Arts » Theater

Capsule reviews of current area theater presentations.

Always, Patsy Cline -- You'd think a play about an iconic singer who died in a plane crash at 30 would present a chance to take a profound emotional journey. But Ted Swindley, author of Always, Patsy Cline, turns this show's namesake into a walking jukebox. Still, even such a wretchedly written show can't torpedo Always, thanks to an outstanding performance by Christine Mild in the lead role. Before Patsy nose-dived into a Tennessee forest, she established herself as a transformative and riveting crossover country singer. Always is seen through the eyes of Louise, an inveterate fan, who spends her time making moon eyes and telling the audience how down-to-earth the singer is. But, thankfully, Cline's songbook dominates the show, with Mild's clear notes rising effortlessly to capture Patsy-perfect phrasing. Mild handles almost 30 of Cline's numbers with such hypnotic grace and sure-handed control, you want to ease back and let her sing all night long. Lily Mercer plays Louise with a good-ol'-gal sensibility, but overdoes the two-finger "look at me" gesture, and her performance feels constrained by the playwright's one-track love fest. Director Donna Drake squeezes out a couple of nice moments between the two women. But mostly, Drake wisely gets out of the way and lets Mild do her thing. When you leave Carousel, you'll have to admit, in the words of the Act One closer, "She Got You." Through August 26 at the Carousel Dinner Theater, 1275 East Waterloo Road, Akron, 800-362-4100. -- Christine Howey

The Lion King -- From the opening animal gathering in "The Circle of Life" to its reprise at the final curtain, this is a show that leaves patrons slack-jawed in amazement. A simplistic yarn about a lion cub suffering the death of his father, it offers few surprises. But The Lion King is more about exuberant, imaginative staging, and on that score it trounces virtually any theatrical event. Ever. Julie Taymor, who directs and designs the mind-bendingly brilliant costumes, is possessed of a genius that is frankly unquantifiable. Add the remarkable animals to a musical mosaic by Elton John and Tim Rice, and the stunning visuals created by Richard Hudson's scenic design, and you have a theatrical experience that will stake out a corner of your memory for a very long time. Mufasa, the daddy lion, is played with immense dignity and touching "humanity" by Geno Segers. Michael Dean Morgan has a boatload of fun as Zazu. As Mufasa's brother, the villainous Scar, Kevin Gray is a sneaky sleazebag, and Gugwana Dlamini brings raucous humor to Rafiki, the storyteller. If you are open to wonder and awe, and you aren't afraid to open up the childlike part of you that wants to be thrilled by sights you can't imagine, this is your show. Through September 9 at the State Theatre, Playhouse Square Center, 1518 Euclid Avenue, 216-241-6000. -- Howey

Some Girl(s) -- A master of emotional terrorism, playwright Neil LaBute is at it again in Some Girl(s). Well acted by a cast of six, the play is haunted by repetitions and thin characters. Traveling from one town to another, Guy is on a redemption tour, trying to resolve past screwups before he gets married. Sam is the first damaged female. She and Guy were an item in high school, but he didn't invite her to prom. Portrayed by Margaret Morris as filled with disgust, Sam spits venom at him. From there, we work our way through four more two-person scenes, each playing out basically the same. While each vignette involves a surprise reversal, the clever twists don't ring true. As Guy, Daniel McElhaney makes the character as believable as possible, given the artificial concept he's forced to inhabit. Among the women, Lisa Siciliano turns in a lively portrayal of Reggie, and Laurel Johnson and Alanna Romansky bring a nice edge to Lindsay and Bobbi. But Rachel Roberts, as hot-to-trot Tyler, misses several beats and loses the thrust of her scene. Director Sean Derry attempts to keep the pacing brisk, but working with this script is like flogging a water buffalo up a muddy hill. It's hard to know if LaBute hates men or women more, but he should love his audiences more than to subject them to this kind of pap. Through September 9 at the Bang and the Clatter Theatre Company, 140 E. Market St., Akron, 330-606-5317. -- Howey

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