Capsule Reviews

The Hypochondriac Molière's 350-year-old comedy about a man who imagines he's at death's door closes out the second season for Classical Acting Company. The wickedly spindly Chamblee Ferguson plays Argan, the wealthy tightwad obsessed with loosening his bowels and tightening his control on a lovesick daughter. He wants her to marry a doctor (a lifetime of free health care!), but she's smitten with another. For a farce, this one occasionally feels a bit leaden (long scenes, off-key musical interludes). Ferguson turns in a winning performance, however, joined grimace-for-grimace by Chris Baldwin as a prissy young doc named Diarrheas, and Mark Shum in a variety of roles (one sticks him under a very funny poodle-curled wig). Emily Gray gets too obviously clowny as the maid Toinette. And will somebody jack up the A/C in this joint? The audience was sweating like malaria victims. Through July 10 at the Arena Theatre, Richland College, 12800 Abrams Road, 214-505-1655. Reviewed this week. (Elaine Liner)

Misery Annie Wilkes loves the company of Paul Sheldon, the author of her favorite romance novels. Loves it a little too much. After nursing Paul's car wreck injuries in her remote mountain home, Annie holds him hostage until he types a new novel tying up loose ends for her beloved characters. Stephen King's killer-diller thriller made a dandy movie (and won Kathy Bates an Oscar as Annie), but writer Simon Moore has stripped the plot to the bone for the two-act stage adaptation. Now it's just the two characters, mano a mano to the shocking finish. Director Regan Adair, who's also a good actor, keeps his leads--yummily handsome David Brown and un-self-consciously frumpy Rachael Lindley--from overacting by making much of the action static instead of hysterical. For her scariest scene, Lindley steps into the dark to deliver her big speech, a move that makes it all much more terrifying. Through July 23 at Richardson Theatre Centre, 718 Canyon Creek Square, Richardson, 972-699-1130. Reviewed this week. (E.L.)

Betrayal Harold Pinter's drama about the ins and outs of one middle-aged London couple's adulterous affair takes a zig-zaggy route to storytelling. Scenes jump back and forth in time, moving backward gradually to the moment when Emma (Sue Birch) and Jerry (Steven Pounders) decide to cheat on their spouses and fall into each other's arms. The play's vavoomy sexiness is undercut in Theatre Britain's production by a scenic design that's cold and stark and by actors who hold back just a bit too much in the passion department. When will the wonderful James Crawford (he plays the cuckolded husband) get to play a real leading man? He's an actor so gifted with accents that we've never heard him speak plain ol' Amurrican. Here he's as rigid and mean as Basil Fawlty. Through June 26 at Trinity River Arts Center, 2600 N. Stemmons Freeway, Suite 180, 972-490-4202. Reviewed June 16. (E.L.)

The Dinner Party Six guests receive a mysterious invitation to a party in a fancy Paris restaurant. Once they arrive, each is confronted by his or her ex-spouse. But who is responsible for this nervous gathering? And why is the door to the private dining room locked from the outside? Neil Simon's 31st play begins as a farce and ends up as a quasi-Christie mystery. The Contemporary Theatre of Dallas production does serve up some tasty performances from Tom Lenaghen, Cindee Mayfield and Lisa Fairchild. It's one of Simon's lesser efforts. Through June 26 at Contemporary Theatre of Dallas, 5601 Sears St., 214-828-0094. Reviewed June 2. (E.L.)

The Nerd Larry Shue's comedy preceded the Revenge of the Nerds flicks by several years, but you'll recognize the title character as the same brand of stereotypical geek. Rick Steadman (Chris Dover) drops in on an army buddy (Shane Beeson) who barely remembers what he looked like back in Vietnam. There's a birthday party going on, but that doesn't faze pushy Rick, who shows up dressed for Halloween (long passed) in a Godzilla costume. Every move he makes, every breath he takes, we watch the guy get closer to the last nerve of his host and the host's pals (Christine Bush, Scott A. Eckert). When a Mr. Mooney-like boss (Michael Roe) comes to dinner and winds up playing Rick's ridiculous "Shoes and Socks" game, the nerd's days are numbered. It's silliness to the umpteenth power, but the cast keeps the pace lively. Through June 25 at the Pocket Sandwich Theatre, 5400 E. Mockingbird Lane, Suite 119, 214-821-1860. Reviewed June 9. (E.L.)

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