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TO MAY 16

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Ah, girls’ summer camp, where young women get together to sing songs around a campfire, tell scary stories about lake monsters, and hang out with a tattooed, dreadlocked, Stone Butch Blues–toting arts-and-crafts counselor. The Venus Theatre’s production of Carolyn Gage’s Ugly Ducklings shatters the cloying girls’-camp idyll with such colorful characters as angsty pathological liar Toni (played by the electrifying K.C. Wright, pictured, right, with Rosalie Fischer, left), a preteen who craves the attention of her canoeing instructor—the principled, navel-baring Angie (Cindy Marie Martin)—and will stop at nothing to get it. Then there’s the troupe of elementary- and middle-school-age campers (played unsettlingly, and convincingly, by child actors) whose favorite epithets for nonconformist behavior are “queer” and “homo.” Meanwhile, the camp’s director, Charlotte (Linda Kenyon), who, it’s intimated, is a closeted lesbian herself, struggles to rein in all the acting-out going on around her. Over the course of one long day, all the central characters’ assumptions about sexual identity and integrity come under attack. The unrelentingly earnest play could stand to take a few cues from Wet Hot American Summer. But director Deborah Randall successfully uses a cramped performance space to amplify the multiethnic cast’s struggles with passions and moral development in a way that’s much more accessible to today’s youth than, say, Henry IV. The show starts at 8 p.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays, and Sunday, April 25, and at 3 p.m. Sundays, to Sunday, May 16, at the Warehouse Theater, 1021 7th St. NW. $15. (301) 470-2406. (Bidisha Banerjee)