Davey Marlin-Jones, 71, an irrepressible advocate for Washington theater as a stage director and eccentric on-camera personality for television stations, died March 2 at his home in Las Vegas. He had cancer.
Mr. Marlin-Jones had a full mustache and dark-rimmed glasses and looked like an offspring of James Joyce and Groucho Marx. Endlessly energetic, he worked locally as an actor, playwright, producer, critic and director. He promoted new plays, directed a television film and wielded an erudite, descriptive wit.
He once explained his preference for the modern American style of natural acting with the example of Laurence Olivier playing Tennessee Williams's Big Daddy from "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof."
"It's just awful," he said. "Because he has no concept of what dirt under a fingernail does to a hand even after you have a manicure."
He worked in television to supplement his theater income. Starting in 1970, he spent 17 years doing arts criticism for what became WUSA (Channel 9) and was known for dizzying reviews that drew from his extensive knowledge of the arts and his love of theatrical gestures.
Former Washington Post television writer John Carmody once wrote that his favorite review by Mr. Marlin-Jones involved a visit to a gazebo. The critic "delivered a review while twirling on a post in the summer sunlight, Panama hat on the bias."
Mr. Marlin-Jones said his routine was controlled, having learned a valuable childhood lesson about holding an audience after his parents bought him a cap pistol and left him alone in a dime store.
"I pulled out my cap pistol, shouted, 'All right, everybody, this is a stickup,' and the whole store turned silent and looked at me, and I started crying," he said. "I learned that it's one thing to demand attention, it's another to get it, and it's a third thing to know what to do with it once you have it."
David Marlin Jones was born in Winchester, Ind., to Quaker parents with a relentless work ethic. He became interested in theater after seeing a magic show at age 8, and by 13 was touring professionally as a magician. He once shared the same bill with the ventriloquist act of Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy.
He was a graduate of Antioch College in Ohio and acted with a nearby Shakespearean repertory company. He preferred directing to acting.
"I found the price of surrendering one's persona much too high, but getting inside the characters fascinated me," he told The Post. "And when I discovered that a director can get inside all the characters, that planted the seeds of wanting to be a director."
About that time, he also worked in television, driving more than 100 miles to Columbus from college. He was "Captain Davey Jones, Skipper of the Good Ship Columbus," and his co-star was a giraffe.
After a stint in Detroit as an advertising copy writer, he moved to New York and found theater work on the Borscht Belt circuit. He also was managing director of the Equity Library Theater in New York for aspiring performers and playwrights. There, he produced 43 plays in two years.
He came to Washington in 1965 as artistic director of the new Washington Theater Club. During his seven-year tenure, he encouraged the production of new plays and undervalued plays by established authors.
The theater won the Margo Jones Medal for encouraging the production of new plays. The prestigious award, named after a pioneer in regional theater, is administered by the Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee Theatre Research Institute at Ohio State University.
In 1972, he directed a public television film of Lanford Wilson's play, "The Rimers of Eldritch," about a shooting death one afternoon in the Midwest. Frances Sternhagen, Susan Sarandon and Rue McClanahan were in the cast.
As he embarked on his television career, he continued to direct plays at the Kennedy Center, Folger Theatre and stages from Detroit to St. Louis.
He saw directing and offering criticism as complementary activities, not conflicts of interest. "I like to think that, having been the recipient of so many bullets, one is careful of how one shoots," he said. "I think I would not review if I ever quit stage directing. I think one nourishes the other."
Mr. Marlin-Jones, a former Washington resident, moved to Las Vegas in 1989. For the last 15 years, he was a professor of theater and playwriting at the University of Nevada at Las Vegas.
His marriages to Jane Jones and Mary Jones ended in divorce.
Survivors include his wife of 21 years, Maggie Winn-Jones of Las Vegas; two sons from his second marriage, Andrew Jones of Davis, Calif., and Oliver Jones of Los Angeles; a sister, Sharon Meachum of Norfolk; and two grandchildren.