Arts » Theater

Capsule reviews of current area theater presentations.

Ain¹t We Got Fun! -- Writer-director Michael McFaden has come up with a fetching idea, weaving a storyline around vintage, gay-themed songs from pre- and post-Depression-era America. But what should be a sprightly romp instead shudders to an exhausted halt a full two and a half hours after the opening number. The central plot involves Oscar and Benny, two Michigan gay boys who are getting it on under the radar, until Oscar meets four swishy swells vacationing from Chicago. Soon, Oscar leaves Benny for Chi-Town, where he and his benefactors land at a club whose star attraction is a female impersonator; before long, Oscar is recruited into the show as a boy model in assless chaps. This material could be a fizzy delight, but it's undermined by a series of unfortunate decisions and a profound lack of editing. Given the simple story, there is far too much dialogue and a clunky flashback device that grinds everything to a halt. The cast, too, is a mixed bag of performers ranging from excellent (Zac Hudak as the female impersonator) to barely functional. Through August 13 at the 14th Street Theatre, E. 14th and Prospect Ave., 216-241-6000. -- Christine Howey

Icarus -- Written in the form of a modern myth, Edwin Sanchez' Icarus depicts an impoverished sister and brother named Altagracia and Primitivo, who become squatters in a small cottage on an unnamed beach. Apparently the wheelchair-bound Primitivo is a world-class swimmer, and his facially disfigured sister is training him to swim so fast that he can "touch the sun" that bobs tantalizingly on the morning horizon. They are accompanied by a mental defective, Mr. Ellis (Clyde Simon), who tends to his stuffed cat, Betty, and is given to obsessive recitations ("I'm not staring, I'm not staring. Am I staring?"). This flawed trio is soon joined by Beau, a man in a stocking mask, who claims to have been horribly mangled in a car accident. In the first act, Sanchez and director Caleb J. Sekeres create a series of telling moments that seems to presage interesting events. But a refreshingly genuine and teasing relationship between brother and sister disintegrates in act two under the weight of too much rib-nudging symbolism. If Sanchez had pulled out all the unnecessary references to touching the sun (We get it -- it's in the freaking title!), Primi and Beau's forced swimming competition, and some clunky poetry, Icarus could have avoided another meltdown. Presented by Convergence-Continuum through July 15 at the Liminis, 2438 Scranton Rd., 216-687-0074. -- Howey

Lies and Legends: The Music of Harry Chapin -- Folk-pop artist Harry Chapin was a fine man, but only a marginally talented songwriter. Some of his strengths and a lot of his weaknesses are trotted forth in this Beck Center show, a reunion for the five-person cast (minus Ken Benz, who died more than a decade ago at age 37) that performed the show in 1990. It's an emotional event for those in the Beck family, but it doesn't make Chapin's body of work any better than mediocre. As a composer, he often relied on the same loosely linked melodic structure, which repeated itself with little variation. And his lyrics -- frequently trite and overly sentimental -- were often just so many square pegs that he kept pounding into round holes. But when Chapin hit the mark (as he did on the ubiquitous "Cat's in the Cradle"), the results could be memorable. Dan Folino, the new cast addition, does everything he can to pump energy and humor into the proceedings, but his soaring pipes are wasted on some of Chapin's less distinguished efforts. Director William Roudebush, who also helmed the original production, uses the set's multilevel platforms and ramp to keep the songs animated. But ultimately, one has to be a stone-cold Chapin fanatic to happily endure 22 of these folksy musings laid end to end. Through July 23 at Beck Center, 17801 Detroit Ave., Lakewood, 216-521-2540. -- Howey

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