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Henry V, Divas, Cherry Trees, Porgy, ‘Colf’: Great D.C. Weekend

Homo Neanderthalensis
A model of Homo Neanderthalensis by paleo-artist John Gurche. An exhibition at the new David H. Koch Hall of Human Origins at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, in Washington, showcases 6 million years of evolutionary evidence. Source: National Museum of Natural History via Bloomberg

March 26 (Bloomberg) -- On Friday night, in this most political of cities, go see a history play by the Bard.

Shakespeare’s “Henry V” just may be the greatest action-adventure show of all time. It has everything as a brash young king proves his mettle as both warrior and wooer. His St. Crispin’s speech -- the one about the “band of brothers” -- is an irresistible paradigm of jingoism, while his courtship of the French princess is gallantry made timeless.

The first-class Shakespeare Theatre Company is giving that splendid actor Michael Hayden the opportunity of a lifetime by presenting “Henry V” in repertory with “Richard II,” Shakespeare’s verse play about a very different, more self-absorbed and Hamlet-ish kind of leader.

Ends April 10. Sidney Harman Hall is at 610 F St. NW. Information: +1-202-547-1122; http://www.shakespearetheatre.org

Saturday

It’s cherry blossom time. Washington celebrates the famous flowering trees -- a 1912 gift from Japan -- with fireworks, activities for kids, music and all kinds of special exhibits and events.

Official kickoff is Saturday at the National Building Museum at 4 p.m. with performances by the Washington Ballet, pianist Tempei and the Shigeyama Kyogen Theatre Group. Information: +1-877-442-5666.

Neanderthal Morph

Step really far back in time and look straight into the winsome eyes of Homo neanderthalensis. To create his dazzling, hyper-realistic busts of our ancestors, paleo-artist John Gurche begins with a skull cast and, using the latest forensic techniques and fossil discoveries, adds layers of muscle, fat and skin. You’ll be charmed to make the acquaintance of your distant cousins.

Then go over to the morphing station to see yourself digitally transformed into a Neanderthal. They’ll even e-mail the result to you.

These are just a few of the exhibits at the new 15,000-square-foot, $20 million David H. Koch Hall of Human Origins at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. Film, music, sculpture, computer animation and games join nearly 300 artifacts to tell the 6-million-year-old story of our survival and evolution.

Definitely not for die-hard creationists!

The museum is at 10th Street and Constitution Avenue NW. Information: +1-202-633-1000; http://humanorigins.si.edu/exhibit

Saturday Night

Catfish Row comes to life in Francesca Zambello’s fabled 2005 production of the Gershwin classic “Porgy and Bess” -- a uniquely American blend of Broadway, jazz, blues, spirituals, honky-tonk and utterly gorgeous melodies performed by the Washington National Opera.

Morenike Fadayomi sings Bess with sexy conviction and Jermaine Smith is riveting as the strutting tempter, Sportin’ Life, who lures her away with “happy dust,” but the deep emotional center is Eric Owens’s Porgy. Leaning on a crutch, the bass-baritone commands the stage with his powerful presence, vulnerability and sheer beauty of tone. John Mauceri expertly leads a huge cast filled with lively cameos.

Through April 3. The Opera House is at the Kennedy Center, 2700 F St. NW. Information: +1-202-295-2400.

Sunday

The National Gallery of Art is hosting a charming show of winter paintings by Hendrick Avercamp.

When the Little Ice Age descended on Northern Europe between 1550 and 1650, it didn’t keep the Dutch indoors. They got out sleighs, put on skates, cut holes in the ice for fishing and played colf -- a fast, early form of golf -- on the frozen waterways.

Sleek aristocrats and their elegant steeds, dignified burghers, scrappy peasants and cute pooches all come to life in the Dutch master’s meticulous and amusing paintings.

Until July 5th. The museum is at 401 Constitution Ave. NW. Information: +1-202-737-4215; http://www.nga.gov/exhibitions/avercampinfo.shtm

Sunday Matinee

Terrence McNally’s comic “Golden Age” plays at 1:30 p.m. in the Family Theater at the Kennedy Center. The four-time Tony Award winner’s latest play takes place backstage at the first performance of Vincenzo Bellini’s “I Puritani.” Rival divas seethe, the baritone stuffs his tights with apples, the tenor worries about his high notes.

Holding it all together is the beautifully coiffed Jeffrey Carlson as the dying composer and Amanda Mason Warren as “The Malibran,” a woman who’s losing her voice yet can still show everyone what divahood is all about. She’s a lot like Maria Callas, the tart, chic, tragic heroine of McNally’s “Master Class.”

Tyne Daly plays her in a revival that runs in rep with “Golden Age” and “The Lisbon Traviata.”

Kennedy Center, 2700 F St. NW. Information: +1-202-467-4600; http://www.kennedy-center.org

(Zinta Lundborg is a writer for Bloomberg News. The opinions expressed are her own.)

To contact the reporter on this story: Zinta Lundborg in New York zlundborg@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Mark Beech at mbeech@bloomberg.net.

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