Off The Circle Theater Company's revue at D.C. Space, "By George, By Ira, By Gershwin!," by hook or by crook does right proud by the brothers.

Conceived in the modest confines of cabaret, where song and dance compete with food and drink, it's a slyly ambitious show with a grasp to match its reach.

At cramped quarters with a baby grand, five singers perform all or snippets of some 40 Gershwin favorites, from "Embraceable You" to the best of "Porgy and Bess," with a casual charm that hides how hard they're working.

Of course, a couple of things help this production out -- George's great music, Ira's clever lyrics ("My nights were sour / spent with Schopenhauer") -- but it brings to the matter some gifts of its own. There's no-nonsense staging, from director Frederic Lee, comedy wherever natural, as when Anne Kanengeiser does "They All Laughed" woefully off-key, plus elements of surprise, as with "Strike Up The Band" -- eerily sung as an anti-war tune.

Propelled by pianist Rob Bowman's smart arrangements, the production speeds through the better part of two hours, pausing only when Debra Tidwell stops the show. From her first torcher, an ear-popping rendition of "The Man I Love," she proves to be a singer of rare power and grace, and a compleat performer to boot. D.C. Space is too small for that voice.

BY GEORGE, BY IRA, BY GERSHWIN! -- At D.C. Space, at 443 7th Street NW, through June 19. Tickets $7 Friday and Saturday, $6 Thursday. The show starts at 8; if you come early there's dinner (steak, perch, softshell crabs and such). Call 223- 4690 or 337-1445 for information and reservations. graphics /photo: Anne Kanengeiser and Wayne Anderson sing Gershwin.