SUBJECT: CHRISTMAS (90%); THEATER & DRAMA (89%); FILM (89%); MOVIE REVIEWS (88%); VISUAL & PERFORMING ARTS (78%); MUSICAL THEATER (77%); MOVIE & VIDEO PRODUCTION (74%); ANIMATION (67%); ANIMATED FILMS (67%); THEATER (58%); MARRIAGE (50%)
GEOGRAPHIC: NEW YORK, NY, USA (92%); BAGHDAD, IRAQ (51%) NEW YORK, USA (92%) UNITED STATES (92%); IRAQ (51%)
LOAD-DATE: December 5, 2008
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The New York Times
December 5, 2008 Friday
Late Edition - Final
A Moving Target
BYLINE: By KATE GALBRAITH and MATTHEW L. WALD
SECTION: Section B; Column 0; Business/Financial Desk; THE ENERGY CHALLENGE; Pg. 1
LENGTH: 1459 words
In hopes of slowing global warming and creating ''green jobs,'' Congress and the incoming administration may soon impose a mandate that the nation get 10 or 15 percent of its electricity from renewable sources within a few years.
Yet the experience of states that have adopted similar goals suggests that passing that requirement could be a lot easier than achieving it. The record so far is decidedly mixed: some states appear to be on track to meet energy targets, but others have fallen behind on the aggressive goals they set several years ago.
The state goals have contributed to rapid growth of wind turbines and solar power stations in some areas, notably the West, but that growth has come on a minuscule base. Nationwide, the hard numbers provide a sobering counterpoint to the green-energy enthusiasm sweeping Washington.
Al Gore is running advertisements claiming the nation could switch entirely to renewable power within a decade. But most experts do not see how. Even with the fast growth of recent years, less than 3 percent of the nation's electricity is coming from renewable sources, excepting dams.
''I think we are really overselling how quick, how easy and how complete the transition can be,'' said George Sterzinger, executive director of the Renewable Energy Policy Project, a Washington advocacy group.
More than half the states have adopted formal green-energy goals. In many states the policies, known as renewable portfolio standards, are too new to be evaluated. But so far the number of successes and failures is ''sort of a 50-50 kind of affair,'' said Ryan Wiser, a scientist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and co-author of a recent report on the targets.
Connecticut and Massachusetts have made their utilities pay for missing targets, and utilities in Arizona and Nevada are lagging. California and New York appear almost certain to miss deadlines that are looming in the next few years.
A few states have met their goals, or even exceeded them. One big success has been Texas, which has capitalized on a wind power boom and already exceeded its 2015 goal. The state gets 4.5 percent of its electricity from the turbines. New Mexico's big utilities are at 6 percent renewable power, within striking distance of the state's 10 percent goal by 2011.
The structure and aggressiveness of the targets varies widely among states -- some have been able to meet their goals because they set relatively modest ones in the first place.
For instance, Maine set a goal of 30 percent renewable power by 2000 -- an impressive-sounding target that was essentially meaningless because the state was already getting close to half its electricity from sources that counted against the goal, including dams. (A more recent law requires development of new renewables in Maine.)
In those states that set aggressive goals and have had trouble meeting them, a big hurdle has been building power lines that could transmit the electricity, Mr. Wiser said. Another has been the utilities' inability to secure enough long-term contracts to buy renewable power.
While the country has no shortage of entrepreneurs hoping to build wind turbines and solar arrays, they have been slowed by problems like finding suitable sites, overcoming local political opposition and securing financing. In a few cases, including some in upstate New York, allegations have been made that the developers bribed officials to win approval of their projects.
Many energy experts embrace renewable power standards as a policy mechanism to promote green energy, but with a nationwide standard starting to seem likely once Barack Obama and the new Congress take power, these experts are ratcheting down expectations of what can be achieved in the near term.
In fact, as utilities seek to meet growing electricity demand, they still turn most often to fossil fuels, rather than the sun or wind.
In New England, the trend is to build more plants that run on natural gas and oil, not wind, said Gordon van Welie, chief executive of the entity that operates New England's power grid.
Similarly in California, John White, executive director of the Center for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Technology in Sacramento, noted that since 2002, when state legislators passed a renewables requirement, the state has installed 16 times as much capacity from natural gas plants than from renewable energy.
Indeed, California is the prime example of a state reaching high and falling short on renewable-power goals. Big utilities there are supposed to get 20 percent of their electricity from renewable sources by 2010, and most are expected to miss that deadline.
San Diego Gas & Electric gets a mere 6 percent of electricity from renewable sources, and the state's other big utilities -- Pacific Gas & Electric and Southern California Edison -- are at 14 and 15.7 percent, which includes some dams. (The Edison number is a 2007 figure; the other two are more recent.)
