NEVIS MOUNTAIN DEW - Through June 3 at Arena Stage's Kreeger Theater.

Of all the officials and their relations who have been coping with assorted ailments in various theatrical wards around town this season, the most cynical are in "nevis Mountain Dew" by Steve Carter, which the Negro Ensemble Company is performing at Arena Stage's Kreeger Theater.

There was gallantry and even minor heroism in the way mental retardation was accepted in "Benefit of a Doubt" and paralysis fought in "Whose Life Is It Anyway?" at the Folger, while at the Kennedy Center, people gamely dealt with multiple strokes in "Wings" and various problems of aging in "The Gin Game" and On Golden Pond."

The immobile hero of "Nevis Mountain Dew," who is facing in the other direction from the immobile hero fo "Whose Life Is

The cheerfulness with which the household bustles at first is slightly offensive beacuse of a teacher-y over emphasis of lines by the whole ambulatory cast. It's intended, apparently, to convey the spirit of dogoodism; but out comes the old Nevis rum, "truth serum," as one character points out for the people who may not have understood the lesson, and pretenses are dropped.

It turns out that no one values the life that is left-not the man himself, whose emotions seem as mechanical as his method of breathing, and not any of those who profess to have loved him before his illness. It becomes merely a matter of who is going to pull the plug so that the able-bodied can get on with life.

This is not the philosophical conflict of "Whose Life Is It Anyway?," where the patient was careful to say that he was deciding only what conditions of life were essential for himself; rather, it's a nasty presumption that the reasonable world would acknowlege, if only it could speak the guilt-free truth, that the weak are worthless.

Graham Brown plays the hero, with only head showing and that only through a mirror, and the others, those handicapped by immobility of character, include Frances Foster, Ethel Ayler, Barbara Montgomery and Samm-Art Williams.