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Capsule Reviews

Our critics weigh in on local theater

Media Darlings "Run-down" isn't the word for the trash-filled apartment where low-life sisters Madeleine (Anne Zimmerman) and Gina (Elizabeth Seabolt) live out their existence in dos chicas theater commune's production of Joey Berner's black comedy. Hopeless and amoral, without a future, they crave fame and fortune with the same zeal Maddie has for lunchmeat. Since crime is down in Chicago, they figure, why not pull off a few heists to get their names in the newspaper or, better, on TV. If they happen to kill somebody during their spree, well, the poor "retard" probably deserved it. Arguing over a plan, the appropriate hairdo and the motto "Share the Violence," the duo is somewhat successful at first, once Maddie learns how to wield a gun and curbs her enthusiasm for shopping while robbing. We're in David Mamet/Sam Shepherd Land with its battling siblings, class warfare and glorification of violence, but without those playwrights' fluid language, character development and sexy roughhouse. Zimmerman and Seabolt do the best with what Berner gives them, but the sisters, equally stupid and without heart, are just small-town greasers with parochial longings. Neither they nor the expletive-filled two-character satire seems big enough. Through April 1. Free Range Studios, 1719 Live Oak, 832-283-0858.

Waitin' 2 End Hell William Parker's in-your-face comedy/drama about buppies (black urban professionals) at the Ensemble Theatre elicits a big audience reaction. The play's multiple themes are laid out in sermonlike pronouncements. 1. Who's the head of the house? 2. If the wife is more successful than her husband, is she ripe for an affair? 3. Can a man ever really trust a woman? 4. Why is divorce so prevalent in contemporary black society? There's plenty of melodrama in the predictable way married couple Dante and Diane (Henry Edwards and Rachel Hemphill-Dickson) fall to pieces with recriminations, adultery and deadly threats. The fine cast brings these and the rest of the play's characters to life way beyond the dry page, making us sympathize with them and their issues in visceral ways; it feels like we're rooting for our favorite reality-show contestants. But there's too much going on too many schematic discussions, too many weighty themes and everyone stakes out a position and pretty much sticks to it throughout. Still, for all their dissertations, these seven friends are a likable group, and we want all of them to find contentment. That they battle among themselves trying to attain what may be unattainable makes them all the more appealing. Wife Diane, though, is the villain of the piece, and she gets her comeuppance at the end, much to the audible glee of the audience. Parker's play doesn't answer any of the questions it asks, but if that lessens the drama's heft, it certainly makes it more personable. Worth noting are Tracey Wheat as wisecracking, man-loving Shay and Alex Gardner as the always-hungry Alvin, who has solved his "sister problem" by marrying a docile Japanese-American. Through April 2. 3535 Main, 713-520-0055.

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