Fines for missing the targets can run to $25 million a year, but because of fine print in the regulations, the San Diego utility and Pacific Gas & Electric said they did not expect to incur fines; a representative for Southern California Edison said he was not sure.
The utilities cited a catalog of reasons for falling short. These include stop-and-start federal tax incentives for renewable power, problems finding reliable suppliers among the many young and fragile start-ups in the industry, and difficulty getting transmission lines built and obtaining permits to build solar stations and wind farms.
''Not every part of the country is equally blessed in terms of having locations for renewables,'' said Debra L. Reed, president and chief executive of San Diego Gas & Electric, which is having trouble getting new transmission lines built to an area with a lot of sunshine.
Moreover, for utilities, the effective goals keep changing. As customers' electricity use rises, so does the amount of renewable-derived electricity the utilities must produce to meet their targets. ''When you're judged based on customer demand, you're always chasing a moving target,'' said Stuart R. Hemphill, vice president of Southern California Edison, which serves a fast-growing population.
New York is another case study. The state gets 19 percent of its electricity from decades-old hydroelectric plants, well above the national average. It wants to add another 5 percentage points with other renewables by 2013, but transmission is a barrier, and the state has not secured nearly enough renewable electricity to meet its goal.
Even in states that are making good progress toward their targets -- like Texas, New Mexico and Wisconsin, according to Mr. Wiser -- efforts could be undermined by the still-unfolding credit crisis. The squeeze is falling especially hard on renewable energy projects, because nearly all the expenses for such plants are upfront capital costs financed by debt, with little in ''pay as you go'' costs like fuel.
Small solar start-ups are being hit hard, but bigger companies face challenges, too. The billionaire Texas oilman T. Boone Pickens wants to build a huge wind project in the panhandle of Texas, but even he has been hampered by difficulty borrowing money.
The only mechanism the states have to force utilities into line is to fine them for not meeting the targets, but such costs would ultimately be passed on to electricity customers or company shareholders, neither of whom would look favorably on politicians who imposed such a burden in tough times.
That may explain why most of the penalties issued to date have been modest. In 2006, the payments totaled around $18 million for Massachusetts and $5.6 million for Connecticut, and virtually nothing in any other state, according to Mr. Wiser's report.
Despite the difficulties, the power quotas have proved politically popular -- so some states are trying to raise their targets. California's governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, is undeterred by the state's difficulty meeting its present target; he signed an executive order recently raising California's target to 33 percent of power from renewables by 2030. Minnesota and Massachusetts have recently raised their quotas.
Experts said that without far more attention to the practical barriers, including the lack of lines to carry power, those new goals will be as difficult to meet as the old ones.
A national standard, if the government decided to impose one, would put an even greater premium on new power lines, because more electricity would need to be moved from parts of the country with abundant wind and sunshine to the great cities where power is consumed.
Mr. Wiser said, ''It comes down in a lot of ways to transmission, ultimately.''
SUBJECT: RENEWABLE ENERGY (94%); SOLAR ENERGY (90%); ENERGY & ENVIRONMENT (90%); WIND POWER PLANTS (90%); WIND ENERGY (89%); NATURAL GAS & ELECTRIC UTILITIES (89%); PUBLIC POLICY (78%); ENERGY REGULATION (78%); POWER PLANTS (77%); ELECTRIC POWER PLANTS (77%); ENERGY & UTILITY POLICY (77%); GLOBAL WARMING (73%); SOLAR POWER PLANTS (69%)
PERSON:AL GORE (56%)
GEOGRAPHIC: NEW YORK, USA (79%); TEXAS, USA (79%); MASSACHUSETTS, USA (79%); ARIZONA, USA (79%); CONNECTICUT, USA (79%); NEVADA, USA (79%); NEW MEXICO, USA (79%); CALIFORNIA, USA (79%) UNITED STATES (92%)
LOAD-DATE: December 5, 2008
GRAPHIC: PHOTO: An oil well in the shadow of wind turbines in Abilene, Tex. The state gets 4.5 percent of its electricity from the turbines. (PHOTOGRAPH BY BRIAN HARKIN FOR THE NEW YORK TIMES)(B7) DRAWING (B1)
Copyright 2008 The New York Times Company
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The New York Times
December 5, 2008 Friday
Late Edition - Final
Got Their Musical Mojo Working
BYLINE: By A. O. SCOTT
SECTION: Section C; Column 0; Movies, Performing Arts/Weekend Desk; MOVIE REVIEW 'CADILLAC RECORDS'; Pg. 1
LENGTH: 1216 words
In ''Cadillac Records,'' Darnell Martin's rollicking and insightful celebration of Chicago blues in its hectic golden age, Jeffrey Wright plays the singer and guitarist Muddy Waters. This feat is made even more impressive and interesting when you reflect that in the same movie season Mr. Wright has portrayed another notable real-life African-American, the former Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, in Oliver Stone's ''W.'' The man is equally credible as a statesman and a bluesman. If that's not range, what is?
