RECOMMENDED: THE FIVE BEST PLAYS

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CLOSER. Marber's searing follow-up to 'Dealer's Choice' establishes him as the leading playwright of his generation. Lyric Theatre, WC2 (0171 452 3000), to 11 Jul. Mon-Sat 7.30. M: Wed & Sat 3.00.

MAJOR BARBARA. The sharpest comment on modern politics comes in Peter Hall's inspired revival of Shaw's 1905 play about poverty and the arms trade. The ever suave Peter Bowles delivers arguments as lethal as the weapons he manufactures. Piccadilly Theatre (0171 369 1734), in rep to 4 Jul. Tues-Sat 7.15. M: Sat 3.00, Wed 2.30

THREE BY HAROLD PINTER. If you see any of these plays, 'A Kind of Alaska' is as tense and moving a 55 minutes as you could imagine. But see all three, and you get Pinter himself as a hilariously testy figure in 'The Collection'. Donmar Warehouse, WC2 (0171 369 1732), to 13 Jun. Mon-Sat 7.00, 8.15. M: Wed & Sat 2.00, 3.15.

TALK OF THE CITY. Stephen Poliakoff's intriguingly apposite play about the BBC in the 1930s is a delicious mix of showbiz brio, mystery, and period detail. RSC Swan (01789 295623), in rep to 7 Sept. Mon-Sat 7.30. M: Thurs & Sat 1.30.

OTHELLO. Sam Mendes's superbly detailed Thirties production has a show- stealing Simon Russell Beale as Iago and a glamorously authoritative David Harewood as Othello. Lyttelton, SE1 (0171 452 3000), in rep to 13 Jun. Mon & Tues 7.30. M: Tues 1.30.

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