Capsule Reviews

The Frog Prince Halfway through this enchanting performance by the Kathy Burks Theatre of Puppetry Arts, the puppets stop the show. The puppeteers (Douglass Burks, B. Wolf, Sally Fiorello, Patricia Long) act surprised as they remove the black hoods they hide under to manipulate Burks' intricately painted, handmade rod puppets. Suddenly the puppets are in charge. What shall they do? Time for the audience to choose the ending of this familiar tale of a prince-turned-frog who needs a kiss to change back. Should he marry the whiny princess or go his merry way? The script by Wolf has a witty, Noel Coward-esque flair that rises above the sometimes too-cutesy tone of children's shows. The voice of the frog sounds ever so David Niven. The princess has that Julie Andrews trill. And what a trill it is to watch kids become thoroughly engaged by it all. After the chosen ending (no marriage, said the crowd I was with), the puppeteers go on to perform the rest of the show with all the lights up, so everyone can see how the magic is made. There's even a Q&A session ("Is there real water in the wishing well? Can the puppets change costumes?"). Nice blend of kid-ertainment and education in a lively one-hour show. Through April 3 at Rosewood Center for Family Arts, 5938 Skillman St., 214-740-0051. (Elaine Liner)

The Dead Monkey That says it all. Nick Darke's two-act drama arrives as dead as King Kong's hairy corpse. Hank and Dolores (Wm. Paul Williams, Tina Parker) watch their 15-year marriage unravel after the death of their beloved chimp, a son substitute that's supposed to remind us of the invisible child in Edward Albee's Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? But Hank and Dolores are no George and Martha. When they scream and curse and slug each other, it's just ugly and mean. The play is anti-marriage, anti-woman, anti-American, even anti-monkey. The acting is as rotten as an old banana peel. Nothing here is funny, inspiring or artistic. It's just noise masquerading as drama. Not a page of this stinking script is fit to wipe Albee's glasses. Through March 12 at Kitchen Dog Theater, The MAC, 3120 McKinney Ave., 214-953-1055. (E.L.)

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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