Capsule Reviews

Betrayal Harold Pinter's drama about the ins and outs of one middle-aged London couple's adulterous affair takes a zig-zaggy route to storytelling. Scenes jump back and forth in time, moving backward gradually to the moment when Emma (Sue Birch) and Jerry (Steven Pounders) decide to cheat on their spouses and fall into each other's arms. The play's vavoomy sexiness is undercut in Theatre Britain's production by a scenic design that's cold and stark and by actors who hold back just a bit too much in the passion department. When will the wonderful James Crawford (he plays the cuckolded husband) get to play a real leading man? He's an actor so gifted with accents that we've never heard him speak plain ol' Amurrican. Here he's as rigid and mean as Basil Fawlty. Through June 26 at Trinity River Arts Center, 2600 N. Stemmons Freeway, Suite 180, 972-490-4202. Reviewed this week. (Elaine Liner)

The Producers "Do I smell the revolting stench of self-esteem?" asks sleazy producer Max Bialystock in this gigundo adaption of Mel Brooks' little 1968 movie comedy about two swindlers who stage the worst musical ever conceived, a sunny tribute to the Third Reich. That stink might actually be the aroma of a stale Broadway hit coming to town in a tired touring production. In the show, the lousy musical becomes a hit and Max (played here by Bob Amaral) goes to jail. Nobody served time for this hyped-up hunk of hokum--shoot, it won a jillion Tonys--but except for the deliciously tasteless Springtime for Hitler sequence, what Brooks and overrated director-choreographer Susan Stroman have done with the old material is a crime. The only Broadway-worthy performances come from Stuart Marland as cross-dressing Roger De Bris, Rich Affannato as the prissy Carmen Ghia and Bill Nolte as neo-Nazi playwright Franz Liebkind. Through June 19 at the Music Hall at Fair Park, 214-631-2787. Reviewed this week. (E.L.)

The Dinner Party Six guests receive a mysterious invitation to a party in a fancy Paris restaurant. Once they arrive, each is confronted by his or her ex-spouse. But who is responsible for this nervous gathering? And why is the door to the private dining room locked from the outside? Neil Simon's 31st play begins as a farce and ends up as a quasi-Christie mystery. Before they can sit down to a meal, the characters must talk out their differences with their much-despised exes. There's a lot of door-slamming and silly slapstick as each couple finds a reason to be alone for their big talk. The Contemporary Theatre of Dallas production does serve up some tasty performances from Tom Lenaghen, Cindee Mayfield and Lisa Fairchild. It's one of Simon's lesser efforts. Through June 26 at Contemporary Theatre of Dallas, 5601 Sears St., 214-828-0094. Reviewed June 2. (E.L.)

Living Out Lisa Loomer's 2003 play draws meaningful parallels between the stress-filled life of a Salvadoran nanny, Ana (Gigi Cervantes), and the conflicts a Los Angeles lawyer (Lydia Mackay) feels when she hires her. Both women are overwhelmed by mommy-guilt for leaving their kids with others, but the financial squeezes are very different (lawyer-mom has the big mortgage and fancy car). The lawyer considers the nanny a necessary luxury. For Ana, the $10-an-hour job keeps her dream alive of bringing her older son from El Salvador to America. What starts out as a trenchant comedy about class divisions and existential crises moves gracefully toward tragedy by the end. But the playwright doesn't hammer the issues. A lovely production all around. Through June 19 at WaterTower Theatre, 15650 Addison Road, Addison, 972-450-6220. Reviewed June 9. (E.L.)

The Nerd Larry Shue's comedy preceded the Revenge of the Nerds flicks by several years, but you'll recognize the title character as the same brand of stereotypical geek. Rick Steadman (Chris Dover) drops in on an army buddy (Shane Beeson) who barely remembers what he looked like back in Vietnam. There's a birthday party going on, but that doesn't faze pushy Rick, who shows up dressed for Halloween (long passed) in a Godzilla costume. Every move he makes, every breath he takes, we watch the guy get closer to the last nerve of his host and the host's pals (Christine Bush, Scott A. Eckert). When a Mr. Mooney-like boss (Michael Roe) comes to dinner and winds up playing Rick's ridiculous "Shoes and Socks" game, the nerd's days are numbered. It's silliness to the umpteenth power, but the cast keeps the pace lively. Through June 25 at the Pocket Sandwich Theatre, 5400 E. Mockingbird Lane, Suite 119, 214-821-1860. Reviewed June 9. (E.L.)