Mercury Summer Stock
This production at Mercury Summer Stock, so visually arresting in many respects, has a firm grip on the magical idea of a flying fairy carting off three earth-bound kids to Never Never Land. But there are a number of air pockets in this supposedly soaring show, where this production experiences theatrical turbulence. New tunes by George Stiles (music) and Anthony Drewe (lyrics) are pleasant and tuneful, but not particularly memorable. And the book by Willis Hall is quite matter-of-fact, without the flourishes of humor that could help propel these characters on their most unusual journey. Director and choreographer Pierre-Jacques Brault has added new touches, many of which work splendidly. Instead of actors swinging on cables, the flying Peter Pan and his Darling kids fly on the up-stretched arms of other actors, or ride piggy-back. This is not only cost-effective, it has the charm of children playing that resonates wonderfully with the material. In the title role, Brian Marshall sings his parts with the confidence of a seasoned performer. But his eternal boy is lacking the sense of fun and flashes of impish rascality that he needs. Indeed, Marshall often comes across as a fairly serious sophomore accounting major, rather than a never-growing-up kid who can fly. Of course, the juiciest role in this show, regardless of the authors, is Mr. Darling/Captain Hook. Eric van Baars buckles his swash with spirit as Hook, and provides much of the comedy in a show that desperately needs more of the same. The Mercury crew attacks big musicals like this with passion and youthful professionalism. And that amounts to a fine treat for any summer day.
Through August 17 at Regina Hall, Notre Dame College, 1857 South Green Rd., 216-771-5862, mercurysummerstock.com
On The Line
None Too Fragile Theater
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 in 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 Rd., Akron, 330-671-4563