By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Eric Nicholson
Stones in His Pockets Like Greater Tuna with an Irish brogue, this little play by Belfast playwright Marie Jones uses two actors (James Crawford, Michael Turner) to play 15 characters, including women, children, Americans, Brits and the denizens of a tiny Irish village. A big-budget movie shoots on location in County Kerry, and the locals get cast as extras. When tragedy interrupts the filming, conflicts arise between the Hollywood types and the country folk. Crawford and Turner are adept at quick changes of accents and mannerisms, making it easy to follow their sudden shifts of character. The play goes soggy toward the end, but the good performances (including their two-man "Riverdance") make up for it. Continues through June 5 at Theatre Three, 2800 Routh St. in the Quadrangle. 214-871-3300. Reviewed this week. Claptrap The title word says it all. "Empty talk intended to get applause," says the definition. That pretty much sums up Ken Friedman's farce, produced by Rover Dramawerks, which finds a novelist named Sam (Randeep Walia) battling writer's block. Over and over, he types opening lines, only to wad up the page and start over again. Girlfriend Sara (Jennifer Duggins) giggles and sticks carrots in her hair. A toupee-wearing actor named Harvey (Kenneth Fulenwider) is obsessed with the play Deathtrap, about one writer murdering another to steal his work. He moves in with Sam and soon sells a half-dozen ideas to a TV network simply by getting stuck in an elevator with a programming exec. Sara and Sam conspire to murder him and steal his scripts. Sound funny? Unfortunately, it's dragged out for two hours and 40 minutes. Continues through May 22 at the Mesquite Arts Centre Black Box Theatre. 1527 N. Galloway Ave., Mesquite. 972-849-0358.
The Mercy Seat If everyone's innards were as dark and twisted as playwright Neil LaBute's, we'd be in a heap o' trouble. This 2002 play finds a couple hunkered down in a Manhattan apartment at dawn on September 12. Ben (Max Hartman) is the younger, married lover of Abby (Michelle Michael), who just happens to be his boss. When the Twin Towers came down, they were in the midst of a tryst instead of in their offices downtown. Their co-workers are dead. Ben's wife thinks he's dead. He wants to keep it that way and start a new life with the other woman. The play, at 95 minutes, is at least an hour too long. Have mercy. Continues through May 23 at the Black Box Theater at The McKinney Avenue Contemporary (The MAC), 3120 McKinney Ave. 214-953-1055. Reviewed April 22.
Red Scare on Sunset Maybe it's the chic hostess coat leading lady Mary Dale wears over her mint green slacks, but darn if she doesn't look a little like a blond Lucy Ricardo. Of course, in this production, she is a he. Actor Coy Covington, a pro at putting on wigs and heels for a good role, vamps it up as a fading 1950s screen queen in Charles Busch's sharp satire of the Hollywood blacklisting era. What sweet Mary doesn't know is that her husband, Frank (Nye Cooper), has joined not just a method acting class, but a secret cell of Communists trying to take over the movie biz. No more star system! Oh, the humanity! The play sends up old movies, shallow American values and Hollywood's hypocritical attitudes toward gays and liberal politics. Throw in a lip-synched version of "Naughty but Nice" and you have yourself two hours of funny, funny stuff. Continues through May 16 at Trinity River Arts Center, 2600 Stemmons Freeway at Motor Street, Suite 180. 214-219-2718. Reviewed April 29.