Andrea Sings Astaire

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Andrea Marcovicci at ACT Theatre

Through Oct 7.

Andrea Marcovicci is an entertainer in an old mode—she's an earnest crooner, an occasional hoofer, and her father was born in 1885 and learned to waltz in Vienna at, she says, "the turn of that other century." That other century is where she feels at home. At the start of her act, she lifts a photo of Fred Astaire from the top of the piano, smiles, and says it's signed "to Cole and Linda."

"Obviously," Marcovicci says, "that wasn't an eBay purchase." Not that she's got anything against eBay, mind you: "Many of my clothes are eBay purchases."

But that romantic assumption—that you can't buy authenticity online, that the past is always better than the present—is the foundation of her shtick.

Andrea Sings Astaire is what it sounds like. Marcovicci and a piano man and a bass man, all in fancy dress, work through Astaire's chapter of the American popular songbook. The songs, popularized by Astaire—but written by Ira, Irving, Cole, et al.—are fine, though her vocal style tends toward the warble. Is this a vocal flaw? An atavistic affectation? It's hard to say. The wicked-minded will find it difficult not to think of psycho-drag-cabaret-queen Dina Martina and wonder if Marcovicci knows she and her fellow chanteuses have been so savagely (and successfully) parodied.

But it's untoward to hang on to such thoughts for long. Marcovicci is as graceful and charming as her time-capsule chatter: "Fred represents everything elegant, graceful, and lost in this world of modernity." (Pronounced moe-dairnity.) And: "She's one of my favorite actresses, but Joan Crawford dances like she's killing cockroaches." And: "Isn't that what we all want, girls? A good spanking? But not from Fred Astaire. Maybe from Clark Gable." BRENDAN KILEY

Charging Rhinos

NorthWest Dance Syndrome at Velocity MainSpace Theater

Through Oct 7.

A total of five short dances and one dance film, Charging Rhinos moves at more of a galumph than a charge. The choreography in the first half of the evening (by NorthWest Dance Syndrome directors Teresa Cowan-Kuist, Anne Motl, and Maya Soto) is uneven, most of it sticking to the common vocabulary of modern dance: a little partnering, a little floor work, and a lot of falling. It's controlled falling, but still. Hearing bones and thighs thwacking the dance floor so hard and so often makes one cringe.

The second half of the program is stronger, with an energetic piece for three women by Ellie Sandstrom (though the dancers seem a little sluggish and muddy in their movements) and the evening's busiest and most sophisticated piece, Staring at the Back of the Fence, by Jill Leversee and Marlo Martin of oaklanDrive.

The most entertaining part of the program is the black-and-white dance film Nocturne by Tyson James Theroux and NWDS. It has a strong, if familiar theme—a young woman's unpleasant dreams. She wrestles a writhing plastic sack into a hole, tries to run through a field in high heels fitted with roller skates, and submits to a nasty medical procedure involving a black plastic mask attached to a hose sucking up dark glass from broken wine bottles. It's a cross between the unintentional macabre comedy of 19th-century medical portraits and the delirious nastiness of Un Chien Andalou. Sadly, it's the brute imagery, and not the dancing, that makes the film memorable. BRENDAN KILEY

Halcyon Days

Seattle Public Theatre at the Bathhouse

Through Oct 21.

The 20th century was one of ruptures. During the middle parts of the 1930s, money began to break from the gold standard. During the middle parts of the 1980s, politics made its full break from reality. One of the first symptoms of that break was a strange little war that happened in the Caribbean nation of Grenada. This war, cooked up by the kookiest political minds in Reagan's White House, is the immediate subject of Steven Dietz's play Halcyon Days. The deeper (or secondary) subject of the play is the death of reality in America: the death of real money, the death of real politics, and, ultimately, the death of real war.

The death of real war was announced in 1991 by Jean Baudrillard in his book The Gulf War Did Not Take Place. The Gulf War, Baudrillard argued, was an unreal spectacle, a video game, something scripted for television. Halcyon Days explores and exploits the absurdity of Grenada being the kind of war Baudrillard describes—at once a real war (it cost lives and destruction), and a war concocted by spin doctors.

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The play, which is directed by Carol Roscoe, operates on those two levels: the real war and the imagined war. The characters who dominate the level of the real war (the ones in Grenada) are a bit dull and didactic; the ones who dominate the level of imagined war (the ones in Washington, D.C.) are wonderfully comic. For this reason, the character at the center of the imagined war, Raper, a Reagan advisor played masterfully by Jim Gall, is by far the most impressive; and the one at the center of the real war, Linda, an American student played a little too earnestly by Angela DiMarco, is the least rewarding.

Had Halcyon Days been just a comedy from top to bottom, it would have provided the perfect piece of entertainment for an early autumn evening. CHARLES MUDEDE

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Washington Ensemble Theatre presents amber, a sensory installation set in the disco era
In this 30-minute multimedia experience, lights & sounds guide groups as they explore a series of immersive spaces.