Oh, Brother

Two siblings named Lincoln and Booth battle it out in Topdog/Underdog

The show's weakness is its complex web of stories, all competing for our attention. There's the story of Mei-Li and Ta's love. There's also the story of Ta's conflict with his father (James Saito). And then there's Ta's crush on Linda Low (played with seductive glee by Emily Hsu). Yet another story revolves around Chao (Bobby Pestka), who falls for Mei-Li. And that doesn't begin to cover the stories whirling around the nightclub/Chinese opera, where Mei-Li spends time working as a waitress. All these add up to a mishmash of tales that never get a chance to gather the singular energy this show needs.

But even with its flaws, Flower Drum Song is better than much of what calls itself musical theater these days. Rodgers and Hammerstein wrote it, after all. As unruly as the story might be, it's still compelling. -- Lee Williams

Topdog/Underdog: Through February 15 at the Alley Theatre, 615 Texas Avenue, 713-228-8421. $40-$45.

Booth (Freeman) can't throw cards like Lincoln 
Michael Brosilow
Booth (Freeman) can't throw cards like Lincoln (Rainey).

Flower Drum Song: Through February 1 at the Hobby Center for the Performing Arts, 800 Bagby, 713-558-8887. $25-$68.

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