Love! Valour! Compassion! Terrence McNally's three-act play finds eight artsy gay men sharing a country house for three summer weekends. Couples form and break up. Infidelity abounds. There's an evil twin, a picnic and a thunderstorm. Love means kissing a lesion. And somebody dies. Like an all-gay All My Children, this play, clocking in at a marathon three and a half hours, has too many characters and tells too many stories, none of them all that emotionally gripping. There are a couple of good performances in the Uptown Players' production, however. Regan Adair, who never gives a weak performance anywhere, brings a quiet dignity and a sexy sweetness to the role of a blind man who seems to see things in people and nature that the sighted ignore. Steve Iwanski plays the twins, John and James Jeckyll (get it?), with real flair, giving them distinctly different personalities. Plenty of full-frontal nudity in the skinny-dipping scenes means Uptown knows how to sell tickets to its target audience. No jokes, please, about shrinkage. Through September 4 at Trinity River Arts Center, 2600 Stemmons Freeway at Motor Street, Suite 180, 214-219-2718. Reviewed this week. (Elaine Liner)
Steel Magnolias As Suave shampoo is to the better brands, this play is to American drama. It's a cheap imitation, too sudsy by half. Robert Harling does Southern women a terrible disservice by depicting them as honking harpies obsessed with their hair, their husbands and their money. In Truvy's beauty parlor (here, implausibly, run by a black woman), five small-town gals get their hair and nails done every Saturday. Young Shelby (Stephanie Young, badly miscast) is a selfish little bow-head with diabetes who fights with mama M'Lynn (Sue Loncar) over every little thing. Everybody speaks in clichés, spouting jokes Harling seems to have jotted down from episodes of Hee-Haw. If it weren't for Nicole Case's terrific turn as Annelle, the new girl in town, we'd give this production a permanent wave bye-bye. Through September 19 at Contemporary Theatre of Dallas, 5601 Sears St., 214-828-0094. Reviewed this week. (E.L.)
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The Exit The new Labyrinth Theatre company debuts with Kevin Ash's dramatic two-act answer to Sartre's existential classic, No Exit. This time, writes Ash, there's a way out of hell. Trapped together in a hotel room decorated in nauseating colors (and sans mirrors, beds or air-conditioning), three characters--a sweaty fat guy, a pop songstress and an angry lesbian--are forced to confess their sins and try to find forgiveness so they can move on to a nicer place in the afterlife. It sounds preachy, but Ash, who also directed, and his company of very good actors (Jarod Warren, Ray Gestaut, Jennifer Engler and Jamie Korthase) keep it simple and even-handed. "Hell is other people," one of Sartre's (and Ash's) characters says. Or, as a frequent theatergoer might put it, hell is other people kicking the back of your seat. Two things this new troupe might want to reconsider: the hard-to-get-to 7 p.m. curtain time and the overpriced $25 ticket. Through September 5 in the fellowship hall at Arapaho United Methodist Church, 1400 W. Arapaho Road, Richardson, 972-231-1012. Reviewed August 19. (E.L.)