Playing next door to each other at the Kennedy Center are the Gershwin musical "My One and Only" and the first production of the American National Theater, "Henry IV, Part I," two very disparate shows that share some central characters. ANT artistic director Peter Sellars was the original director of "My One and Only," but left while the show was still in try-outs. Timothy Mayer, who wrote the book for "My One and Only," is directing "Henry." Actors Denny Dillon, Bruce McGill and Rod Siebert, all "My One and Only" Broadway alumni, star in "Henry," And the sets for both shows were designed by Adrianne Lobel, who recently created the stunner for Arena Stage's "Man and Superman."
RIDING A WAVE -- Bebe Gribble, Washington's own 13-year-old entertainment dynamo, will make her off-Broadway debut in "Surf City," a new musical based on Beach Boys tunes. Full of cars, sand dunes and surfboards on hydraulic lifts, the show opens next week, and the producers hope to move it to Broadway within three weeks so it can qualify for this year's musically weak Tony Awards. Gribble, who can also be seen breakdancing in current McDonald's and Pringles television commercials, is the youngest of the young cast of 15, and plays a principal role.
HOUSE CALLS -- "Leader of the Pack," the new musical about Ellie Greenwich, who wrote the title song and just about every other girl group classic, was scheduled to open on Broadway March 11, directed by Michael Peters, who choreographed Michael Jackson's "Beat It" and "Thriller" videos. The opening was indefinitely postponed because the script wasn't working, and several showbiz "doctors" have paid a visit, including "A Chorus Line" director Michael Bennett, who's having troubles of his own with his new musical "Scandals." And director Bob Fosse was spotted at a performance of Hal Prince's troubled musical "Grind" during its changes-every-day preview run in Baltimore.
UP & COMING -- Pam Bierly opens her new cabaret act "Trapeze" this weekend at D.C. Space, 7th and E streets NW, through April 13. Musical director and pianist is Rob Bowman, who did the honors for the Folger's recent "Much Ado About Nothing." Call 347- 1445.
THOUGH IT WAS WRITTEN back in 1896, "La Ronde," Arthur Schnitzler's ballet of the sexes, could just as well have been penned last month. Although nearly a century has passed, it seems not even the games have been changed.
While Studio Theater's production suffers from sluggish pacing and some inexpert acting, Schnitzler's observations of the sexual food chain remain timely in this version, adapted by John Barton in 1982 for the Royal Shakespeare Company.
"La Ronde" is a circular dance in which everyone changes partners -- and everyone leaves alone. In ten scenes, nearly identical in structure, Schnitzler's cartoonish characters meet and maneuver toward an inevitable sexual encounter. Sprawled in an assortment of inelegant postures when the lights come back up, they find they're still hungry, so it's on to the false promises of the next chase.
"It's kind of sad going home alone," sighs a vapid parlor maid after being used and discarded by a soldier, who has just come from a liaison with a prostitute. But the parlor maid soon forgets her brief pains, helped along by a giddy toss with her young master.
Schnitzler's script, a handbook of pickup lines, neatly needles the eternal canon of seduction techniques. The come-on becomes progressively more elaborate with each encounter in the chain, moving upward through the social ranks, only to return to the point of beginning.
Though the tempo of the pre-tal conversations drags at times, director Joy Zinoman has a clever touch with the choreographed couplings, and exhibits a cinematic eye -- we often view the Moment After from an entirely different perspective.
Studio's performers are adequate, with a standout turn by the effortlessly funny Julie Frazer as a young wife in comic conflict. Set designer Russellny has built a quaint miniature proscenium stage into the Studio, and in his attractive settings provide an imaginative succession of bushes, couches and beds from scene to scene.
"La Ronde" caused a ruckus when it was first staged in Berlin in 1920 -- the director and cast were arrested for obscenity. The play can't achieve the same jarring effect in this time of cableporn and classified sex ads, but this bitter comment on the emptiness at the core of the sex hunt still has its sting. -- Joe Brown. LA RONDE -- At the Studio Theater through April 21.