Capsule Reviews

Parallel Lives The old Kathy & Mo Show is reborn in this Contemporary Theatre of Dallas production starring powerhouse talents Marisa Diotalevi and Jody Rudman. In a dozen sketches originally written and performed by feminists Kathy Najimy and Mo Gaffney, we see a sort of seven ages of womanhood, from giggly teens at a slumber party to aged yentas watching their first radical feminist drama. The material lovingly and critically comments on sex, gender, religion, money, addiction and body image (this is perhaps the only show that's made bulimia funny). Directed by Cheryl Denson, the show only starts to feel a teeny bit long toward the end, as the sketches extend into short one-act plays. But the material is so good, you won't mind. Diotalevi pantomiming a woman's typical morning shower-shampoo-shpritz routine (to the music of Bizet) is as fine a bit of physical comedy as we've ever seen on a Dallas stage. The comfy setup in this space--roomy round tables topped with cloths, flowers and candles--adds a nice touch of feminine to the feminist message. Through May 1 at Contemporary Theatre of Dallas, 5601 Sears St., 214-828-0094. Reviewed this week. (Elaine Liner)

Enchanted April The wisteria is in full blossom and so are the late-blooming ladies of this sweetly sentimental British comedy set just after the First World War. Based on a beloved 1922 novel by Elizabeth von Arnim, the play is actually a recent offshoot (adapted by Matthew Barber) of the successful 1992 film. Lotty (Emily Scott Banks) convinces three women to pool their funds to rent an Italian villa for a spring vacation. Away from London's bad weather, away from husbands, sad memories and broken hearts, the women become reluctant confidantes. As they open up to new experiences, we revel in their newfound happiness. And when stuffy husbands visit, we appreciate the men's puzzlement at the free-spirited butterflies their wives have turned into. The eight actors in director James Lemons' production make a tight, affecting ensemble. Statuesque Terry McCracken dominates as the imperious and aptly named widow, Mrs. Graves. And an extra "Brava!" goes to Carmela Lamberti as the villa's hilarious, hand-flinging, Italian-spouting housekeeper. Through May 1 at WaterTower Theatre, 15650 Addison Road, Addison, 972-450-6232. (E.L.)

Golden Buddha Beach Performance artist/actor/writer Fred Curchack is an acquired taste. Either you really dig his lengthy monologues about his oddball life experiences or you don't. In his new effort, the latest of dozens he's put on local stages, he shares the spotlight with his gal pal, actress Laura Jorgensen. Together they traveled to Thailand last Christmas for a yoga retreat and to deal with their anger at the man they call "our monstrous idiot president." When the tsunami struck, they were in a hotel 100 miles inland. So what's the point of their story then? That they weren't in the biggest natural disaster of the century? But they could have been? Their trip was a near-miss, as is this 90-minute pastiche of songs, video tricks, poems, pantomime, photographs, anecdotes and shopping lists. Jorgensen, a double for Amy Sedaris' Jerri Blank character, is the more polished performer. On opening night, Curchack was unsure of his lines. And he's the author. Through April 30 at Undermain Theatre, 3200 Main St., 214-747-5515. (E.L.)

My Fair Lady Lerner and Loewe's great musical loses some of the fancy trappings (except for the elaborate Edwardian Era set by John Coyne) and uses just 10 actors in this stripped-down version co-produced by Dallas Theater Center and Portland Center Stage. Instead of a full pit orchestra, two guys on Steinways pound out the familiar score. And instead of a stage full of snooty Ascot guests and fancy-dressed partygoers, now we get a handful of very sweaty multi-tasking singer-dancers. As bilious blowhard Henry Higgins, handsome Martin Kildare talk-sings like the late Rex Harrison but still manages to put his own stamp on the character. As his prize phonetics pupil, Cockney waif Eliza Doolittle, Sherry Boone doesn't get it, by George. She bungles the accent and sings in a wobbly operatic head voice. In director Richard Hamburger's take on the story, Higgins and Eliza become business partners, not lovers. The lack of chemistry between the leads takes a lot of the fun out of the enterprise. Best performance is by rubber-legged James Brennan as Eliza's ne'er-do-well dad, Alfred P. Doolittle. He perfectly translates the music hall style of this "chamber production" and earns the lion's share of the applause. Through May 8 at the Arts District Theater, 2401 Flora St., 214-522-8499. Reviewed April 14. (E.L.)


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