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

King Lear -- Considered perhaps Shakespeare's best work, this play is loaded with more family infighting than has ever been dreamt of on Wisteria Lane. When the King asks his daughters who loves him most, Goneril (an icy Melynee Saunders Warren) and Regan (Sarah Kunchik, in high dudgeon) vie with each other to see who can blow more smoke up the old man's breeches. But the youngest, Cordelia, answers with simple honesty and is dropped summarily from the will. Thus begins a chain of tragic events that ends in a rather ghastly double eyeball-ectomy, an attempted suicide, and a heap of corpses at the final curtain. In addition to whipping this 135-minute rendition (without intermission) at a brisk but clearly understandable pace, director Derek Koger makes some interesting decisions by casting a stalwart Alison Garrigan as the Earl of Kent and having Cordelia also be the Fool. The potent cast is led by Mark Cipra, who nails both the royal gravitas and the sense of mad foolishness of Lear as he deteriorates mentally. Presented by the Cleveland Shakespeare Festival at the Shaker Colonnade (July 27, 29), Tri-C West (August 4, 6), and Willoughby Fine Arts (August 10, 12). -- Howey

Sunday in the Park With George -- This languorous but enthralling show, with music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, explores the intense interior life of 19th-century French painter Georges-Pierre Seurat, as well as the insane pressures that conspire to turn artists into high-class panhandlers, scrounging for grants and patrons to continue their work. Seurat was a master of pointillism, which uses the precise placement of painted dots to create remarkable vibrancy and luminosity. Sondheim and book author James Lapine use a similar technique in the first act, theatrically delving, point by point, into Seurat's process for painting his masterwork. In Act Two, however, we are swept forward a century or so, as George's great-grandson finds himself embroiled in the snarky politics of the art scene. Eventually, 20th-century George winds up back in France, at the site of the original painting, and it is there that he reconnects with his artistic mission. Andrew Tarr is a committed and believable George (in both acts), and Amiee Collier (as his girlfriend, Dot) has the natural affect of a plain girl who got hooked up with a genius and feels a bit out of her depth. Under the sure guidance of director Martin Friedman and musical director Larry Goodpaster, the wit of Sondheim's melodies and lyrics comes alive. Through July 30 at Lakeland Theatre, Lakeland Community College, 7700 Clocktower Dr., Kirtland, 440-525-7034. -- Howey

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