Capsule comments on current area stage productions: ANNIE -- (Kennedy Center, through September 26.)
The musical about an orphan with curly hair and a stiff upper lip has become what "Sound of Music" and "Peter Pan" were for previous generations: the one Broadway show you have to take the kids to. This touring edition is in good hands, especially with Kathleen Freeman playing mean Miss Hannigan, hater of happiness and good fortune. There's even a salutary moral for the Reagan years: Sweet little ragamuffins who mind their manners and don't whine get adopted by billionaires and live opulently ever after. BANJO DANCING -- (Arena's Old Vat Room, indefinitely.)
Stephen Wade demonstrates how to win friends (and apparently run forever) by playing the banjo, telling tall tales and being generally ingratiating. His one-man show is for all ages and temperaments. THE SHADOW OF A GUNMAN -- (Olney Theater, through September 19.)
Irish playwright Sean O'Casey had no charity for his countrymen -- cowards and braggarts, all -- but this drama about the seedy residents of a Dublin tenement trying to save their hides during the dangerous fight for independence seethes with humor and vitality. The Olney's production captures much, if not all, of the play's spirit. As a flirtatious working girl, Brigid Cleary gets only a couple of scenes, but she very nearly walks away with the show in her purse. TWICE AROUND THE PARK -- (Eisenhower Theater, through October 2.)
Even the comic talents of Anne Jackson and Eli Wallach, neatly meshed as they are, cannot salvage these two sketches by Murray Schisgal. In the first, a lady cop badgers an unemployed actor for playing his opera records too loud. In the second, a well- heeled husband and wife try to save their marriage by doing trendy psychological exercises designed to put them in touch with their feelings. In both instances, it's bicker, bicker, bicker. 1,000 YEARS OF JAZZ -- (Ford's Theater, through October 10.)
The title comes from the collective age of the various cast members -- the six musicians who make up the Legends of Jazz and the four tapdancers who are billed as the Original Hoofers. Venerable in years, but spry of spirit, they deliver a lively evening of New Orleans-style entertainment. Dancer Jimmy Slyde is sensational, doing just what his name suggests -- sliding across the stage between staccato taps. The show's one concession to youth, blues singer Deborah Woodson, is its one failing. There's a lesson there.