BLACK EAGLES --

(Through March 3 at Ford's Theatre)

"Black Eagles" is Leslie Lee's surprisingly listless dramatization of the Tuskeegee Airmen of World War II who acquitted themselves so valiantly in the face of enemy fire and armed forces bigotry. Lee's characters are ill-differentiated, and he can't take his historical drama of triumph through endurance and give it any dramatic fire. The African-American experience with and attitude towards military service have been complicated ones, but Lee basically reduces everything to gung-ho, go-get-the-Jerries jingoism. Such compelling and painful history deserves better. -- Lloyd Rose

BORN GUILTY --

(In repertory through March 2 at Arena Stage)

Children of Nazis. Somehow that phrase seems a contradiction in terms, yet it's the subject of Ari Roth's dramatization of Austrian journalist Peter Sichrovsky's interviews with the offspring of Nazi perpetrators. Roth, however, seems to have had trouble deciding whether to present Sichrovsky's interview subjects as isolated individuals giving testimony or as characters in a play about generational conflict. The result is a script that veers back and forth between the two approaches and, unfortunately, settles on the latter. "Born Guilty" addresses the horrors of the Holocaust head-on, and though it offers a wide range of opinions and emotions, it rarely delivers the knockout punch that so provocative a subject demands. -- Pamela Sommers

THE LOVE OF DON PERLIMPLIN AND BELISA IN THE GARDEN --

(Through March 3 at GALA Hispanic Theatre)

In "Don Perlimplin," the great Spanish dramatist Federico Garcia Lorca takes the old story of an elderly man who weds a young, sexy wife and overloads it with poetry, masque, sex jokes, romanticism and philosophy. While Anglo-Saxon writers traditionally separate spiritual and physical love, Garcia Lorca's genius is to show that they are the same, that fleshly love can in itself inspire the lover to creativity and transcendence. With its old lover and young beloved, its adultery, disguises and garden, the one-act play resembles nothing so much as the libretto to some lost Mozart opera. As produced by GALA it isn't a perfect evening in the theater, but it's often a magical one. -- L.R.

ON THE BEDPOST OVERNIGHT --

(Through Tuesday at Woolly Mammoth)

Jon Spelman bills himself as a storyteller, but he's looser and more conversational than the word implies. He's a rumpled presence, about as non-"theatrical" as you can get. Being with him is like being part of an extremely entertaining after-supper conversation. Spelman does all the talking, of course, but his pauses, lack of assertiveness and sensitivity to the audience's reactions give his show the feeling of give-and-take. He talks about life, making humor, for example, out of the unlikely material of parents' anxieties about their small children. A proud, worrying, middle-aged parent, Spelman is also still a child, bringing his mother and father to vivid, troubling life for us. The show begins to turn mysterious: sad, but slightly dreamlike, like memory. You start out laughing at a friendly jokester and end in appreciation of a mystical poet. -- L.R.