By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Eric Nicholson
Pump Boys and Dinettes Check your cynicism at the door, settle in at one of the comfy tables and order a cold drink to enjoy this musical that's as light as a butter-flake biscuit. The waitressing Cupp sisters (Jenny Thurman, Arianna Movassagh) and their friends (Willy Welch, Gary Floyd, John Venable, Jon Kruse, Hayden Oliver) at the next-door gas station off Highway 57 don't get many customers. So they spend a couple of hours singing about such things as fishing, driving a Winnebago to Florida, hustling for tips and what makes grandmas so great. As corny as a hush puppy and as sweet as a tub of nanner puddin', this show offers feel-good wholesomeness and a couple of toe-tapping tunes. The cast is terrific, particularly the big-belting Thurman and newcomer Gary Floyd, who, like Gomer Pyle, looks goofy as all get-out until he surprises the audience with a polished, impressive singing voice. Through June 6 at Contemporary Theatre of Dallas, 5601 Sears St. 214-828-0094. 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.
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 May 13.