Much more than racial typecasting or clever mimicry is at work in these performances. Mr. Wright can hardly be said to bear a strong physical resemblance to Muddy Waters or Mr. Powell -- or, for that matter, to the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., whom he played in the HBO film ''Boycott,'' or to the painter Jean-Michel Basquiat, so brilliantly impersonated in ''Basquiat.''
Rather, Mr. Wright, as protean and serious an actor as any working in American movies, seems to be writing his own version of ''Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Black Man,'' the literary scholar Henry Louis Gates Jr.'s collection of essays on various styles of African-American manhood.
In each case, whether playing a former soldier or a tormented artist, Mr. Wright directs our attention away from the familiar, public face of the character in question toward a private zone where ambition struggles with anxiety, and where what seems to be at stake is nothing less than the integrity and viability of the self. And so, in his Muddy Waters, we see pride, ambition and uncertainty cohabiting with musical genius, sexual appetite and stubborn professionalism.
''Cadillac Records'' is by no means Mr. Wright's film alone, and his work is enriched by the skill and verve of a prodigious ensemble. The film is not -- thank goodness -- another dutiful musical biopic, but rather the group portrait of a remarkable, volatile constellation of artists, including Little Walter (Columbus Short), Chuck Berry (Mos Def), Etta James (Beyonce Knowles), Howlin' Wolf (Eamonn Walker) and Willie Dixon, the bassist and songwriter who narrates in the mellow, countrified voice of Cedric the Entertainer.
These musical innovators are gathered together -- promoted, exploited and given shiny new Caddies with heavy strings attached -- by Leonard Chess (Adrien Brody), a Jewish entrepreneur in postwar Chicago who sees ''race music'' as a potential gold mine. That it also turns out to be an agent of wholesale cultural transformation -- an old song observes that the blues had a baby, and they called it rock 'n' roll -- does not faze him in the least.
Few subjects are as encrusted with legend, hyperbole and sheer bunk as the history of American popular music, and there will no doubt be pedants who will object to some of the liberties ''Cadillac Records'' has taken with the literal truth. At times Leonard Chess seems so stressed out by running the record company bearing his name that you wish he had, say, a brother to share the burden. The real Leonard Chess did, but for now Phil Chess will have to join Nesuhi Ertegun, brother of Ahmet, in the ranks of music industry siblings neglected by Hollywood.
In any case, Ms. Martin, who wrote as well as directed ''Cadillac Records,'' does not need to lean too heavily on the historical record, or on the dreary conventions of pop-culture hagiography, because she has a clear and complicated set of ideas about her characters and a deep appreciation of the music they made. It is, sadly, all too rare for a movie about important musicians to pay intelligent attention to the sounds and idioms that make their lives worth dramatizing in the first place.
But in ''Cadillac Records'' you hear most of the important advances and developments that defined urban blues in the 1940s and '50s. When Muddy Waters, newly arrived in Chicago from Mississippi, plugs his guitar into an amplifier, a new sonic mutation occurs. Then Chuck Berry comes along, playing in a speedier, country-inflected style that makes him the first major star to cross from the R&B to the pop charts.
''Cadillac Records'' would be worth seeing for the music alone. Mr. Wright's renditions of Muddy Waters's signature songs are more than respectable, while Ms. Knowles's interpretations of Ms. James's hits -- ''At Last'' and ''I'd Rather Go Blind,'' in particular -- are downright revelatory.
And so, it should be said, is Ms. Knowles's performance. In her previous film roles she has seemed guarded and tentative, as if worried that her charisma would melt from too much emotional heat. Here, playing a needy, angry, ferociously talented and fantastically undisciplined woman, she is as volcanic and voluptuous as an Italian movie star. Or, more to the point, a real soul diva of the old school.
The music is also a window into history, and ''Cadillac Records'' is an uncommonly astute treatment of race in America at the end of the Jim Crow era. Its dense, anecdotal narrative is built around the sometimes uneasy friendship between Leonard Chess and Muddy Waters, his first big star. Chess is devoted to his artists, but he also profits from their art, and Mr. Brody shows him to be neither a paragon of racial enlightenment nor a predator.
''His job is to make money off you,'' Howlin' Wolf says to Muddy Waters, who is hurt by what he sees as Chess's double-dealing. ''You're from Mississippi. I thought you would have known that.''
