ON STAGE

An occasional update of New York theater openings.

* Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992 (Opens April 17 at the Cort Theater): Anna Deavere Smith, who won acclaim for her earlier one-woman piece, ``Fires in the Mirror,'' in which she portrayed various characters involved in the Crown Heights riots, ups the ante with her new work, ``Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992.'' It recently completed a sold-out run at the Joseph Papp Public Theatre, and will shortly be reopening for a limited Broadway engagement.

``Twilight'' is concerned with the Los Angeles riots following the Rodney King trial. There's a disquieting air of escalation about the piece: Everything is bigger - more characters, a more elaborate production (video, projections, etc.), and a longer running time. It befits the gravity of the subject, but it leaves one wondering where Smith will go from here.

Smith's work is really more notable as journalism than theater. There is no reason for it to exist on a stage, as opposed to on print or film, other than to showcase her amazing chameleon-like acting talents. Seamlessly directed by George C. Wolfe, this is an impressive and enlightening achievement.

* Jackie Mason: Politically Incorrect (The John Golden Theatre): Several years ago, who would have thought that a ``borscht-belt'' comedian would become one of our more impressive social commentators? But that's exactly what Jackie Mason has become, as evidenced by his third one-man Broadway show. He applies his familiar brand of aggrieved humor to such issues as political correctness, President Clinton and the Whitewater mess, and, yes, he has found even more differences between Jews and Gentiles. At times, he lets his newfound prominence in political affairs get the better of him, as he indulges in pompous lecturing rather than joke-telling. But at his best, as he often is here, he gets just as many laughs from simple truths as from jokes. That's the mark of a great comedian.

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