TO AUG. 29

If you like HBO’s Oz, you’ll love the Essential Theater Co.’s Short Eyes. Executive Producer Troy L. Patterson explains that for its first fully staged production, ETC chose deceased Nuyorican playwright Miguel Pinero’s prison drama because “it shows us that power is not always what we expect it to be.” ETC’s mission is “to develop…the artist whose voice is both intrinsically African-American and strives to celebrate and understand our relationships with other cultures” and to serve as a “forum for…’outsider’ artists to develop their voices.” Piþ2ero was definitely an outsider when he wrote Short Eyes, which went on to win the New York Drama Critics’ Circle Citation as 1974’s Best American Play: He was an inmate at New York’s Ossining State Prison. What happens when the child molester next door ends up in a shark tank of inmates awaiting trial is graphic, intense, and—dare I say—arresting. Director Anton Dudley has assembled a group of actors who, with few exceptions, give truly realistic performances as “hacks,” “parfaits,” and “bandidos.” Almost lighthearted during a musical-theater-style group number, these prisoners are frightening, yet loveable, as they explore issues of race, power, and justice. And Ice Wicker’s (KenYatta Rogers) hilarious monologue about having sex with Jane Fonda that is so riveting, you’ll wonder why Rogers isn’t already famous. At 8 p.m. Friday, Saturday, and Thursday and 7:30 p.m. Sunday, to Sunday, Aug. 29, at the D.C. Jewish Community Center’s Goldman Theater, 16th & Q Sts. NW. $15. (703) 218-6500. (Amanda Fazzone)