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TO JANUARY 3

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This dark comedy, for which the Bard penned what is unquestionably the world’s most quoted stage direction (“Exit, pursued by a bear”), is a real bear to stage. It starts as an outright tragedy about a king whose unfounded jealousy drives his wife and son to their graves, and then it lapses into bumpkinish tomfoolery for a while before wrapping up its original plotline in a less-than-tragic manner. Call it a challenge to sort out, and note that despite generally fine performances and a quirky staging concept that invokes everything from Bob Fosse’s Cabaret to Beach Blanket movies to ’50s HUAC hearings, Washington Shakespeare Company’s production doesn’t really rise to it. As with his more successful mounting last year of The Two Gentlemen of Verona, director Tom Mallan has nonetheless encouraged some splendid playing. Richard Dorton, who’s made subdued impressions in his previous performances hereabouts, is revealed this time as a strapping, athletic comic who can play a goofy thief and belt out an Elvis tune with equal aplomb. John Emmert, whose king is rendingly conflicted, and Ian LeValley and Kerri Rambow as the perplexed objects of his jealousy, are also fine. Their contributions are balanced, unfortunately, by a staging concept that flatly doesn’t work: the interpolation of sonnets sung by a Joel Grey-like MC (Joseph Perna). Through no fault of the performer, these ditties do little more than throw the audience off balance and interrupt the flow of events. The Winter’s Tale plays at 8 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday through Jan. 3, at the Clark Street Playhouse, 601 S. Clark St., Arlington. $17.50-22. (703) 418-4808. (Bob Mondello)