An occasional update of New York theater openings
A FAIR COUNTRY - (At Mitzi E. Newhouse Theater, Lincoln Center): The latest play by Jon Robin Baitz (who wrote ''Three Hotels'' and ''Substance of Fire'') depicts the traumas of a minor-level diplomat (Laurence Luckinbill) stationed in South Africa and the Faustian bargain he makes that tears his family apart. The play is flawed and uneven, but the playwright's gifts for characterization and dialogue make for an always-stimulating experience. The piece has been given a superb production, and Judith Ivey, playing the long-suffering wife, is riveting.Skip to next paragraph
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THE GREEN BIRD - (At New Victory Theatre through March 24): Julie Taymor, acclaimed for multimedia productions such as ''Juan Darien'' and ''Titus Andronicus,'' delivers an adaptation of the classic 18th-century farce by Carlo Gozzi about the trials and tribulations of a pair of twins reclaiming their royal heritage. Utilizing puppetry and masks and theatrical styles ranging from commedia dell'arte to vaudeville shtick, the production sports visual delights that go a long way toward offsetting the many dull passages. The plentiful spectacles include a group of giant apple-headed women; a huge talking-head statue; and the title character, a soaring puppet. The musical score is by Taymor's frequent collaborator Elliott Goldenthal, currently a top movie soundtrack composer (''Interview With the Vampire,'' ''Batman Returns'').
A LOT OF LIVING! THE MUSIC OF CHARLES STROUSE -
(At Rainbow & Stars through March 30): Linda Lavin stars in a delightful musical revue featuring the songs of one of Broadway's leading composers (''Annie,'' ''Bye Bye Birdie,'' ''Applause,'' ''Golden Boy,'' and many others). Although the show tries to pack too many songs into its brief (one hour) running time, it is consistently entertaining. Lavin, who got her big break with a featured role in Strouse's ''It's a Bird ... It's a Plane ... It's Superman,'' doesn't have the greatest of singing voices, but her timing and acting ability put the material across. She receives able support from co-stars Bill Ullman and Stuart Zagnit.