Capsule Reviews

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. They also swill a lot of bubbly without ever getting tipsy (too bad, that might be funny). The Contemporary Theatre of Dallas production does serve up some tasty performances from Tom Lenaghen, Cindee Mayfield and Lisa Fairchild. The set by Wade J. Giampa, banked with faux-Fragonard murals, is appropriately chic. But there's nothing very French about any of it and it's one of Simon's lesser efforts. Through June 19 at Contemporary Theatre of Dallas, 5601 Sears St., 214-828-0094. Reviewed this week. (Elaine Liner)

Earth and Sky Chicago playwright Douglas Post has written a killer-diller thriller about a poet-librarian (the wonderful Allison Tolman) who plays detective to solve the brutal murder of her mysterious new boyfriend (Rhett Henckel). As the case moves forward, the couple's relationship is played backward scene by scene. In this regional premiere, the Second Thought Theatre company leaves the actors in the dark, even as the clues in the plot are revealed to the audience. Good performances by a strong cast are lost in murky, shadowy lighting that rarely reveals any actor's face. Film noir is one thing. Theatre noir is unforgivable. Thank goodness the script is strong enough to hold up even as a radio drama. Through June 5 at Frank's Place, Dallas Theater Center, 3636 Turtle Creek Blvd., 214-679-2692. Reviewed this week. (E.L.)

Peter Pan Cathy Rigby is a bionic pixie as the immortal boy in green tights. Bounding over the lavish sets like the champion gymnast she was more than three decades ago, Rigby also shows off a strong voice that hints at the huskiness of Tammy Grimes. Her Peter Pan is a bruised, untrusting child, yearning for a mother's love. As J.M. Barrie's classic villain, Captain Hook, Broadway veteran Howard McGillin eschews the swish of Cyril Ritchard in favor of some sexy tango moves and the leer of an aging gigolo. As his left-hand man, Smee, Patrick Richwood is a scene-stealing natural fool. The pace of the three-act musical is a full-out gallop (keeps the kiddies interested that way). Even the most skeptical adult ends up clapping madly to keep flickering Tinkerbell alive. Watch for Rigby's real-life daughter, Theresa McCoy, as young Jane in the final scene. Neverland was never so lovely. Through June 5 at the Music Hall at Fair Park. 214-631-2787. Reviewed this week. (E.L.)