I NEVER SANG FOR MY FATHER --

(Eisenhower Theater, through September 19)

A middle-aged son (Daniel J. Travanti) tries to establish a relationship with a crusty, dictatorial father who has lost none of his power to exasperate even though he is approaching 80. Robert Anderson's drama enjoyed only middling success on Broadway in 1968, but with the graying of America, its time may have finally come. Written with delicacy and restraint, it is a probing, poetic exploration of the gulfs that loom between parents and children and our abiding need to fill them. This production, which originated at the Berkshire Theater Festival, is still finding its rhythms and Travanti has yet to fully flesh out the character of the dutiful son. But Harold Gould gives a stupendous performance as the old man, and the play's final moments are as wrenching as any you'll find in the theater right now.

NEHEMIAH PERSOFF'S SHOLEM ALEICHEM --

Washington Jewish Theater, through September 20)

Sholem Aleichem's charming, conversational fables of an all-but-lost way of small-town Jewish life are eminently worthy of telling and retelling. Veteran character actor Persoff has taken it upon himself to convey them to us, but in his one-man performance, he seems to feel compelled to wring them into life. Persoff has edited and adapted five of Aleichem's yarns, and has been performing them for more than 17 years, which may explain why the breath of spontaneity, so essential to storytelling, seems to have escaped. Except for his relatively delicate introduction to the tiny town of Kasrilevke (Aleichem's Yoknapatawpha county), the actor oversells the stories, missing the author's wry, understated tone.