AVENUE OF THE AMERICAS -- (Through Sunday at Source Theatre)

Apparently unafraid of tackling the obvious, first-time playwright Martin Blank and Source Theatre have staged a quick and quirky jab at the Madison Avenue ad exec set, as part of their weekends-only offerings of brave new works. At 45 minutes, it manages to squeeze out the laughs in short bursts, mainly on the strength of the commercial spoofs used as transitions between scenes. Escaped mental patient Katie White (Kate Malin) turns her delusions of advertising genius into 14 Clio nominations only to face the wrath of her boss when her cutthroat ad campaigns backfire. "Avenue" is really just a pleasant distraction, a bit uneven, but nicely executed. -- Todd Allan Yasui

GRAND HOTEL, THE MUSICAL -- (Through Jan. 6 at the Kennedy Center Opera House)

Tommy Tune's "Grand Hotel" is a dazzling piece of direction, full of surprise, beauty and daring. But like fellow techno-musicals "Starlight Express" and "Phantom of the Opera," it's a mechanism, a toy. There's something askew when a musical isn't about its story or its music, but about its exquisitely moving parts (including Tony Walton's marvelous set). As for the story, it brings together a stock guest list -- the ballerina tired of life, the dying man who wants to live his last days to the fullest, the pretty, ambitious typist, the nasty businessman, the nobleman-thief -- to a Berlin hotel in 1928. The performers do their jobs well, especially Mark Baker as the dying man and Liliane Montevecchi as the ballerina, but they're basically just cogs in Tune's machine. "Grand Hotel" is all sound and color and whirling motion, an entertainment for the sophisticated child in us. How you respond to it depends on what you demand from the theater, and whether you still enjoy toys. -- Lloyd Rose