Bash

New City Warehouse

Through Jan 31.
Neil LaBute is all about theodicy. He's a sort of Mormon Mamet, a deeply religious writer who places his reprehensible characters in horrific situations, forcing them to spit in the face of God. Brutality and titillation are the tools he uses to instruct us in the existence of evil and the nature of free will. In these three monologues, LaBute indulges this obsession by following wickedness all the way into the territory of true crime. All of these characters have consciously crossed into the dark and come back with secrets they must share.

New City director John Kazanjian shares LaBute's belief that theater should be a spiritually enriching and reverent experience. Even though LaBute's dialogue sometimes lacks the texture of truth, nearly every note in this bracing evening of drama rings right. The production program (mercifully free of cutesy-pie bios or pompous director's notes), the stark staging, the bleakly gorgeous lighting, the haunting music, and most importantly, the restrained and powerful performances of a cast in perfect agreement, reveal a rare combination of humility and grand ambitions. It doesn't take too long to drive out to the theater in Georgetown, but it might take you days to really come back. TAMARA PARIS

Love, Exciting Love

The Typing Explosion at Capitol Hill Arts Center

Through Feb 10.
Directed by Bret Fetzer and featuring the talents of Sarah Paul Ocampo, Sierra Nelson, and the effervescent Rachel Kessler, Love, Exciting Love is a musical and audience-interactive journey through love and its many fitful splendors. All 153 specific flavors of love (the exact number, according to the Explosionists) are celebrated via song, spoken word, dance movement, cute little cupcakes, and some old woman who gives relationship advice over the phone. Pretty girls sing old Spanish ballads, flowery love letters are penned and exchanged, artsy homemade Super-8 films are screened, and charming musical routines featuring quirky and random lyrics are performed.

Love's delightful vagaries set a zillion pink champagne bubbles a-fizzing in my heart--even if the singing wasn't always on key, the microphones were temperamental, and God knows a little more tech rehearsal wouldn't have killed anybody. But this is cabaret, and cabaret plays by its own rules, dammit. And any night of theater from which I go home with a love letter from a mysterious stranger in my pocket is a good night of theater in my book, cabaret or not. ADRIAN RYAN

The Mineola Twins

Theater Schmeater

Through Feb 21.
It's possible that there's a worse play by a Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright, but I can't think of one. In Paula Vogel's The Mineola Twins, Victoria Dicce uses wigs, breast enlargements, and a broad Long Island accent to play twin sisters Myra and Myrna, who represent left- and right-wing American politics in the latter half of the 20th century. Under Eisenhower, "good" girl Myrna preserves her virginity for marriage while "bad" girl Myra puts out for everyone; under Nixon, Myrna gets shock treatment to still the voices in her head while Myra commits a politically motivated bank heist; with Reagan in office, Myrna has become an ultraconservative talk-radio personality who bombs an abortion clinic where Myra, now a lesbian, works.

The targets are obvious and bland; the satire is toothless; character development is sacrificed to make obvious, bland, toothless jokes. Dicce and the rest of the cast try to propel the production along, but they have little to work with and the clumsy staging doesn't help. The set changes--choreographed by Amii LeGendre to period pop songs (it's one of those plays where music tells us what decade it is)--are more entertaining than the scenes themselves. BRET FETZER

The Wreck of the St. Nikolai

Hinterland Theater Association at

On the Boards

Through Feb 1.
The splendid strangeness of this opera cannot easily be described. First, because it is not an actual opera but what the Hinterland Theater Association (the visual artists, musicians, and writer behind this project) calls "an opera for objects"--puppets, cutouts, props, and big and blockish costumes worn by backward-walking people. These objects don't sing; they pretend they are singing. The singing is done, instead, by real people who stand in the dark at the side of the stage. On first viewing, the meaning of this opera, which is based on a shipwreck that occurred early in the Pacific Northwest's modern history, is not apparent, as the bizarre puppets, eerie drawings, and melancholy music--composed and performed by the Black Cat Orchestra--completely absorb one's attention. What one might gather from Stacey Levine's submerged libretto is that something very bad happened after the wreck of the St. Nikolai. And because the tragedy took place so long ago, and has been obscured by other brighter narratives and imaginings of our local history, it now takes the form of a low-frequency nightmare--as a barely remembered experience that agitates (and occasionally takes a bite from) our sleep and peace of mind. CHARLES MUDEDE

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