It was almost like one of those heroic World War II movies. Minutes before the curtain was to rise on Wednesday's opening-night performance of "Lost in Yonkers" at the National Theatre, the performers learned that the United States was at war in the Persian Gulf. And in the best show-must-go-on tradition, the actors went on to give what playwright Neil Simon and director Gene Saks said was the best performance the cast had ever given. The war caused either the absence of many of the usual opening-night political celebrities or their early departures.

Alma Viator, National Theatre spokeswoman, said word of the invasion spread quickly just before the curtain rose at 7:15 p.m. Sen. Alan Simpson, a friend of Simon's, sat during the first act reading papers brought to him by a staff aide and then left, returning only for the after-theater party at the Old Ebbitt Grill. Bobbie Green Kilberg, deputy assistant to the president, left without seeing the play. Sen. Chris Dodd called to apologize that he couldn't come. Susan Markey left a ticket at the box office for her husband, Rep. Edward Markey; Barbara Lent left another for her husband, Rep. Norman Lent. Neither made it to the performance. Viator said Rhoda Glickman, wife of Rep. Dan Glickman, came in crying. She said she wouldn't be using her tickets because her guests have parents in Israel and they were all too concerned about the fighting. Oddly enough, Viator said, guests at the opening-night party, where a TV was tuned to war coverage, stayed late. "It was as if there was a need for everyone to stay together," she added.

Out and About

As soon as the film "Flight of the Intruder" was completed, President Bush asked Paramount Pictures for a viewing copy, which he saw in December and which reportedly moved him. The film, starring Danny Glover, Willem Dafoe and Brad Johnson, being released today, was about to be previewed at the Smithsonian's Air and Space Museum Wednesday when Martin Harwit, the museum's director, announced that the United States "has gone to war." The film is about the pilots of Grumman-built, carrier-based A-6 Intruder jets in Vietnam on a mission to raid SAM missile sites in Hanoi. Several members of the Navy left without seeing the movie, which seemed eerily like what was happening in Iraq, where updated A-6s have been involved in raids on missile sites ...

David Levy, the new head of the Corcoran Gallery of Art and also a professional jazz musician, has a local gig. He will make his Washington debut at Cates tomorrow. The tenor saxophonist will be performing with New York pianist Myron Schwartzman and well-known Washington bassist Keter Betts in a session before the performance of featured entertainer John Eaton ...

The Persian Gulf war has also affected former president Jimmy Carter, who has canceled a trip to Mauritania. Scheduled to leave Wednesday for the North African country on a mission to help fight the parasitic Guinea worm, Carter said: "I was advised personally by some top American leaders that our trip to Africa would likely be during a time of war crisis. I decided it would put an additional burden on the already overtaxed security staff in our country, Europe and Africa" ...

Former heavyweight champ George Foreman does seem to love the name George: His wife gave birth Wednesday to a son, his ninth child, and he named it George. That wouldn't be unusual, but it's the fourth son he has named George -- this being George V. His wife, Joan, gave birth to the 8-pound 13-ounce child at Northeast Memorial Hospital in Humble, Tex. Foreman, on the comeback trail at age 43, is training for an April 19 title fight against Evander Holyfield ...