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TO JULY 17
When’s camp too campy? When it’s forced. D.C.’s reigning camp champs, Cherry Red Productions, have mounted another soup-to-nuts experimental theater experience, leaving no stone unturned, from the lobby decorations to the on-stage audience participation. But unfortunately, Joe Orton’s The Erpingham Camp lacks the luster of Cherry Red’s previous production, Cannibal Cheerleaders on Crack. When Orton wrote this farce about a forced leisure camp and its guest-led mutiny in the mid-’60s, he undoubtedly intended it to be performed with equal parts Howards End-style realism and Fawlty Towers-style humor by classically trained British actors. Problem is, director Chris Griffin based this production on cartoons; amidst the Saturday morning acting and props, the over-the-top characters lose their believability and draw the play’s focus away from its anti-fascism message. Amy Black and Ian Allen are hilarious, and Anton Dudley’s Harlequin-style physical comedy is well-executed (and also misplaced and distracting), but the cast’s accents are inconsistent and belie the power of Orton’s ironic humor. Since D.C. has so little avant-garde theater, Cherry Red deserves some credit for tackling one of Britain’s most challenging playwrights with its characteristic chutzpah—after all, there’s still nudity. And kudos must go to costume designers Kelly O’Dell and Lola Lombard for their excellent work and to Griffin for his creative use of the production’s bilevel set. But for some real fun, you’ll have to wait until Crack comes back. At 8 p.m. Wednesday to Saturday, to Saturday July 17, at Studio 1019, 1019 7th St. NW. $15. (202) 675-3071. (Amanda Fazzone)