Capsule Reviews

The Cherry Orchard Chop, chop, we say, as the cast of more than a dozen characters gathers to bid each other farewell one more time. And again. And yet again. Anton Chekhov's four-act meditation on the decline of the Russian aristocracy can be fun when played as farce (as he intended). Instead, Classical Acting Company, a troupe dedicated to performing plays no one is clamoring to see, does it as tragedy. Liubov is written as Auntie Mame from Moscow; here, she's a droopy old grouch. Accident-prone Trofimov should be a laugh riot; here he's just pitiful. Old Gayev should be goofy and light on his feet; here he seems in the early stages of dementia. When Old Firs, the decrepit family footman, is left behind in the locked mansion, it should be comical. Now we want to report them all for elder abuse. Director Susan Sargeant misses great comic potential in this century-old classic. The actors, including Classical Acting founders Matthew and Emily Gray, play it for weepies, denying the audience a shot at rediscovering Chekhov's still-fresh skewering of upper-class nonsense. We can't cry for the family's downfall unless they've made us laugh first. Through April 3 at the Arena Theater, Fannin Hall, Richland College, 12800 Abrams Road, 214-505-1655. Reviewed this week. (Elaine Liner)

The Violet Hour The title has two meanings. It's the novel an ambitious young publisher (Matthew Floyd Miller) wants to print in 1919. And it's that magical moment between daylight and darkness when anything might happen. Strange things do happen in Richard Greenberg's tragicomic play, thanks to a mysterious machine that spits out books from the future. It takes heavy prodding by the publisher's assistant (the immensely enjoyable Matthew Boston, mincing like a madman) to get his boss to look at the pages, which could change both of their destinies, depending on the authors they choose to make famous. Based loosely on legendary editor Max Perkins, his wildchild friend F. Scott Fitzgerald (and crazy wife Zelda) and Jazz Age star Josephine Baker, the play asks the usual questions about second chances. It was Fitzgerald, remember, who said that there are no second acts in American lives. There is one in this play, however, and it's about a half-hour too long. Through March 20 at Dallas Theater Center, 3636 Turtle Creek Blvd., 214-522-8499. Reviewed March 3. (E.L.)

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