- Take Me Out, produced by Dobama Theatre, goes to bat for gay athletes. Through September 9 at CSUs Factory Theatre.
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. -- Christine 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
Take Me Out -- At the center of Scott Plate's tight and captivating production is Future Hall of Famer Darren Lemming, who announces his sexual orientation to his baseball team with little fanfare. This doesn't jibe with reality -- such a bomb would flatten beers in sports bars coast to coast. But the playwright has some fun with the reactions of Darren's teammates: for instance, Catcher Jason (Shaphan David Seiders) claims his respect for those who love differently since, as he notes, "the Greeks built the pyramids." Meanwhile, Darren bats around clever wordplay with shortstop Kippy, the self-titled "most intelligent man in Major League Baseball," played credibly by Phil Carroll. Darren also chats with a close friend on another team, Davey Battle (David Lemoyne), a man of strong religious beliefs whose demons must be dealt with after Darren's announcement. But the biggest obstacle is redneck closer Shane Mungitt, who complains about having to shower with a faggot. Fred Maurer's Shane -- his beady eyes twitching in response to invisible pokes and prods -- is a human time bomb, ticking toward explosion. As Darren, Michael May is built like Barry Bonds and handles the role with warmth and authority. Poor acoustics in the CSU Factory Theatre space hinder the show's effect, and Take Me Out misses a chance for a candid exploration of male sports iconography and sexual orientation. Still, just like any baseball game, it's often entertaining and occasionally thrilling to watch unfold. Through September 9, produced by Dobama Theatre at Cleveland State University's Factory Theatre, East 24th and Chester, 216-932-3396. -- Howey