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On Stage

Capsule reviews of current area stage shows.

I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change -- The promotional material dubs this musical revue "Seinfeld set to music." But in reality, it's more like The Bachelor set to a metronome, with predictable book and lyrics by Joe DiPetro and a mechanically repetitive musical score by Jimmy Roberts. Just pick your courtship cliché, and there's a song to address it, whether it be the serious shortage of desirable single men or the characteristics of testosterone-poisoned males who date chicks. The first act focuses on the foibles of the dating scene, and the second plumbs about an inch or two into the depths of marital misunderstandings. It's rescued by some amusing dating and family-life gibes, and a cast of Cleveland-based performers that squeezes every ounce of good humor out of what, in lesser hands, would come off as threadbare material. Larry Nehring, in particular, is a delight to watch in every role, from dazed boyfriend one moment to TV huckster the next. Through June 27 at the Hanna Theatre, 2067 E. 14th St., 216-771-4444. -- Christine Howey

Oliver Twisted -- It has been claimed that there's a gene in some people's DNA spiral that compels them to seek out risky, potentially harmful activities, such as rock climbing, deep-sea diving, and parking at expired meters in Cleveland Heights. True to their risk-adoring genes, the seven-member group titled Oliver Twisted (made up of former members of the now-defunct Second City Cleveland) does audience-inspired material exclusively, without the safety net of scripted modules. And thanks to a fortunate blending of physical types and personalities among the performers -- along with their determined insistence on yanking every loose comedic thread -- this is an improv experience that will leave you laughing far more often than wincing. The troupe's resident nutcase, Randall Harr, is a fairly normal-looking fellow who transforms into a maniacally, often hilariously intense embodiment of whatever animal, vegetable, or mineral he's been assigned. Mondays at Hilarities Comedy Club at Pickwick & Frolic, 2035 E. 4th St., 216-736-4242. -- Howey

Reefer Madness -- A spirited cast has turned this adaptation of the 1930s film into a giddy send-up of adult-authoritarian bullshit. We are led through the dark corridors of hemp hell by a high school official who is using his cast from the recent class play to illustrate the ravaging results from flying Mexican Airlines. Jimmy and Mary are two squeaky-clean teens who adore swapping lines from Romeo and Juliet to share their affection. But once Jimmy is lured into trying pot, his fate is sealed: Soon he's using a scandalous new kissing technique and running down an old man; of course, Mary follows him and also gets hooked. From there, the moralistic lessons come fast and furious, and are often helpfully spelled out on cards (e.g., "Reefer makes you kill poor old men") carried across the stage by a chorine. Leaving no ghastly narcotic result unimagined, the comical hyperbole includes a cannibalization, a baby sold for weed, a suicide, and a final, retributive electrocution. This production is addictively entertaining, thanks mostly to its appropriately over-the-top characterizations. Through June 20 at Beck Center, 17801 Detroit Ave., Lakewood, 216-521-2540. -- Howey

Steel Magnolias -- Almost 20 years ago, playwright Robert Harling attempted to capture the essence of women's emotional networking in this now-familiar story of six gals in a backwater Louisiana town who laugh, cry, and tease (hair and each other). Set in a carport turned hair salon, the comical yet touching play is a theatrical gold mine for actors and a director who can craft sharp characters and ignite some sparks in this classically feminine environment. Unfortunately, the troupe assembled for this task falls flatter than a botched perm on a humid August afternoon. Director Sarah May, an accomplished and perceptive director who has helmed many outstanding productions over the years, here turns Steel Magnolias into droopy dandelions. Perhaps the best advice regarding this production -- in an otherwise outstanding season at Beck Center -- is given by the character Ouiser, who says she doesn't attend plays because "I can sleep for free at home." Either way, sweet dreams. Through June 27 at Beck Center, 17801 Detroit Ave., Lakewood, 216-521-2540. -- Howey

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