The Living End Four musicals in less than two hours. Now that's entertainment. From a group of composer-lyricists out of a renowned musical theater workshop in New York comes this evening of mini-musicals, two based on famous short stories. Director Cheryl Denson has rounded up a cast of strong singers and deft comic actors at Lyric Stage for Woman With Pocketbook, Precious Little Jewel (based on Kate Chopin's haunting piece of fiction "The Story of an Hour"), O. Henry's The Ransom of Red Chief and The Life and Times of Joe Jefferson Benjamin Blow. Staged simply, with basic costume pieces and barebones piano accompaniment, each segment addresses how different characters deal with death. Would you try to smuggle a designer bag into heaven? What if you're happy that your abusive husband has died in a train wreck? And what about the little man whose life ends before his big dreams are fulfilled? With lots of pizzazz, pleasant songs and provocative ideas, this is a little show that packs big entertainment punch. Through February 26 at Irving Arts Center, 3333 N. MacArthur Blvd., Irving, 972-252-2787. (Elaine Liner)
Marisol Oh, lordy. The angels are angry. New York City in some post-apocalyptic plague year is crumbling under the feet of its title character (the lovely but wispy Elizabeth Sankarsingh). The homeless are being burned alive by Nazis. The banks can kill anyone over their credit card limit. And some perverts in the park are molesting the snowmen. Playwright Jose Rivera needs to get out of Manhattan. Or maybe hop the IRT to Times Square to see Hairspray for a jolt of joy juice. The guy's a major downer, as is his play, which is directed here for Risk Theater Initiative by Marianne Galloway. The best part of the evening is watching the stagehands, dressed as burglars, stealing on and off the stage as they move furniture during scene changes. The rest of the night is all heavy lifting for the audience. Through March 5 at the Bath House Cultural Center, 521 E. Lawther Drive, 972-943-8915. (E.L.)
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A Man of No Importance Turns out he's a man of great importance, to his friends and family anyway. Middle-aged bachelor Alfie Byrne (the wonderful Chamblee Ferguson) is a Dublin bus conductor by day and a theatrical impresario by night. He lives for the little troupe of amateurs he directs in the church basement. They perform plays by Alfie's idol, Oscar Wilde, but when Alfie attempts Salome, he comes up against strong resistance from church officials and his own prissy spinster sister (Pam Peadon). With music by Stephen Flaherty, lyrics by Lynn Ahrens and a book by Terrence McNally, this show explores the redemptive quality of artistic expression, a fancy way of saying that art has a way of making us better people. It certainly helps Alfie and his friends. And the lovely Irish-themed music, honest performances and gentle humor of this Uptown Players production will fill your heart with joy. Through March 6 at Trinity River Arts Center, 2600 Stemmons Freeway at Motor Street, 214-219-2718. (E.L.)