The rivalry between those two bluesmen is another source of intrigue in ''Cadillac Records,'' which sustains a remarkable number of dramatically important relationships, any one of which could have been a movie in its own right. Muddy Waters is also a mentor to Little Walter -- a troubled, reckless, brilliant harmonica player -- and a steadfast (if unfaithful) husband to Geneva (Gabrielle Union). Chess, meanwhile, though he is married (his wife, Revetta, is played by Emmanuelle Chriqui) is nearly undone by his passion for Etta James.
So much passion, so much pain, so much tenderness and violence. If you dig up an album from the heyday of Chess Records, you'll find all that and more. And ''Cadillac Records'' is nearly as good as one of those albums, which is saying a lot. This movie is crowded and sprawling, and if it rambles sometimes, that's just fine. Like those big, boxy Caddies (and like Howlin' Wolf, if he did say so himself), it's built for comfort, not for speed. It hums, it purrs and it roars.
''Cadillac Records'' is rated R (Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian). It has smoking, swearing, sex and mayhem in excess, which is just the right amount.
Opens on Friday nationwide.
Written and directed by Darnell Martin; director of photography, Anastas Michos; edited by Peter C. Frank; music by Terence Blanchard; production designer, Linda Burton; produced by Andrew Lack and Sofia Sondervan; released by TriStar Pictures. Running time: 1 hour 48 minutes.
WITH: Adrien Brody (Leonard Chess), Jeffrey Wright (Muddy Waters), Gabrielle Union (Geneva Wade), Columbus Short (Little Walter), Cedric the Entertainer (Willie Dixon), Emmanuelle Chriqui (Revetta Chess), Eamonn Walker (Howlin' Wolf), Eric Bogosian (Alan Freed), Mos Def (Chuck Berry) and Beyonce Knowles (Etta James).
SUBJECT: AFRICAN AMERICANS (90%); MOVIE REVIEWS (90%); FILM (90%); ARTISTS & PERFORMERS (89%); STRINGED INSTRUMENTS (89%); VISUAL & PERFORMING ARTS (78%); SONG WRITING (77%); DRAMA FILMS (72%); POP & ROCK (72%); PROFILES & BIOGRAPHIES (61%); SINGERS & MUSICIANS (90%)
PERSON: BEYONCE KNOWLES (52%)
GEOGRAPHIC: UNITED STATES (90%)
TITLE: Cadillac Records (Movie)>; Cadillac Records (Movie)>
LOAD-DATE: December 5, 2008
GRAPHIC: PHOTOS: Cadillac Records: Jeffrey Wright as the bluesman Muddy Waters in this film, which opens nationwide on Friday.(PHOTOGRAPH BY ERIC LIEBOWITZ/SONY TRISTAR PICTURES)
From left, Kevin Mambo as Jimmy Rogers, Columbus Short as Little Walter and Jeffrey Wright as Muddy Waters.(PHOTOGRAPH BY ERIC LIEBOWITZ/SONY TRISTAR PICTURES)(pg. C6)
Copyright 2008 The New York Times Company
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The New York Times
December 5, 2008 Friday
Late Edition - Final
SECTION: Section C; Column 0; Movies, Performing Arts/Weekend Desk; Pg. 19
LENGTH: 3289 words
Approximate running times are in parentheses. Theaters are in Manhattan unless otherwise noted. Full reviews of current shows, additional listings, showtimes and tickets: nytimes.com/theater.
Previews and Openings
'BEASLEY'S CHRISTMAS PARTY' In previews; opens on Sunday. The Keen Company unearths this holiday play by Booth Tarkington (''The Magnificent Ambersons'') about a curious journalist and his unusual next-door neighbors (1:30). Clurman Theater, 410 West 42nd Street, Clinton, (212) 279-4200.
'CHAIR' Previews start on Friday. Opens on Thursday. Theater for a New Audience presents a revival of Edward Bond's rarely produced vision of an Orwellian world in which a kindly gesture brings unexpected consequences (1:30). The Duke Theater, 229 West 42nd Street, (646) 323-3010.
'THE CRIPPLE OF INISHMAAN' Previews start on Tuesday. Opens on Dec. 18. Garry Hynes directs this revival of Martin McDonagh's play about a Hollywood filmmaker arriving in a sleepy corner of Ireland to shoot his new film. A co-production of the Druid Theater and the Atlantic Theater Company. Atlantic Theater, 336 West 20th Street, Chelsea, (212) 279-4200.
'HOME' In previews; opens on Sunday. Part of the Signature's season of works by the Negro Ensemble Company, this is a revival of Samm-Art Williams's play about a man who goes north to find prosperity (1:40). Signature Theater Company at the Peter Norton Space, 555 West 42nd Street, Clinton, (212) 244-7529.
