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Capsule Reviews

Our critic weighs in on local theater

Boy Groove "You make my hips buck," sings the gyrating boy band, voguing in front of the audience. Aaron Macri and Chris Craddock's musical spoof Boy Groove is having its U.S. premiere at Theatre LaB Houston, and in it, fictional teeny-bopper sensation Boy Groove gets screwed just like it ought to be. Your hands will be chapped from applause and your face will ache from laughter during its zippy, intermission-less 90 minutes, which lay out the quartet's history, from gestation through meteoric success, scandal, comeback and burnout. This is all thanks to Carl, the greasy manager-producer who hires the four twinkies not for their talent, but because his marketing demographics require four distinct "types." What's so much fun about this parody is that by fade-out, when the fab four reprise their first hit, we actually like these insipid little twits, in no small part because of the singing-and-dancing young actors, whose energy brings Craddock's narcissistic foursome to vibrant life. They also play all the other characters who swirl through this rags-to-riches-to-rags Teen Beat story: fatuous reporters, a low-rent lawyer, a cop, George Michael, Richard Simmons, badass rapper Hype-tastic and a twitchy hip-hop alien from planet DuranDuran. Jason Blagec plays egotistical, gay Lance, who prays to Jesus for a bigger penis "to match my stature in pop music." Quincy Starnes plays clever, financially savvy Kevin, who parlays his fortune into starting another annoying boy band. Aaron Stryk plays dumb, sensitive Andrew, whose shallow humanitarian streak (see song "Stop Right There, Hunger!") is matched only by his IQ. And Doug Thompson plays angry, spiked collar-wearing, space-tripping Jon, who can't wait to be "bonin' some alien." Superbly directed and choreographed by Linda Phenix, Boy Groove is platinum, man, pure platinum. Through July 10. 1706 Alamo, 713-868-7516.

The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged) And now for something completely different for the Ensemble Theatre: the Reduced Shakespeare Company's cult comedy smash, The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged). Known for its African-American productions, the Ensemble has enhanced its diversity with this irreverent zip file of the Bard's entire output. This whacked-out play, which is still selling out theaters in London, is more condensed than a couplet -- it's a slacker's look at his histories, comedies and tragedies in 90 minutes. With a special nod to the absurdity of Monty Python, Mel Brooks and old-time TV variety shows, Works is both parody and homage. You know what to expect when the universal tragedy of Romeo and Juliet is described as an "icky, pooh-pooh day." The histories are spoofed as a football game, with the English crown passed downfield; Othello is told through a rap; the comedies are summed up during the improbably complicated "Love Boat Goes to Verona"; and the gruesome Titus Andronicus is played as an over-the-top cooking show. The show, slickly directed by Ed Muth, succeeds in its sublime silliness through its trio of clowning actors. Keith Caldwell is the pompous "actory" one; Ensemble veteran Henry Edwards brings downtown cool to his roles; and Alvaro Saar Rios, in cut-off shorts and sneakers, goes all out in goofy drag. Act II is devoted to Hamlet: a "straight" version (or as straight as they can do it), then a fast rendition, then a faster one and, to top it off, a backward reading. With flying dummies, splashing water and audience participation, it's a free-for-all show-stopper. Through June 27. 3535 Main, 713-520-0055.

Life Beyond the Loop That loony Fertle family is on hiatus until September, so instead you'll just have to content yourself with Radio Music Theatre's hilarious parody Life Beyond the Loop. The show is as bracing as a headfirst dunk into a bucket of ice water. Here, the superb comic trio (author Steve Farrell, Vicki Farrell and Rich Mills -- with sound- and music-effects wizards Mark Cain and Pat Southard) takes us to Houston-area planned community Precious Trees and proceeds to shake out enough nuts to feed the elephants at the zoo. Among the numerous topical items and persons expertly lambasted: our new accident-prone Metro, the unstoppable developer Tilman Fertitta, the nudie bar/restaurant Kajankers, George and Barbara Bush, the sleazy televangelist Jiffy Dillman and the incompetent Spy Eye News, with its consumer advocate Damuel Madd ("I'm Dam Madd"). There's a plot -- there's always a good plot at RMT's three-ring circus -- but it's only an excuse for timely gags, razor-sharp timing and brilliant song parodies. And let's not forget the Margaret Mueller Miller Mitchell...something, something...Pavilion, the "instant damnation" of Al Franken, Uncle Dan's insane furniture commercials and the dessert of choice at Precious Trees: pudding! Through August 28. 2623 Colquitt, 713-522-7722.

 
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