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Posted at 04:24 PM ET, 06/20/2012

Harrowing “The Normal Heart” takes the top spot in playbill power rankings

Every week, the Washington Post’s theater critics review new and notable plays appearing on local stages. This is a roundup of their critiques from the past week, which the Going Out Gurus assembled from raves to not-so raves.

1. The Normal Heart

At Arena Stage, through July 29

“In the final 40 minutes of the flawless Arena Stage revival of “The Normal Heart,” one harrowing meltdown seems to incite another -- a cascade of anguish as a terrifyingly unknowable killer bears down on a great metropolis ... By the time the remarkable Patrick Breen, as the piece’s antagonistic protagonist, Ned, delivers an impassioned eulogy over the gay community’s failure to fight for its own, your nerves are so frayed and your tear ducts given such a workout that sitting still and untouched becomes an insurmountable challenge.” — Peter Marks

2. Spring Awakening

At Keegan Theatre at Church Street through July 8

“Co-directors Mark A. Rhea and Susan Marie Rhea’s production of the Tony-winning musical (whose touring incarnation hit the Kennedy Center in 2009) features a cast of gifted young actors who turn in eloquent portraits of passion, frustration and vulnerability.” — Celia Wren

3. Cuchullain

At Keegan Theatre at Church Street through July 1

“Performer Josh Sticklin ... is equally irresistible as the hedonistic 19-year-old Aaron, whose idea of gainful employment is doing drugs in the park and then convincing a social services office that he is mentally ill (and thus deserving of generous welfare support).” — Celia Wren

4. Puerto Rico...Fua!

At GALA Hispanic Theatre at Tivoli Square through July 1

“Carlos Ferrari’s creation — a tongue-in-cheek overview of Puerto Rican history with an infectious score — has proved wildly popular on the island, where it premiered in the 1970s. Under the direction of Luis Caballero (collaborating with Hugo Medrano), the GALA production gallivants along with a high-spirited air.” — Celia Wren

5. Memphis

At the Kennedy Center through July 1

“The Broadway musical “Memphis” may be strutting into the Kennedy Center’s Opera House with the 2010 best musical Tony Award in its pocket, but it doesn’t do much with the ancient terrain of whites getting hip to black music as rock-and-roll is born. It’s a big ole comedy that opens with a 1950s country-fried DJ droning about the bleached ditty he just played, Whitey White and the White-Tones’ ‘Whiter Than You.” Subtle? Like, well, a Broadway musical.” — Nelson Pressley

By  |  04:24 PM ET, 06/20/2012

 
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