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Stage Capsule Reviews

Our critics weigh in on local theater

Valhalla "I believe that the world should be beautiful." No, that's not Blanche DuBois sighing so plaintively -- it's mad, gay King Ludwig of Bavaria (Godfrey Plata) pleading for not only beauty, but lots more gold lamé, in Paul Rudnick's politically incorrect phantasmagoria, presently on delightful view thanks to Joe Watts's Theatre New West. In Rudnick's madcap whirl, Ludwig isn't really mad, but my, oh my, is he gay. The terribly misunderstood king goes from dreaming of castles in the air to actually building them. "You're no good at reality; go mad," he's advised by hunchbacked princess Sophie (Beth DeLozier), who then offhandedly adds, "I wish I could shrug." Parallel to Ludwig's witty, wicked story is that of James (the ultra-smooth Houston Hayes), a gay boy from small-town Texas who dreams of "out there," a place to find happiness. While his sexual adventures include true love Henry Lee (John Dunn) and a pre-wedding fling with Henry's fiancée, James reaches an apotheosis on army patrol at Neuschwanstein, Ludwig's rococo wet-dream of a castle. Underscored by the radiant operatic strains of Wagner (although smoother sound mixing would immensely enhance the mood), the two men's tales coalesce in a grand fantasy where a modern yenta tour guide (Holly Wilkison) yammers hilariously about Ludwig's plush, erotic subterranean surroundings as "Bed, Bath and Beyond." The young, talented cast of six (including Michael Shukis) plays with effortless guile. Realize your dreams, says Rudnick. No matter how nuts they may seem to others, they're the only road to happiness. It's a premise that holds true for anyone, not just mad kings and sexy bad boys from Texas. Through March 31. Midtown Arts Center, 3414 LaBranch, 713-522-2204

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