vegas wedding chapel in the hope of spotting UFOs. Each character has his or her own monologue in which to expound on the things that are important in life. These tend to be endearingly peculiar, like the importance of the number four in American history (such as the 4th of July) and its relationship to the number of toes on a chicken foot. The humor of the situation dominates the early going of the show. But, as the evening progresses the audience comes to care for these people as individuals. By the end it becomes clear that you have spent the evening with people about whom you have come to care.

Just across Four Mile Run, in the Village of Shirlington, the Classika Theater and its adjunct Green Parrot Puppet Theatre have one show primarily for kids and another designed to please children and adults on a family outing.

The Green Parrot's current offering is a life-size puppet and live-actors-in-costume version of "Little Red Riding Hood" which is performed on weekends.

The family-friendly staging of the children's classic "The Little Prince" on Classika's main stage is an adaptation of the children's book by Antoine de St. Exupéry, directed by visiting Russian director Yuri Kordonsky. He tries to include material that will please both adults and children in this brief, colorful and intriguing show. It follows the book about a pilot who crashes his plane in a desert where, either as a result of injury and thirst or in actuality, he meets a little prince from another planet who relates fantastic tales of his travels throughout the universe.

The show offers charming performances, and it has clever sets and costumes, which help create a brightly colored fantasy world.

As if this weren't enough to chose from, at the end of the month the Children's Theatre, billed as "plays by children for children" will stage a Comedia dell'Arte styled version of "Pinocchio" at the Thomas Jefferson Theatre on Old Glebe Road. There will be evening and afternoon performances over the weekends of December 28-30 and January 4-6.