Capsule Reviews

Anton in Show Business Take three actresses of varying ages and levels of talent. Put them in a no-money production of Anton Chekhov's The Three Sisters on a toilet-sized stage in San Antonio. Then let the angst begin. In this comedy by the pseudonymous Louisville playwright Jane Martin, the play-within-the-play shows what really goes on in rehearsals when nothing goes right. Like Noises Off, this comedy dwells in the world of the theatah, with its out-of-control egos, raging insecurities and colorful characters. In their season opener, the new Second Thought Theatre group scores a hit with an all-woman cast of seven playing more than a dozen men and women. Holly, a pretty television star (played nicely by Amy Storemski), mixes it up with a nave newcomer, Lisabette (Jenny Ledel), who likes to boast that her "boobs bounce even when I walk reeeeeal slow." Watching them both with a gimlet eye is Casey (Allison Tolman, this company's real find), an actress used to working so far off-Broadway that the subways don't run there at night. Director Tom Parr IV keeps the pace brisk and the dialogue crackling. If the script slows a bit at the end, it's all right. We need a breather from laughing for two hours. The only complaint about this production is its venue. The tiny Frank's Place space above the Kalita Humphreys Theater at the Dallas Theater Center is badly in need of renovation. The chairs are hard, and the place is crawling with tiny insects. We've heard of flea-bitten old theaters, but this is too much. Wear some repellent instead of cologne. Through August 15 at Frank's Place, Dallas Theater Center, 3636 Turtle Creek Blvd. Reservations at secondthoughttheatre.com or at 214-679-2692. Reviewed this week. (Elaine Liner)

Porn for Puritans In just over an hour of sketches and songs, writer-performers Leigh Tomlinson and Tim Wardell attempt to show the funny side of wooing and winning the opposite sex. If only they weren't afraid of the topic. Instead of driving their audience to ecstasy with saucy observations and sexual repartee, this duo pulls back and plays it safe with dippy old jokes about vibrators and "going to second base.'' It's all a bit quaint--not even as dirty as the comedy "party records'' their grandparents might have played to liven up bridge nights back in the '50s. Tomlinson and Wardell write material that reflects none of their own generation's comic influences. Have they never heard a Monty Python or Richard Pryor record? Never seen AbFab or Will & Grace? Was Sex and the City not on their cable lineup? Has anyone since the Leave It to Beaver era referred to breast-fondling as "second base''? These two are to comedy writing what the Patriot Act is...to comedy writing. Their punch lines are flat and sexist (in this show, all men are horny beasts and all women are needy clingers). There's not an original thought to be heard. Pleasant to look at these two are, but smart and funny? Not on your tintype. Still, they're selling lots of tickets to church singles groups and other seriously comedy-impaired herds. The run of this show has been extended, and there's talk of giving it a home for an indefinite engagement. Budding comedy writers, take note: If you can do better, start writing today. If this piffle can pull in a crowd, anything can. Through August 14 in the Black Box Theatre at The McKinney Avenue Contemporary, 3120 McKinney Ave., 214-953-1622. Reviewed August 5. (E.L.)