'NEW HOUSE UNDER CONSTRUCTION' In previews; opens on Wednesday. This world-premiere drama follows two married couples who reunite in the town they grew up in (2:00). 59E59 Theaters, 59 East 59th Street, (212) 279-4200.
'PAL JOEY' In previews; opens on Dec. 18. Matthew Risch plays the title role in this long-awaited revival of the 1940 Rodgers and Hart musical about a song-and-dance man from Chicago who dreams of owning a nightclub. Richard Greenberg has revised the book. Studio 54, 254 West 54th Street, (212) 719-1300.
'PRAYER FOR MY ENEMY' In previews; opens on Tuesday. Childhood friends are reunited on the eve of the first tour of duty in Baghdad for one of them in this New York premiere by Craig Lucas (1:40). Playwrights Horizons, 416 West 42nd Street, Clinton, (212) 279-4200.
'SHREK THE MUSICAL' In previews; opens on Dec. 14. Broadway's spin on the beloved animated movie, with music and book by Jeanine Tesori (''Caroline, or Change'') and David Lindsay-Abaire (''Rabbit Hole''). Broadway Theater, 1681 Broadway, at 53rd Street, (212) 239-6200.
'SLAVA'S SNOWSHOW' In previews; opens on Sunday. This Russian clowning spectacle moves to Broadway (1:30). Helen Hayes Theater, 240 West 44th Street, (212) 239-6200.
'WOMAN BEWARE WOMAN' Previews start on Tuesday. Opens on Dec. 14. Red Bull Theater revives Thomas Middleton's Jacobean satire of sexual politics (2:15). Theater at St. Clements, 423 West 46th Street, Clinton, (212) 352-3101.
* 'ALFRED HITCHCOCK'S THE 39 STEPS' An absurdly enjoyable, gleefully theatrical riff on the 1935 Hitchcock movie, directed by Maria Aitken and featuring a cast of four that feels like a cast of thousands. This fast, frothy exercise in legerdemain is throwaway theater at its finest (1:45). Cort Theater, 138 West 48th Street, (212) 239-6200. (Ben Brantley)
* 'AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY' Tracy Letts's turbocharged tragicomedy about an Oklahoma clan in a state of near-apocalyptic meltdown is the most exciting new American play Broadway has seen in years. Fiercely funny and bitingly sad, it somehow finds fresh sources of insight in that classic staple of the stage, the disintegrating American family (3:20). Music Box Theater, 239 West 45th Street, (212) 239-6200. (Charles Isherwood)
'BILLY ELLIOT THE MUSICAL' An exultant exploration of the urge to dance that both artfully anatomizes and brazenly exploits the fundamental appeal of musicals themselves. This film-based tale of a coal miner's son with ballet dreams has been staged with prodigious inventiveness by the director Stephen Daldry and the choreographer Peter Darling, with soulful music by Elton John (2:50). Imperial Theater, 249 West 45th Street, (212) 239-6200.
'DIVIDING THE ESTATE' Horton Foote's tart and delicious comedy about a fraying, squabbling Texas family in financial straits features an ideally balanced ensemble and a portrait of true comic genius from Hallie Foote, the playwright's daughter. Michael Wilson directs a fine, funny cast that includes Elizabeth Ashley, Gerald McRaney and Penny Fuller (2:15). Booth Theater, 222 West 45th Street, (212) 239-6200. (Brantley)
'EQUUS' Peter Shaffer's upper-middle-brow psychodrama from 1973 returns in Thea Sharrock's oddly arid revival, enlivened by two fine performances: Daniel Radcliffe makes an impressive Broadway debut as the stableboy who commits crimes against horses, and Richard Griffiths is superb as his ambivalent psychiatrist (2:40). Broadhurst Theater, 235 West 44th Street, (212) 239-6200. (Brantley)
* 'GYPSY' As the dangerously obsessed Momma Rose, Patti LuPone has found her focus. And when Ms. LuPone is truly focused, she's a laser, she incinerates. Directed by Arthur Laurents, this wallop-packing incarnation of the great musical showbiz fable, also starring the superb Boyd Gaines and Laura Benanti, shines with a magnified, soul-revealing transparency (2:30). St. James Theater, 246 West 44th Street, (212) 239-6200. (Brantley)
* 'IN THE HEIGHTS' Lin-Manuel Miranda, who wrote the bubbly Latin pop score for this musical about barrio life, also gives a captivating performance as the owner of a bodega who dispenses good cheer along with cafe con leche. Zesty choreography and a host of lively performers are among its other assets; its fundamental flaw is a vivid streak of sentimentality (2:20). Richard Rodgers Theater, 226 West 46th Street, (212) 307-4100. (Isherwood)
'IRVING BERLIN'S WHITE CHRISTMAS' A bland, efficient stage retread of the 1954 Bing Crosby-Danny Kaye movie, with extra Irving Berlin songs stuffed in the stocking. Not for the kitsch-averse (2:30). Marquis Theater, 1535 Broadway, at 45th Street, (212) 307-4100. (Isherwood)
