Capsule Reviews

Marriage Play Hes never been married, but playwright Edward Albee is the best when it comes to writing arguments between a husband and wife. Just as he did with George and Martha, the verbally vicious pair in Whos Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, Albee presents the disintegration of a couple at the tipping point. In this 1987 play, its Jack and Gillian who go up the hill and come tumbling down, bruised and bloodied from insults, wisecracks and even a few well-placed slaps. After 30 years of marriage, Jack is on the verge of walking out. Will Gillian convince him to stay or drive him away with one last lash of her wicked tongue? Actors Susan Sargeant and Mark Oristano are nearly perfect in this WingSpan Theatre Company production directed by the remarkable Rene Moreno. The set design by Randel Wright turns the claustrophobic Bath House acting space into a sprawling, elegantly furnished Manhattan penthouse. The 90-minute one-act goes by in a flash of witty dialogue, shocking physical violence and believable emotional crack-ups. Catch this one before it closes April 24. At the Bath House Cultural Center, 521 E. Lawther Drive. 972-504-6218. Reviewed this week.

The Mercy Seat If everyones innards were as dark and twisted as playwright Neil LaButes, wed be in a heap o trouble. This 2002 play from the writer of The Shape of Things and Bash: Latterday Plays finds a couple hunkered down in a Manhattan apartment at dawn on September 12. Ben (Max Hartman) is the younger, married lover of Abby (Michelle Michael), who just happens to be his boss. When the Twin Towers came down, they were in the midst of a tryst instead of in their offices downtown. Their co-workers are dead. Bens wife thinks hes dead. He wants to keep it that way and start a new life with the other woman. The idea is unthinkable, even to Abby, who tries to convince him to be a hero, to go out into the streets and help look for survivors. Or at least to call his wife and tell her once and for all hes leaving her. No go. Bens a sleazy creep. Abbys a doormat. The play, at 95 minutes, is at least an hour too long. Have mercy. Continues through May 23 at the Black Box Theater at The McKinney Avenue Contemporary (The MAC), 3120 McKinney Ave. 214-953-1055. Reviewed this week.

Aint Misbehavin The bouncy, syncopated Tin Pan Alley tunes of Thomas Fats Waller make this revue a tuneful two hours of jumpin, jivin and jitterbuggin. Directed and choreographed by Guy Ganakas, the Dallas Theater Center production features one of Dallas best singers, Liz Mikel (familiar from many years in DTCs A Christmas Carol), and four talented imports: Broadway veteran Ken Prymus, spritely Janeece Aisha Freeman, suave Dwayne Clark and Dioni Michelle Collins, who seems to have escaped her role in the recent Broadway flop, Taboo, with no visible injuries. Among the songs the cast romps through in two hours are Honeysuckle Rose, This Joint Is Jumpin, Taint Nobodys Bizness if I Do and I Cant Give You Anything but Love. Set in an Art Deco ballroom, the show gives its five performers separate turns in the spotlight, with the backup band--Darius Frowner on piano as musical conductor, Ira Basset on trumpet, Shelley Carrol on woodwinds, Mark Gulley on drums, Buddy Mohmed on bass fiddle--hitting every lick like theyd been on the road together forever. Nostalgic and funny, this is a show that requires the audience to do little more than sit back, smile and tap their toes. Through May 9 at Dallas Theater Center, 3636 Turtle Creek Blvd. Call 214-522-8499. Reviewed April 15.

Shakespeares R & J Four boys in school uniforms quickly run through rote class lessons in history and Latin before diving into a truncated schoolyard performance of Romeo and Juliet. With minimal set pieces, no costumes (except for one large swag of red fabric shared by all) and not quite enough grasp of Shakespeares poetry, the students get deeper and deeper into their roles. Yes, the boy-Romeo kisses the boy-Juliet. Several times. But not even that titillating touch makes this production interesting enough to warrant a two-and-a-half-hour sit on a hard chair. Basically, the adaptation by Joe Calarco is just an excuse to do Shakespeare on the cheap and without women. Only actor Steven Alford manages any subtlety in his performance as Juliet. Everyone else stomps, yells and carries on like theyre playing rugby. Continues through May 2 at Plano Repertory Theatre, E. 15th Street at Avenue G, Plano. Call 972-422-7460. Reviewed April 15.

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