Capsule Reviews

Our critics weigh in on local theater

  Wait Until Dark Frederick Knott knew scary. Before he wrote this thriller about a blind girl battling three nasty drug dealers in her own New York apartment, he penned Dial "M" for Murder. Knott was a master of the mystery with a twist, of the finale that turns the tables on the would-be killer. In Dark, Suzy (Elizabeth VanWinkle) uses her blindness as an advantage, picking up clues to the identities of the con men out to trick her into turning over a doll full of heroin (she doesn't know what's in the doll, and it's not clear why she wants to keep it, but it's best not to worry about such details). Ringleader of the bad guys is the sly Harry Roat Jr. (handsome, hairless Halim Jabbour). Serving as a deus ex machina is Gloria (Meredith Lindsey), an awkward 14-year-old neighbor of Suzy's who shows up just in the nick of time. All in all, this production has the potential to be an entertaining evening of thrills and chills. But opening night had problems: balky doorknobs, bad lighting cues, dropped lines and a leading lady who kept forgetting not to look at everything in her way (including props and actors). Over the course of the six-week run, it's bound to get better. Through July 24 at Richardson Theatre Center, 718 Canyon Creek Square (near Custer and Renner roads), 972-699-1130. Reviewed this week. (Elaine Liner)

Yankee Doodle Dandy! Oh, that pesky exclamation point. It does set up certain expectations. Like, maybe a show's second act should be as good as its first. Not true with this overblown touring production, which originated at Seattle's 5th Avenue Theatre and moves on from Dallas to Atlanta. The 90-minute first act is just enough to get all the flavor, tunes and tap-dancing hullabaloo from the life of Broadway legend George M. Cohan (played by Sean Martin Hingston) into your system. The second act is strictly a snoozer. All of Cohan's best songs are here, however: "Over There," "Give My Regards to Broadway," "You're a Grand Old Flag." Dripping with nostalgia and bedecked with American flags, Dandy! only droops after intermission, when the old Cohan (Richard Sanders) totters forth to wheeze about the not-so-good years. There's even a maudlin bedside death scene with the creaky Cohan helping his producing partner, Sam Harris (Jason Schuchman), shuffle off to celestial Buffalo. Still, you probably won't see better dancing in another musical for a while. Standouts in the cast are Dirk Lumbard and Cynthia Ferrer as George's parents, Jerry and Nellie, old hoofers who had little George on the vaudeville stage as a toddler. Ferrer bears a striking resemblance to the Nanette Fabray of Bandwagon days. Judith Blazer plays George's first wife, Ethel, and later his daughter, Georgette, who angered her dad by jazzing up some of his old tunes into swing rhythms. Through June 27 at the Music Hall at Fair Park, 214-631-ARTS or any Ticketmaster outlet. Reviewed this week. (E.L.)

A Flea in Her Ear The Classical Acting Company with direction by Greg Leaming morphs this turn-of-the-century French absurdist play into a swinging 1960s sex farce with as much innuendo as an episode of Laugh In. Originally written by Georges Feydeau in 1907 Paris, this new adaptation (also by Leaming) is set in an affluent New York suburb and follows the follies of two housewives (Kelly Grandjean and the hilarious Emily Gray) who set out to catch a husband in an extramarital tryst. What starts off with a bang of energy and elicits an uproar begins to drag in the third act. It is reward enough to see this production for the slew of neurotic minor characters and their ridiculous quirks--broadly drawn and overwhelmingly unrealistic, they are the types of fools one would expect to see written into a Monty Python sketch. With speech impediments, erectile dysfunction, mistaken identity and vice, A Flea in Her Ear laughs at our need to be politically and morally correct, and makes us laugh back. Continues through June 27 at The Arena Theatre at Richland College, 12800 Abrams Road, 214-505-1655. (Leah Gerchario)

Yankee Doodle is a dandy--in Act 1, anyway.
Yankee Doodle is a dandy--in Act 1, anyway.

The Day After the Fair From an 1891 Thomas Hardy short story comes this moody, romantic little drama about a frustrated West Country housewife, her illiterate maid and the handsome London lawyer who steals both their hearts. The production by Theatre Britain, a local troupe of dedicated Anglophiles, casts Sue Birch as Edith, the sad wife of an ambitious beer brewer (Steven Pounders). When the maid, Anna (Lauren N. Goode), meets a London bachelor named Charles (Jack Birdwell) on the merry-go-round of a traveling carnival, everybody's love life begins an up-and-down ride. Illiterate Anna can't answer Charles' love letters, so Edith happily takes up the task of writing them for her. Charles falls deeply in love with the Anna on the page, not knowing when he proposes that he'll actually be marrying a simple-minded (not to mention pregnant) housemaid. Meanwhile, Edith's heart and soul have connected with Charles' words. And why doesn't Edith's husband, Arthur, get a clue about what's going on beneath his nose? There can be no happy ending here. But there are some steamy moments of stolen passion to enjoy, plus Hardy's lilting, lyrical language. Under the direction of Robin Armstrong (who also designed the gorgeous period costumes), the cast acts with appropriately Victorian restraint. But beneath the surface, one senses R-rated lusts just dying to break free. Through June 27 at the Trinity River Arts Center, 2600 N. Stemmons Freeway, Suite 180. 972-490-4202. Reviewed this week. (E.L.)

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