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 sync, 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, 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