Capsule Reviews

Claptrap The title word says it all. Empty talk intended to get applause, says the definition. That pretty much sums up Ken Friedmans farce, produced by Rover Dramawerks, which finds a novelist named Sam (Randeep Walia) battling writers block. Over and over, he types opening lines, only to wad up the page and start over again. Girlfriend Sara (Jennifer Duggins) giggles and sticks carrots in her hair. A toupee-wearing actor named Harvey (Kenneth Fulenwider) is obsessed with the play Deathtrap, about one writer murdering another to steal his work. He moves in with Sam and soon sells a half-dozen ideas to a TV network simply by getting stuck in an elevator with a programming exec. Sara and Sam conspire to murder him and steal his scripts. Sound funny? This is a pretty entertaining hour of comedy. Unfortunately, its dragged out for two hours and 40 minutes. Continues through May 22 at the Mesquite Arts Centre Black Box Theatre. 1527 N. Galloway Ave., Mesquite. 972-849-0358.

The Shape of Things How far will an insecure man go to please a beautiful woman? And what if that woman is a smart, manipulative Fatal Attraction type whose secret agenda is to remake the man from head to toe? Playwright Neil LaBute takes on the current obsession with personal makeovers in this funny, odd, disturbing play. Evelyn (the wonderful Sarah Saunders) meets Adam (Andy Bean), a sad-sack security guard, in an art museum. She seduces him and then...but wait. To reveal too much would be to ruin the surprises in this excellent Collin County Community College production. Terrific acting, inventive direction and spiffy set design make this one a winner. The love story is just one part of a jigsaw puzzle plot. Continues through May 9 at the Quad C Black Box Theatre, 2800 E. Spring Creek Parkway, Plano. 972-881-5100. Reviewed this week.

Ain't 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.

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 April 22.

Red Scare on Sunset Maybe its the chic hostess coat leading lady Mary Dale wears over her mint green slacks, but darn if she doesnt look a little like a blond Lucy Ricardo. Of course, in this production, she is a he. Actor Coy Covington, a pro at putting on wigs and heels for a good role, vamps it up as a fading 1950s screen queen in Charles Buschs sharp satire of the Hollywood blacklisting era. What sweet Mary doesnt know is that her husband, Frank (Nye Cooper), has joined not just a method acting class, but a secret cell of Communists trying to take over the movie biz. No more star system! Oh, the humanity! The play sends up old movies, shallow American values (as promoted by popular films) and Hollywoods hypocritical attitudes toward gays and liberal politics. Throw in a lip-synched version of Naughty but Nice and you have yourself two hours of funny, funny stuff. Continues through May 16 at Trinity River Arts Center, 2600 Stemmons Freeway at Motor Street, Suite 180. 214-219-2718. Reviewed April 29.

KEEP THE DALLAS OBSERVER FREE... Since we started the Dallas Observer, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Dallas, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.