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Capsule Stage Reviews: Dog Sees God: Confessions of a Teenage Blockhead, Pack of Lies, Translations, Young and Fertle

Dog Sees God: Confessions of a Teenage Blockhead Oh, that Peanuts gang. Dear old Charles Schulz would be spinning in his grave if he knew what happened to his lovable bunch of kids once they became teenagers. In Bert V. Royal's Dog Sees God: Confessions of a Teenage Blockhead, coming from Unhinged Productions, we learn that Pig Pen has become Matt, a fastidious, cocaine-snorting, homophobic jock (Fernando Rivera); Peppermint Patty and Marcie are now a pair of mean girls known as Tricia (Melissa N. Davis) and Marcy (Elizabeth Bannor); and Charlie Brown, or CB (Adam Pecht), is the most popular boy in school. This is hormone city and, for the most part, very funny. These kids have sex, talk smack about each other and even learn a few things before all is said and done. Despite the maudlin ending, the poor direction from Karen Heimbaugh and the even worse set pieces being moved at glacier speed through interminable scene changes, this young cast is attractive and full of energy. If they'd gotten better direction, they would all be pretty terrific. As it is, the show feels a bit like a school production, but it's an enjoyable one and full of fun surprises. Through March 22. Silver House Theatre, 1107 Chartres, 281-312-9379. — LW

Pack of Lies Let's say you're a typical English middle-class family: sweet, gentle, rather boring. What would you do if you were told that your oldest and best friends — your neighbors right across the street — were Russian spies, and that for the security of the country, you had to keep the friendship going and, naturally, your knowledge secret? How long could you keep up appearances? How long until the tension and the constant lying got to you? Could your marriage survive? These are the questions asked by playwright Hugh Whitemore, who's made a career out of English ordinariness and espionage (84 Charing Cross Road, Breaking the Code). While gnawing moral pain and guilt wrack wife Barbara (Karla Brandau), husband Bob (Casey Coale) doesn't react as violently to the emotional toll. But then, he's not around during the day when pseudo-spy Helen (Rose Trauschke) drops by for a chat or a spot of tea. Daughter Julie (young pro Alexandra Addison) is kept in the dark by her parents and by the mysterious government man Mr. Stewart (Glenn Dodson), who cavalierly informs the unsuspecting couple that the Reds have landed right across the way. Unfortunately, Whitemore intersperses short, "meaningful" monologues between the scenes that muddy up the drama, but Brandau is very good as she slowly unravels in front of our eyes and makes us aware that lying — even to a Commie — takes a bite out of the soul. Through April 12. Company OnStage, 536 Westbury, 713-726-1219. — DLG

Translations In the hardscrabble world of Brian Friel's Translations, language is one of the few beautiful things the people of Ireland's countryside can claim for their very own. Irish, not English, is spoken with fierce emotion in Friel's dark portrait of 19th-century rural Ireland, now at Main Street Theater. The language of the colonizers isn't even taught at the little hedge school where the story takes place. So when English engineers show up to anglicize the name of every creek, glade and valley in County Donegal, the careworn lives of these people are damaged to the very core. As directed by Rebecca Greene Udden, the tenderness in Friel's writing, his love of Ireland, his affection for the people who live there are all palpable. But this story is fraught with struggle as well. When one of the English shows up missing, the entire community realizes that place names are not the only things that will be changing with the coming of the British. They don't know how much they value their own language until it's too late. Through March 22. 2540 Times Blvd., 713-524-6706. — LW

Young and Fertle If you think the goofy Fertle family of Dumpster, Texas, is hilarious enough in the present, you should see them back in the day. In this installment, the 20th Sentral High School Reunion sends the loons time-tripping into their past, which is just as screwy and dysfunctional as their lives today. If you're new to Radio Music Theatre — and just what has taken you so long? — you don't need to know the backstory to appreciate the nonstop nuttiness, since the witty script by Steve Farrell fills in the blanks. Of course, if you're already a committed Fertle Head, the extra details just make the show funnier. The three actors who play all the characters (Steve Farrell, Vicki Farrell and Rich Mills) are at the top of their form, and their glee is as infectious as ever. In the old days, Justicena and Bridgette were already bitch-fighting; Lou was as clueless as ever; sweet, dumb Earl found a friend in sweet, dumb Special Ed; Doc Moore couldn't be understood any better than he is now; greaser Braxton Hix continued his mischief; fey Curtis Miller dreamed of wearing a uniform; and Michael (who's never seen) spent all his time in the boy's bathroom with Bruce Nelly, much to the chagrin of Justicena, who carried a torch for him that would light up west Texas. Well, it certainly would light up Clem, Texas, next door to Dumpster, because only Clem lived there. It doesn't get any funnier — or smarter — than the Fertle family and their bizarre neighbors. Through May 10. 2623 Colquitt, 713-522-7722. — DLG

 
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