'A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS' As the title character in this respectful revival of Robert Bolt's 1960 drama about Sir Thomas More's road to martyrdom in the age of Henry VIII, Frank Langella haloes himself with Great Presence incandescence. But even he can't find much variety in the monolithic goodness of his role. Doug Hughes directs (2:40). American Airlines Theater, 227 West 42nd Street, (212) 719-1300. (Brantley)
'THE SEAGULL' Ian Rickson's production, starring Kristin Scott Thomas, may be the finest and most fully involving presentation of Chekhov of this generation. Mackenzie Crook, Peter Sarsgaard, Carey Mulligan and Zoe Kazan are part of a top-flight cast that finds as much heartbreaking eloquence in silence as in speech (2:45). Walter Kerr Theater, 219 West 48th Street, (212) 239-6200. (Brantley)
'SPEED-THE-PLOW' Neil Pepe's exhilarating revival of David Mamet's short and unsparing study of sharks in the shallows of Hollywood moves like a world-class roller coaster. Starring the ace team of Jeremy Piven, Raul Esparza and Elisabeth Moss, who lead us through corkscrew curves at top velocity (1:25). Barrymore Theater, 243 West 47th Street, (212) 239-6200. (Brantley)
'THE ATHEIST' Campbell Scott stars as a corrupt reporter merrily recounting the misdeeds that made his name in this stale solo show by Ronan Noone. Mr. Scott's altar-boyish good looks make for a piquant contrast with his character's corroded soul, but the writing doesn't give him much to work with (1:45). Barrow Street Theater, 27 Barrow Street, West Village, (212) 352-3101.
'BACK BACK BACK' A disappointingly unjuicy drama about baseball's steroids scandal by Itamar Moses. Three players in the Major Leagues represent various attitudes to the use of suspicious substances. Unfortunately not one is a memorable or richly imagined character (1:35). Manhattan Theater Club, City Center, 131 West 55th Street, (212) 581-1212. (Isherwood)
'BLACK WATCH' Gregory Burke's transfixing play from the National Theater of Scotland, inspired by interviews with soldiers who served in Iraq, is a glorious reminder of the transporting power of the theater. John Tiffany directs this seamless, haunting mix of drama, song and dance (1:50). St. Ann's Warehouse, 38 Water Street, at Dock Street, Dumbo, Brooklyn, (718) 254-8779. (Brantley)
'BLASTED' At long last, Sarah Kane's astounding drama, first staged in London in 1995, arrives in New York. As directed by Sarah Benson and acted by a three-member ensemble with the bravery of hang gliders in a storm, Ms. Kane's disturbing, vital study of the human instinct for inhumanity still registers off the Richter scale as a shocker(1:15). SoHo Rep, 46 Walker Street, between Church Street and Broadway, TriBeCa, (212) 941-8632. (Brantley)
'THE CASTLE' Four ex-convicts tell how they returned to society in this simple and fascinating, if at times overearnest, production. In this nation of overcrowded prisons, its message that we reconsider our treatment of ex-felons is well worth considering (1:00). New World Stages, 340 West 50th Street, Clinton, (212) 239-6200. (Andy Webster)
'CATCH-22' This ambitious and sometimes effective adaptation for the stage of Joseph Heller's classic absurdist novel about World War II ultimately does not overcome the problem of condensing Heller's surreal panorama of hell into a two-hour play (2:15). Lucille Lortel Theater, 121 Christopher Street, West Village, (212) 279-4200. (Wilborn Hampton)
'FORBIDDEN BROADWAY GOES TO REHAB' Having announced that it would be officially ending its merry reign of terror on January 15, Gerard Alessandrini's satirical revue has been blessed with that have-to-win energy that descends on weary racers near the finish line. The liveliest, sauciest and (given its imminent departure) saddest edition in years (1:30). 47th Street Theater, 304 West 47th Street, Clinton, (212) 239-6200. (Brantley)
'GARDEN OF EARTHLY DELIGHTS' Martha Clarke's theatrical meditation on a triptych by Hieronymus Bosch is one of the most haunting spectacles of flesh ever seen on a New York stage. This new, revised production of Ms. Clarke's 1984 dance drama explores notions of sin and salvation, sex and society in imagery that is dark, knotted and utterly spellbinding (1:15). Minetta Lane Theater, 18 Minetta Lane, Greenwich Village, (212) 307-4100. (Isherwood)
