With all the princesses, ogres and assorted criminals who get their own musicals, it's nice to see the average working person get his and her own time to folic in onstage melodies. This is one of the several pleasures provided by the musical Working, now at the Porthouse Theatre. It is adapted by Stephen Schwartz and Nina Faso from the best-selling book by Studs Terkel, in which he transcribed the thoughts, peeves and dreams of white -and blue-collar Joes and Janes. The work categories addressed in the show range from a high-end hedge fund manager to a bunch of housewives. But most of the jobs, illuminated in tunes by multiple songwriters, deal with the vast middle-class who work in factories, drive trucks, lay bricks, and teach school. Sure, it may seem odd to have all these songs of hard-won occupational experience performed by a young cast made up of college students and recent college grads who have yet to experience the delights of full-time work for years on end. But hey, those princesses, ogres and criminals were never played and sung by their duplicates either. And even though they're young, these performers carve out some memorable moments in a show directed and choreographed with wit and just enough movement by Jim Weaver.
Through July 20 at the Porthouse Theatre on the campus of Blossom Music Center, 1145 West Steels Corners Road, Cuyahoga Falls, 330-672-3884.
The Comedy of Errors
Ohio Shakespeare Festival
No playwright has ever been as fond of mistaken identities as Shakespeare, with all his damsels dressed in drag to fool all and sundry. And in this play he takes that passion to the ultimate, as two twin brothers and their twin servants bounce around in the service of one of Will's most adored comical romps. As always, the OSF troupe handles their business with precision and teeth-rattling enunciation, making all of the language marvelously accessible. Even though the players are encouraged by director Terry Burgler to chew every visible piece of scenery, along with some of the flora and fauna that surround them in this gorgeous outdoor setting, the broad characterizations only add to the raucous fun. Standouts in the talented cast include Bernard Bygott and Benjamin Fortin as master and servant, times two. And Lara Knox as Adriana seethes with such fury it's amazing the nearby trees don't burst into flames.
Through July 21, produced by the Ohio Shakespeare Festival at Stan Hywet Hall and Gardens, 714 North Portage Path, Akron, 330-673-8761. ohioshakespeare.com.
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 at various outdoor venues. cleveshakes.com.