THEATRE: THEATRE REVIEWS

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Of Thee I Sing

Bridewell Theatre, London EC4 (0171-936 3456)

A musical about an American president who has abandoned principles to get elected, runs into a sex scandal and is threatened with impeachment. No, not Clinton: this delicious comedy was written in 1931 by the Gershwins. Jonathan Best's low-budget, high- energy production has plenty of fizz, a 23-strong cast having fun and excellent choreography by Stephen Mears, a talent to watch. Infectious fun.

Jeffrey Bernard Is Unwell

Old Vic, London SE1 (0171-494 5372)

The return of Keith Waterhouse's excellent 1989 play about the writer of the infamous Low Life column in The Spectator once again stars the incomparably and glancingly tragic Peter O'Toole, who veers brilliantly between the rackety and the fastidious and looks like a unmade bed. The play now feels a shade more melancholic, but you also more fully appreciate the undeceived wit as Bernard hurtles towards his ruin.

The Darker Face of the Earth

Cottesloe, National Theatre, London SE1 (0171-452 3000)

Rita Dove, the US's first African-American poet laureate, has relocated the Oedipus story to a plantation in pre-Civil War South Carolina. But this Sophocles-and-slavery mix is sometimes hard to watch with a straight face. Peter de Jersey leads a strong black cast which rises to an almost impossible challenge, but they and the beautifully atmospheric staging cannot entirely disguise highbrow hokum. In rep.

PT

The Importance of Being Earnest

Haymarket Theatre Royal, London SW1 (0171-930 8800)

You may be utterly seduced by Christopher Morahan's refreshingly "straight" account of this comedy, in which the subversive subtext is allowed to gleam through the poised, dextrous delivery of Wilde's artificial wit. Saskia Wickham's wittily redoubtable Gwendolen is matched by splendid Rebecca Johnson as Cecily, and Patricia Routledge's marvellously upholstered, stone-faced Bracknell works up hilarious variations.

PT

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