'GEOMETRY OF FIRE' Stephen Belber's low-key drama splits its focus between an Iraq war veteran traumatized by his experience and a Saudi-American seeking justice for his dying father. Featuring a quietly compelling performance by Kevin O'Donnell as the ex-marine (1:30). Rattlestick Playwrights Theater, 224 Waverly Place, Greenwich Village, (212) 868-4444. (Isherwood)
'HILLARY: A MODERN GREEK TRAGEDY WITH A (SOMEWHAT) HAPPY ENDING' You may think it's way too early to hear a replay of Bill and Hillary Clinton's years in the White House, but Wendy Weiner keeps it surprisingly fresh, largely by adding Athena and Aphrodite to the mix. Mrs. Clinton becomes a figure both heroic and tragic, pledged to Athena and tormented by the jealous Aphrodite, who sends along Bill Clinton to hinder young Hillary's ambitious plans. Not very deep, perhaps, but funny (1:30). Living Theater, 21 Clinton Street, Lower East Side, (212) 868-4444, (Neil Genzlinger)
'LONDON CRIES' This new musical by Frank McGuinness and the director Di Trevis, adapted from Henry Mayhew's classic survey ''London Labour and the London Poor,'' has its charms but not much bite. If you're going to offer boilerplate interpretations of Victorian London's impoverished masses, they need to be a bit more colorful than this (1:30). Irondale Ensemble Project, the Irondale Center in the Lafayette Avenue Presbyterian Church, 85 South Oxford Street, Fort Greene, Brooklyn, (212) 352-3101. (Claudia La Rocco)
'MINDGAME' Keith Carradine plays the proprietor of a cozy mental institution in this cheesy, old-fashioned thriller along the lines of ''Sleuth.'' The British film director Ken Russell doesn't seem to know whether to take this high-octane hokum seriously. Neither did I (2:20). SoHo Playhouse, 15 Vandam Street, South Village, (212) 691-1555. (Isherwood)
'MY VAUDEVILLE MAN' The short but colorful life of the hoofer Jack Donahue is celebrated in this new musical, presented by the York Theater Company. Don't expect fireworks, but this two person, two-hour show aims to please, and mostly does (2:00). York Theater, St. Peter's Lutheran Church, Lexington Avenue at 54th Street, (212) 935-5820. (La Rocco)
'PARKING LOT LONELY HEART' Colin McKenna pins a lot of his new drama to a shopworn device -- man hires prostitute but just wants to talk to her -- yet there are interesting dynamics once the play gets going. The man, Mickey, has a drug-addled teenage daughter and wants to tell the prostitute all about her. Craig Lee Thomas as the daughter's boyfriend is the high point of this production by Boomerang Theater Company(1:30). Center Stage, 48 West 21st Street, (212) 501-4069. (Genzlinger)
'ROAD SHOW' The trimmed-down, toughened-up and seriously darkened new edition of the musical by Stephen Sondheim and John Weidman formerly known as ''Wise Guys,'' ''Gold'' and ''Bounce.'' This musical biography of the entrepreneurial Mizner brothers, directed by John Doyle, still feels mighty slender. But it has terrific leading performances from Michael Cerveris and Alexander Gemignani (1:40). Public Theater, 425 Lafayette Street, at Astor Place, East Village, (212) 967-7555. (Brantley)
'ROCK OF AGES' The great hair bands of the 1980s finally receive their due in this brash, comic jukebox musical, packed with songs by the likes of Twisted Sister, Poison and Bon Jovi. The flash-and-trash production values and high spirits are agreeable, and Will Swenson of this summer's Central Park ''Hair'' is terrific as a preening rooster of a rock star. But the show is ultimately undone by a bloodless sheen not unlike that of the songs it affectionately pokes fun at (2:15). New World Stages, 340 West 50th Street, Clinton, (212) 239-6200. (Webster)
'SATURN RETURNS' Noah Haidle's wintry drama about an 88-year-old doctor, beautifully played by John McMartin, reckoning with the ghosts of the women he loved and lost. Elegantly structured and infused with a quiet melancholy, the play has problems of tone -- and plausibility (1:10). Mitzi E. Newhouse Theater, 150 West 65th Street, (212) 239-6200.
'SLEEPWALK WITH ME' The comic Mike Birbiglia weaves an 85-minute monologue around his problems with sleepwalking, and his timing, delivery and pacing are just about perfect. The detours he makes from his main story are many and long, and always rewarding (1:25). Bleecker Street Theater, 45 Bleecker Street, at Lafayette Street, East Village, (212) 239-6200. (Genzlinger)
'STREAMERS' A mostly terrific, mostly young cast brings captivating emotional truth to David Rabe's 1976 drama about the sexual and racial tensions among soldiers getting ready to be shipped to Vietnam. The production, directed by Scott Ellis, builds slowly to an explosive climax (2:15). Laura Pels Theater, 111 West 46th Street, (212) 719-1300.
