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THROUGH JANUARY 31

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Because it is a play about construction and transformation, Pygmalion, more than George Bernard Shaw’s other dramas, lends itself to be toyed with and re-imagined like a theatrical Erector set. Theatre Du Jour’s current production is performed by a mostly African-American cast and sets young Eliza Doolittle’s evolution not in London as originally written but in the gutters and stately mansions of Atlanta, Ga. Though director B. Stanley (who also plays Professor Higgins as a creepy Humbert Humbert type) leaves the play’s time undetermined, the production’s tone is not: It’s decidedly unsettling. All memories of Audrey Hepburn lip-syncing “The Rain in Spain” evaporate when Higgins and Pickering (a roly-poly Dan Awkward) wheel out ghoulish lab instruments (think Dead Ringers) to aid Eliza’s re-education. Carnival music and a swirl of lights turn Eliza’s waltz lesson into a gruesome danse macabre. And the play’s ending has never been as disturbing or effective: Eliza, successfully changed from caterpillar to butterfly, now finds herself trapped in genteel society’s strangling web. Grim and daring, Du Jour’s Pygmalion also benefits from strong acting—especially by 12-year-old Amelia Workman as Eliza and Joseph Mills as her father—and inventive lighting design that uses slide projections to alternately expand and shrink DCAC’s cramped playing space. Pygmalion plays at 10 p.m. Friday & Saturday and 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at District of Columbia Arts Center, 2438 18th St. NW. $12. (202) 462-7833. (Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa)