Capsule comments on current area stage productions: BANJO DANCING -- (Arena's Old Vat Room, indefinitely.)
The seasons come and go, but Stephen Wade stays on, plunking banjos, telling tall tales and even doing a jig or two. Something must be working in this one-man show. It's been packing them into the Old Vat Room for a year and a half now. HEDDA GABLER -- (Barter Theater, George Mason University, through November 28).
Actresses kill to play the title role in Ibsen's drama -- the study of a frustrated, willful woman imprisoned in provincial society. In Barter's inept production, Dorothy Holland is killingly mediocre. No one else in the cast is much better. HOME -- (Arena Stage's Kreeger Theater through December 5).
Samm-Art Williams' play recounts the travails of a Southern black farmer, who loses his sweetheart, is thrown in jail for refusing to serve in Vietnam, succumbs to the evils of the big city and finally makes his way back to the land and the sweetheart, who's since had a change of heart. Despite flashes of poetry, the drama is fairly simple-minded and the cast of three, playing dozens of roles, doesn't add much in the way of complexity. The touring production was put together by the Negro Ensemble Company. THE MISER -- (Center Stage, Baltimore, through December 12).
Bill McCutcheon plays the title role in Moliere's classic comedy as a cross between W.C. Fields and a headstrong child -- a droll performance that's just one of the many delights in this sound and spirited revival. Center Stage understands that the play is not just about the roasting of a skinflint, whose avarice wreaks havoc on his family. It's also about contagion and the unreasonable steps otherwise reasonable men must sometimes take to preserve their sanity. The production is as funny as it is intelligent. MONDAY AFTER THE MIRACLE -- (Eisenhower, through November 28).
William Gibson's new play is set 20 years after the events he detailed so memorably in "The Miracle Worker." This time he's examining the troubled triangle formed by Helen Keller, now a young adult; her tireless teacher, Annie Sullivan; and Annie's beau and subsequent husband, socialist writer John Macy. The production has arresting moments -- Jane Alexander (Annie) and Karen Allen (Helen), in particular, act up a storm -- but this promising drama dribbles off inconclusively. MYSTERY PLAY -- (Woolly Mammoth, through November 27).
A purposeful parody of Agatha Christie, "Mystery Play" also wants to dabble in metaphysics. Just what is on author Jean-Claude Van Italie's mind is not obvious, however. Although Woolly Mammoth's production is crisply staged, the whole affair tends to smack of the Off- Broadway experimentalism of a decade or so ago.