Capsule Reviews

The Beauty Queen of Leenane Three student actors and one veteran take on Martin McDonagh's gothic Irish tale of Maureen Folan, a 40-year-old virgin (Julie Painter) stuck in a dead-end life caring for her aging mum (Carolyn Wickwire) in their run-down Galway cottage. When she meets Pato, a handsome neighbor man (Carter Hudson), at a party, Maureen sees a glimmer of hope for love and a better life. But Mum will have none of it and sets out to sabotage her daughter's dreams. The material is dark but often funny. The ending is a shocker; two shockers, in fact. The students in Quad C's production may be young and green, but their work onstage is pure gold. They even handle the rural Irish accents with barely a slip. Wickwire, a Dallas theater regular, makes a terrific mean old lady. This production ends Quad C's current season. Through May 8 at Collin County Community College's Black Box Theatre, 2800 E. Spring Creek Parkway, Plano, 972-881-5100. Reviewed this week. (Elaine Liner)

Mambo Italiano This comedy about two Italian-Canadian families coping with their grown sons' coming out is full of cliches, stereotypes, huge hand gestures and melodramatic mamas. It's also foot-stomping funny. Angelo (John de los Santos) and his lover Nino (newcomer Butch Anderson) live together in homo bliss but are so in the closet they pull down their shades to avoid watching the Gay Pride Parade. When they do decide to tell their immigrant parents the truth about that empty guest room, the crying and wailing begin. The four women in the cast heist the show away from the men. As Angelo's neurotic sis Anna, Elise Reynard is a gorgeous doormat of a girl, stepped on by Mom and Dad (Rebekah Durk, Richard Zavaglia) as they trample her to lavish love on their son. As Nino's Sicilian mother, Lina, Cynthia Matthews is Pauly Walnuts in heels. And as Nino's "beard," Maria-Khristy Millares looks like she just jumped out of a Hustle contest with Tony Manero. Directed by Andi Allen for the Uptown Players, Mambo is anything but subtle. But then neither is roasted garlic, and that's pretty good, too. Through May 22 at Trinity River Arts Center, 2600 Stemmons Freeway, 214-219-2718. Reviewed this week. (E.L.)

The Last One-Nighter on the Death Trail If you like Cabaret, Gypsy, Follies and other backstage musicals, this new one from Our Endeavors Theater Collective will tickle your funny stick and make you tap a toe. The cast of eight wrote the tunes themselves (along with other collaborators), and director Christine Vela researched the world of Depression-era vaudeville for months before writing the libretto. In the show, a troupe of "disappointment acts" hangs around a stage door, hoping for the big break that never comes. We watch them rehearse new bits and find out the secrets that have kept them on the "death trail" of crumbling theaters coast to coast. Even if they can't sing like Mama Rose or Sally Bowles, the cast has some whizbang moments. Patrick Johnson is the Fatty Arbuckle type exhorting everyone to "Laugh! Laugh! Laugh!" VaVa Veronica (Lydia Mackay) can't keep her clothes on and does nasty things with her sax (hey, you gotta have a gimmick). Skeeter (Erin McGrew) wants everyone to quit talking dirty. The "Countess" (Lulu Ward) takes a shine to Trixie (Lainie Simonton), a mysterious waif who stumbles into the act. Steeped in nostalgia, the show also has a distinctly modern edge. There's even a cinematic surprise in Act 1. Designed to the nth (as all OETC's shows are), this one's a three-ring circus of music, dance, film, comedy and pathos. Through May 14 at Frank's Place at Dallas Theater Center, 3636 Turtle Creek Blvd. 214-327-4001. Reviewed April 28. (E.L.)

Ragtime From E.L. Doctorow's 1975 best seller came the 1997 Broadway musical from playwright Terrence McNally, lyricist Lynn Ahrens and composer Stephen Flaherty. In Lyric Stage's production, more than 30 singers crowd the stage, belting out the score's 30 Scott Joplin-inspired, dramatically syncopated anthems. At the turn of the 20th century, America's music and culture were a-changing. Immigrants and blacks struggled for equality with whites. The East Coast elite fought the unions and weathered scandals like the infamous love triangle among Harry K. Thaw, Stanford White and "girl in the swing" Evelyn Nesbit (that era's Monica Lewinsky). Three main plot lines take frequent detours into subplots based on real events in American history. Flags wave. Guns go off. Mobs fight. A Model T rolls onstage. Looking over it all is the Statue of Liberty. It's a grand show with big performances by 22-year-old Kia Dawn Fulton (as the tragic maid, Sarah), Wendell L. Holden Jr. (as pianist-turned-revolutionary Coalhouse Walker) and Brian Gonzales (as a poor Latvian Jew who becomes a movie pioneer). Continues through May 7 at the Irving Arts Center's Dupree Theater, 3333 N. MacArthur Blvd., Irving. 972-252-2787. Reviewed April 28. (E.L.)

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