Cleveland Public Theatre
If you like rough sex but without, um, the sex part, then you're sure to be entranced by this one-act exploration by Philip Ridley into the psychosexual byways of a relationship. However, if you don't come in with that attitude, it may be hard for you to catch up with this dense, florid and relentlessly in-your-face piece. Man Matt O'Shea) and Woman (Melissa Crum) face off, first across a checkerboard and then in their wildly populated fantasies as they punish and adore each other. In their world, hand grenades are sex toys, armies of monkeys and serpents are summoned to gain the upper hand with no quarter being given. Director Denise Astorino varies the pace well and manages the physical action, but the realistic setting of a normal kitchen doesn't help the audience find an entry point to this surreal battle of the sexes.
Through May 18 at Cleveland Public Theatre, 6415 Detroit Ave., 216-631-2727
Working, the Musical
Blank Canvas Theatre
Most of us spend most of our lives working, and then complaining about that work. But deep down, there are satisfactions and rewards to be found in even the most mundane jobs. At least, that's the theory behind this show, adapted from the Studs Terkel book. Here' a six-person cast under the compassionate direction of Patrick Ciamacco present more than two dozen distinctive people in different jobs, from hooker to CEO. The songs, by a variety of composers, vary in quality but are often quite touching. And the words, taken directly from interviews with real people, pulse with genuine emotion. However, some questionable costume choices and a multilevel set platform that impedes free movement give the actors additional challenges to overcome.
Through May 18 at the Blank Canvas Theatre, 78th Street Studios, 1305 West 80th St.,
West Side Story
It takes guts to stage West Side Story, especially with a huge young cast, since the demands of singing and dancing—let alone acting—are fairly monumental. Big challenges, however, never faze director Fred Sternfeld, who moves large masses of people with the decisive precision of Alaric the Visigoth. And Sternfeld is the major domo of this largely successful production at the TrueNorth Theater in Sheffield Village. Along with talented choreographer Bebe Weinberg Katz, Sternfeld maxes out the TrueNorth space, often filling the stage with his entire 30-plus person cast. And at times, such as during the "Somewhere" dream sequence when everyone is on stage and in synch, the result is electrifying. There are some glitches, but hanks to the boundless enthusiasm of the cast, this West Side Story scores a solid rating of 3½ (out of 5) switchblades.
Through May 12 at TrueNorth at French Creek, 4530 Colorado Ave. (Rt. 611), Sheffield Village, 440—949-5200, ext. 221.
None Too Fragile Theater
Sometimes, a playwright sets himself a bracing challenge he can't surmount, such as writing three penetrating monologues for three Caucasians who are racist in different but very familiar ways. That's what J.T. Rogers attempts in his play White People, now at None Too Fragile Theater in Akron, and though it struggles mightily it never quite gets off the ground. The trio of intercut speeches—by a white-trashy woman, an arrogant lawyer and a "politically correct" college prof—have their strong points covering plenty of racial issues (the lawyer has the best lines). But the clichés become oppressive and the presentations irritatingly self-absorbed. Director Sean Derry does what he can with this static material. His production only falls short because his performers (unlike the actor Sean Derry) can't stand and deliver this kind of wordy, tangled-up-in-your-neuroses stuff with the necessary texture and pace changes that are required.
Through May 11 at None Too Fragile Theater, 1841 Merriman Road, Akron,