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, 330-671-4563
The backbone of at least half of all theatrical productions is the American-style dysfunctional family, a fetid trough where playwrights greedily feed to fuel both comedies and tragedies. But the dysfunctions don't often come with the level of dark humor and wicked bite that's displayed in The Lyons, now at Dobama Theatre. Written by Nicky Silver, this play plops us down in the hospital room of a man dying of cancer and forces us to laugh at him and his whole nuclear bomb of a family. While often uproariously funny, the script feels a bit long and overwritten in places. The talented, cast under Nathan Motta's crisp direction, makes some missteps but mostly papers over the show's minor glitches.
Through May 19 at Dobama Theatre, 2340 Lee Road, Cleveland Heights, 216-932-3396
It's often helpful for a playwright to sketch an outline of the play he wants to write before laboring over all the details. But when the outline itself is produced, that can leave a lot to be desired. Such is the case with Botanic Garden by Todd Logan, a one-hour script so wispy and slight that one fears it might be carried off by a puff of breeze. Kate is a recent widow waiting to meet her first date, and Jake is her dead husband. Switching back and forth from present day (he's a ghost) to other moments in their loving and sometimes fractured past, the playwright attempts to fashion an elliptical perspective on a relationship that had its problems but was essentially a loving one. But absent meaningful context, there's no meat on these fragile bones. Even director Brian Zoldessy and two veteran actors such as Jeffrey Grover and Susan Lucier can do little to breathe life into this slight, overly-nuanced confection.
Through April 28 at the Studio Theatre, Cuyahoga Community College Eastern Campus, 4250 Richmond Road, Highland Hills, 216-987-2438