LEND ME A TENOR -- (Through Dec. 1 at the Kennedy Center Eisenhower Theater)

Set in 1934, this succesful Broadway show has two tall men, two lovely young things, one apoplectic father/impresario, one dowager, a singing bellboy, an irate Italian wife and an art deco vision of a set with six doors. The underwear is also lovely, which may tell you something about the twists and zips of the plot. When Italian opera star Tito (the classically handsome Ron Holgate) is incapacitated before a concert in Cleveland, assistant Max (Michael Waldron) is drafted to pass himself off as the famous tenor. This two-act comedy is not nearly as clever as it should be; director Jerry Zaks pumps everything up with takes, double takes and shtick galore, but the show settles for regular chuckles rather than hysterical laughter. Waldron takes the owlishness of his character too much to heart, while Barry Nelson as the impresario is realistically, not farcically, frenzied. Only Holgate and D'Jamin Bartlett as his wife have the go-for-broke expansiveness that gives farce a good name. -- Megan Rosenfeld

SAINT JOAN -- (Through Nov. 18 at Takoma Park's Black Box Theatre)

The Washington Shakespeare Company infuses George Bernard Shaw's drama with a straightforward, unencumbered quality. Desiree Marie, a young actress of great precision and energy, portrays Joan as both a spitfire and a sage. Her often impassioned words are not intoned but uttered out of dire necessity. The sound, lighting, set and costumes also share an economy and focus that never detract from the action -- and glorious dialogue -- at hand. And though the rest of the 22-member ensemble is not quite as in sync, Jim Stone is right on the mark as the Dauphin who's both a nerd and a realist. One thanks heaven that some folks still favor substance over flash. -- Pamela Sommers