Arts » Theater

Capsule reviews of current area theater presentations.

Grease -- When Grease first opened on Broadway in 1972, everyone had a pretty fresh memory of the hoods in their own schools a decade or so earlier, who were incessantly combing their lubed locks and readjusting their upturned collars, when they weren't filching hubcaps. But the further we get from that era, the more the show's Burger Palace Boys -- and their women's auxiliary, the Pink Ladies -- risk being transformed into pale replicas, thereby sapping energy from these icons of the Eisenhower decade. This production at the Carousel Dinner Theatre generally avoids that problem and gets many of the details right, infusing the evening with a tumultuous momentum that serves the material well. The show's energy is boosted by Robert Kovach's visually spirited set design, featuring stacked TV screens at each side of the stage that show vintage images and ad slogans ("Bosco -- That's the drink for me!"). All in all, it's a very good Grease that, with a little more edge, could be great. Through July 1 at the Carousel Dinner Theatre, 1275 East Waterloo Road, Akron, 800-362-4100. -- Christine Howey

Nocturne -- At first, blending theater with jazz seems a fascinating idea. In this world premiere mounted by Ensemble Theatre, however, the saxophone jazz is lush, but the script has all the resonance of a tin kazoo. Playwright Saul Zachary has imagined a middle-aged couple with problems: Eldon's a jealous ex-sax player turned wealthy salesman, and Vera is "enigmatic" -- which we know because Zachary tells us, in so many words. This atonal script combines really bad soft porn ("I was so hot, I asked him to open the window") with unbelievable plot devices: Vera somehow winds up cooking meals for a famous black sax player (Robert Williams), who's blind and playing for quarters on the street. As if that weren't enough, Nocturne is also hugely melodramatic and depressingly humorless. Jeff Grover does what he can as Eldon, but Valerie Young is ill equipped to handle the script challenges as Vera; her second-act monologue, supposedly a soul-baring rant, is larded with laughable clichés. On the plus side, Rob Williams (not to be confused with actor Robert) plays sax very nicely in the shadows. Presented by Ensemble Theatre through June 18 at the Cleveland Play House, 8500 Euclid Ave., 216-321-2930 -- Howey

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