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On The Line

None Too Fragile Theatre

If you'd like to experience ensemble acting that's tighter than Beyonce's bustier, in service of a show that explores blue-collar friendships under stress, then you absolutely have to see On The Line, now at None Too Fragile Theater. This script by Joe Roland is a tight-cornering roller coaster ride, as a trio of production line workers, who've been pals since the first grade, try to maneuver themselves into the adult world of callous company bosses, desperate unions and a strike that ignites a major meltdown. Set in the mid-1990s, the white and black hats are predictable, with the unseen managers pulling the strings of their hard-working, hard-drinking employees. But thankfully, Roland makes his workers—Dev, Jimmy and Mikey—a conflicted and often comical bunch, as they each react to offers of management positions from the company in different ways. But most notably, the performances under the whip-smart direction of Sean Derry are true, real and dazzling. Mark Mayo, Andrew Narten and Robert Branch mesh like a finely tuned Porsche engine, continually finding new gears as the demands of the script increase. Director Derry paces this work with vigor and precision. The only small wrinkle is relying a bit too much on the dart playing, which doesn't allow the actors to bounce off each other as often as they might. Early in the play, the guys refer to themselves as a miracle alloy, stronger by far than any of the individuals by themselves. And the same can be said for these three actors. It's a performance so free and yet so well controlled, it's a privilege to share the same space with them.

Through August 24,

1841 Merriman Road

(enter through Pub Bricco),

Akron, 330-671-4563,

nonetoofragile.com

The Lion King

Playhouse Square

There's a reason The Lion King is one of the top-five longest running Broadway shows. It's a bulletproof stage franchise that can withstand infinite cast changes and never lose its core ability to awe and inspire. While this version now at Playhouse Square has a couple wrinkles that past touring shows have avoided, the takeaway for repeat visitors or virgins is still basically the same: The Lion King rules. From the opening "Circle of Life" parade of creatures, featuring the jaw-dropping human-animal hybrid puppetry imagined by director Julie Taymor (and Michael Curry), your imagination is fully engaged. Of course, the story follows a predictable arc as the lion pup Simba grows into adulthood after his father Mufasa is lured to his death by his evil little brother Scar. Simba and Scar are destined to snarl at each other until their final showdown, resolved in true Disney fashion. In the dense jungle of Broadway musicals, The Lion King has earned it's lofty status as one of the most popular shows ever. And every visit here just reinforces that honored position.

Through August 4, 1615 Euclid Ave.,

216-241-6000, playhousesquare.org

Measure for Measure

Cleveland Shakespeare Festival

Who would not relish the chance to go in disguise and prowl amongst our friends and neighbors, checking out how they behave without us there, and what they say about us? Shakespeare arrived at this dandy reality-show concept a long time ago in Measure for Measure, the play about sexual hypocrisy, unyielding moral rectitude and misplaced trust. And while this free-of-charge production by the locally touring Cleveland Shakespeare Festival often rushes headlong through Will's dense versifying, there are moments both telling and amusing. The camouflaged person in this story is Duke Vincentio, who sneaks away from his lofty post to impersonate a friar and spy on righteous Angelo, the man he appoints to run Vienna. Once in power, Angelo slaps the cuffs on poor young Claudio for impregnating his girlfriend Juliet prior to marriage. Often called one of Shakespeare's "problem" plays, M for M is quite a mash-up of sex, prudery, philosophizing, comedy, satire and, sure, the occasional beheading. And it doesn't necessarily benefit from this abridged 100-minute treatment that erases some of the sub-plots and fuzzes other relationships and characters. Still, the guts of Shakespeare's story are in place, and it has an undeniable appeal. This allegory, with the supposedly moralistic and upright Angelo intent on besmirching the soul of a spotless virgin, rings true today with the many instances of religious hypocrisy that abound.

Through August 3

440-794-1273 cleveshakes.com

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