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Capsule Reviews

Our critics weigh in on local theater

 Driving Miss Daisy Alfred Uhry's Pulitzer Prize-winning play is like a fine cameo brooch -- in miniature and with deft strokes, a whole lot is made of very little. This play is a series of impressionistic, short scenes that say the most when it seems they're not saying anything. The drama's power resides in the silences between the sentences. Miss Daisy, a feisty old Southern Jewish lady of means -- although she'd be the last person to give that impression -- has wrecked her car. Her son Boolie, who spars with his mother constantly and has been a disappointment to her all his life (even though he's a successful Atlanta businessman), hires a chauffeur for her safety -- Hoke, a black man. "I'm not prejudiced," proclaims the cantankerous Daisy, "just stay out of my way." And the indomitable Hoke sasses, "No hog got away from me yet." Race, history and social themes swirl gently around their battle of wills and wits, and throughout the next 25 years, their prickly relationship evolves into deep, loving understanding and respect. Some scenes pass in a sentence or two, and most take place in the car. The effect is a perfect series of short stories whose impact sneaks up, putting you under its soft, tantalizing spell before you realize it. The three-person cast is ideal: Jeannette Clift George (Daisy), Wayne DeHart (Hoke) and Lee Walker (Boolie) give Uhry's characters a gentle, heart-wrenching humanity and affirming humor that make this play such an audience favorite. This is ensemble acting of the highest caliber. The only caveat is the interminable pauses between scenes, which drag out the pacing. It's a real credit to the cast that we long to get back to their story and not be stuck in the dark. Through May 29. A.D. Players, 2710 West Alabama, 713-526-2721.

Noises Off! It's awfully frantic backstage at Philadelphia's Grand Theatre, where play-within-a-play Noises On is in its final dress rehearsal. The hours tick away before the premiere; the hapless cast can't remember lines and simple stage business; the director can't get these clowns to mesh; and shifting love affairs and alliances complicate matters needlessly. During the second act of Noises Off!, it's one month later, and we're watching the disintegration from backstage. The third act takes place another month later, giving us the audience's perspective after this sad-sack troupe's been on the road, and cast members are totally sick of one another. What a car wreck of a production it's become. Michael Frayn's brilliant farce of farces keeps Country Playhouse's intrepid cast hopping and the audience in stitches as the catastrophes intensify. One of the funniest plays ever written, it has absolutely no redeeming social value; there's no moral. The sole purpose of Noises Off! is to make us laugh, and it succeeds brilliantly by using pratfalls, split-second timing, door slams, pants around the ankles, a plate of sardines and a wayward fire ax. Director O'Dell Hutchison keeps the crazed stage traffic at near-miss speed without losing any momentum; it's frantic but not frenetic. It's a difficult balance -- too much nuttiness, and the delicate soufflé falls flat; not enough craziness, and there's no comedy. Like Baby Bear's bed, this production is just right. Caught up in the shenanigans, the ensemble cast of these lovable losers (Barbara Lasater, Larry Hermes, Kenneth Jones, Julie Thornley-Jones, Stacie Williams, John Dunn, Lesley Tesh, John Mitsakis and Carl Masterson) deftly juggles all the hilarity with a refreshing, free-spirited tone. A very funny evening in the theater. Through May 28. 12802 Queensbury, 713-467-4497.

 
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