`Golf' tees up for run at Circle

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"Golf," a drama by poet Susan Hahn that debuts Wednesday at Circle Theatre, depicts much more than its title sport. Wandering all over the map, this image-haunted world premiere exposes the "games of life" and the rules of those games as they apply to war, fashion, golf and love.

Moving between locations and world wars, Hahn connects two sets of lovers and fantasizes about fashion designer Coco Chanel making a dress for Hitler's beloved Eva Braun.

"The women--Chanel and Braun--are drawn to powerful warriors. The focus is on how women choose different strategies to survive their men's obsession with golf and war," says director Ann Filmer. "[Hahn] contrasts the graceful rules of golf, where everything is left as it was found, with the rules of war, where you leave your mark in the worst way possible."

"TO THE GREEN FIELDS BEYOND," Writers Theatre, 325 Tudor Court: More on war. A North American premiere when it opens Tuesday, Nick Whitby's slice-of-death from 2000 focuses on the last days of World War I.

Eight soldiers, huddled in a forest on the eve of battle, prepare for the worst, putting their trust in a primitive tank that lacks sufficient armor plating. Should survival take precedence over obeying suicidal orders? How does loyalty stack up against danger?

For director Kate Buckley the play is another argument for honoring the warrior if not the war. "I compare the play to Shakespeare's campfire scene between Henry V and his soldiers the night before the battle of Agincourt--a time of preparation, reflection, questioning, friendship and a determination to live beyond it all," she says. "It's a play about average men in precarious situations and how they deal with it on a moral level." Closes April 3.

"CLOSER THAN EVER," Porchlight Music Theatre at Theatre Building: Continuing its 10th anniversary season (dedicated to the Broadway offerings of Richard Maltby and David Shire), this anthology opens Sunday to offer a selection of 22 "story songs" that never made it to the stage.

A companion piece to Maltby and Shire's "Starting Here, Starting Now" (which celebrated youth's optimism, first dates, first loves and first kisses), "Closer Than Ever" focuses on later life--aging, mid-life crises and second marriages.

It's an antidote to empty-headed, feel-good shows where people only sing from pleasure, says director Nick Bowling. "It's a musical about second thoughts and second chances. There's a bittersweet quality to the confusion and drift of these characters as they cope with the monotony of marriage and the loneliness of middle age." Closes March 13.

"THE LAST TWO MINUTES OF THE COMPLETE WORKS OF HENRIK IBSEN," Neo-Futurists at Neo-Futurarium: Director Greg Allen takes the last two (or so) minutes of all 26 plays by Henrik Ibsen (including such obscure offerings as "The Feast of Solhaug," "Lady Inger of Ostrat" and "When We Dead Awaken") and slams them into one show.

From Peer Gynt's demise and Nora's departure, Hedvig's doom and Hedda's suicide, "Last Two Minutes" offers tragedy without exposition, and payoffs without set-ups.

"Ibsen's plays are famous for having these blockbuster, punch-in-the-gut climaxes immediately followed by the curtain. From suicides to madness to assassination, we stage them all, including two avalanches," says Allen of his 22nd production for the Neo-Futurists. "The challenge is to achieve the impact of a dramatic climax without the plot build-up. Can these moments stand on their own? Incidentally, we do them in chronological order so you can see the development in his style from folk tales to melodrama to realism to expressionism." The Neo-Futurists cut to the chase starting Saturday. Closes March 5.

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