'TAKING OVER' A fiery, polemical portrait gallery of native Brooklynites under siege from gentrification, created and embodied by the extravagantly talented Danny Hoch. The show zigzags between peaks of brilliance and plateaus of preachiness. But its snapshots of a Dominican taxi dispatcher and an insurrectionary rap artist are priceless (1:35). Public Theater, 425 Lafayette Street, at Astor Place, East Village, (212) 967-7555. (Brantley)
Off Off Broadway
'ARIAS WITH A TWIST' Eat your heart out, Madonna. The chanteuses who play Madison Square Garden have never experienced the imaginative heights of spectacle with which the puppet master Basil Twist surrounds the drag performer Joey Arias. Despite the presence of some enchanting marionettes, this is not, for the record, a kiddie show (1:10). Here Arts Center, 145 Avenue of the Americas, at Dominick Street, South Village, (212) 352-3101. (Brantley)
'GAUGUIN/SAVAGE LIGHT' George Fischoff, who composed some 1960s pop hits, accompanies himself energetically in this one-man musical about Paul Gauguin. Mr. Fischoff gives a pocket biography of Gauguin, surrounded by reproductions of that artist's paintings. Saturdays and Sundays, Studio 353, 353 West 48th Street, Clinton, (212) 868-4444.
'THE LANGUAGE OF TREES' Steven Lenson's drama depicts both the traumatic experience of an interpreter in the Iraq war and the fallout at home, where his wife struggles to find the words to impart the painful truth to their young son. Sensitively acted and written, although the flights into fancy are problematic (1:30). Roundabout Black Box Theater, at the Harold and Miriam Steinberg Center for Theater, 111 West 46th Street, (212) 719-1300.
'BIG APPLE CIRCUS: PLAY ON!' Thoroughly entertaining (2:15). Damrosch Park, Lincoln Center, (800) 922-3772. (Lawrence Van Gelder)
'BIRDHOUSE FACTORY' Engrossingly entertaining (1:20). The New Victory Theater, 229 West 42nd Street, (646) 223-3010. (Van Gelder)
'THE RADIO CITY CHRISTMAS SPECTACULAR' Radiant and heartwarming (1:30). Radio City Music Hall, (212) 307-4100. (Van Gelder)
'WINTUK' The French Canadian juggernaut Cirque du Soleil brings its coolly professional, whimsy-filled kids' show about the search for a snow day back for the holiday season (1:30). WaMu Theater at Madison Square Garden, (212) 307-1000.
'CAPTURE NOW' In this one-man show the actor-playwright Josh Jonas tells a Long Island tale of a teenager, Elijah, and his bond with his younger brother, Ace. Elijah teaches Ace a lot about rock 'n' roll, and Ace has much to teach him about love and life -- before terminal illness descends. The built-in emotional sledgehammer in this production is almost too obvious, and yet Mr. Jonas effectively conveys the illusion of personal experience. No small feat, that (1:30). Theaters at 45 Bleecker Street, at Lafayette Street, East Village, (212) 239-6200; closes on Saturday. (Webster)
'CARAPACE ISLE' In Jim Courie's sympathetic but undercooked comic drama, a young New York artist battling cancer goes home to her parents in North Carolina and finds much less than the comfort she'd hoped for (1:30). Manhattan Repertory Theater, 303 West 42nd Street, Clinton, (646) 329-6588; closes on Friday. (Anita Gates)
'DAWN' Thomas Bradshaw has written some aggressively provocative plays, and with ''Dawn,'' a tale of alcoholism and incest, he is to some extent a victim of his own notoriety. He takes a very long time rolling out what appears to be an ordinary tale of a man finding salvation through Alcoholics Anonymous. It becomes tedious because you know he's going to become scandalous eventually. When he finally does, the play, performed by the Bat Theater Company at the Flea, catches fire (1:30). the Flea Theater, 41 White Street, near Church Street, TriBeCa, (212) 352-3101; closes on Saturday.
'MOUTH TO MOUTH' Kevin Elyot's mordant, mournful play about the limits of friendship and family, as embodied by a group of solipsistic Londoners. Ruthlessly observed and deftly acted, under Mark Brokaw's direction, with an outstanding performance by David Cale as a dangerously needy gay man (2:00). Acorn Theater on Theater Row, 410 West 42nd Street, Clinton, (212) 279-4200; closes on Sunday. (Brantley)