Capsule Reviews

Grateful: The Songs of John Bucchino In Theatre Three's new cabaret act, five of the company's most seasoned actors tromp onstage in a merry file to sing "That Smile," the first in their hour-long lineup of Bucchino's tender, wistful songs. Bucchino's talent is for saying something indelible about life by homing in on the evocative details of one character's circumstances, and as the actors take their various star turns in some 15 songs on display here, they manage to pull off some memorable singing while evocatively filling their roles. In "Temporary," lithe Connie Coit ticks off several seemingly tiny incidents ("a tooth aches, a pet dies") that she builds up to a powerful reckoning of "the detours that life takes." In "Not a Cloud in the Sky," she plays an ill woman who has marshaled the chutzpah to convince herself that "since that shirt is impeccably pressed," she's not about to die. Bucchino's songs convey a grave sensibility ("someone's always in despair," one of them goes) but are musically light, almost frothy; balancing along that mental high-wire act is no small feat for an actor. The troupe here makes it seem like easy work. Through October 31 at Theatre Three, 2800 Routh St. in the Quadrangle, 214-871-3300. (Claiborne Smith)

The Importance of Being Earnest We read it aloud in bad British accents in high school; we groaned when we saw it turn up on the season schedule at Dallas Theater Center. And surprise, it arrives as a perfectly lovely, immensely satisfying production of Oscar Wilde's play about the comic dilemmas of living a double life. Algy and Jack (Michael A. Newcomer, Paul Whitthorne) are rich city boys who meet wealthy young women who've each decided they won't marry anyone not named Ernest. Faster than you can toast a scone, the guys pretend to be Ernests (that they're pretending to like girls is another matter entirely). The ladies get confused over who is engaged to which Ernest. Old Lady Bracknell (the absolutely fabulous Brenda Wehle) shows up to complicate the issue. The butler serves tea and everyone gets married. Director Stan Wojewodski Jr. keeps the pace brisk and the performances as crisp as a cold glass of champers. If you've never seen this classic, this is the one to catch. And even if you have, you won't find one better than this, so it's worth getting reacquainted. Continues through November 14 at Dallas Theater Center, 3636 Turtle Creek Blvd., 214-522-8499. Reviewed this week. (Elaine Liner)

Rounding Third "You can observe a lot by watching," Yogi Berra once said. In Richard Dresser's warm little comedy about baseball and friendship, two coaches--one a veteran, one a newbie--watch their Chicago Little League team progress through a season. And we watch them watching baseball games we can't really see. Somehow it works, making for a winning play about wanting to win. Don (Doug Jackson, channeling Bob Elliott of Bob and Ray) is the die-hard coach whose 12-year-old son is about to age out of the league. Michael (Jeffrey Schmidt), a young widower with a clumsy kid, is the new assistant, so green he's not sure what a fungo is. Sharing the bench during games and practices, Don and Michael get to know each other the way men do, by talking sports and women. "Why do you coach?" Michael asks Don, who answers, "Why does Sinatra sing?" Thinking about baseball takes up 55 percent of Don's waking thoughts, followed by money, sex and "revenge fantasies." Between the wisecracks, the play also says serious things about middle-class men leading lives of quiet desperation. "Ever notice who the happy people are? Winners," says Don. "Everybody else is 30 seconds away from blowing their brains out." Nice subtle work from the two actors under the direction of T.J. Walsh. Continues through November 20 at Theatre Three, 2800 Routh St. in the Quadrangle, 214-871-3300. (E.L.)

Trailer Trash vs. the Monster of Booger Creek There's a reason they cook up the popcorn at Pocket Sandwich Theatre so insipid and dry: You can eat it, but the actors at this cozy, campy playhouse like it when you throw it at them. The melodrama currently being staged at Pocket offers up popcorn-projectile opportunities about every five minutes, which, for this place, is an endorsement. As the scheming denizens of Beaver, Arkansas--Velda, Cleophus, and Sassy Pants among them--gather 'round the trailer park, they encounter the new sheriff, Buck Stallion, who has arrived (in a fey, baby-blue cowboy outfit, by the way) to replace the law man recently consumed by the shaggy, 100-year-old titular creature. There is one character driving the reins of the plot here, and she's nasty enough to induce more dizzying plot twists in two hours than in a month's worth of the average Mexican soap opera. Don't worry if you've forgotten the lyrics to "Thank God I'm a Country Boy"--they've printed them right in the playbill so you can sing them loud and proud with the actors. Through November 13 at Pocket Sandwich Theatre, 5400 E. Mockingbird Lane, 214-821-1860. (C.S.)

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