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Capsule Stage Reviews: Electile Dysfunction, A Murder of Crows, Unbeatable: A Bold New Musical

Electile Dysfunction Radio Music Theatre has tackled the wild and wacky political season with this funny play, which is full of characters as kooky as the past few months have been. Writer/director Steve Farrell knows just how to put things into perspective. His silly show features the Jones family from Precious Trees, "the most planned planned community" in Houston. Mom, Dad and Junior all support different candidates. The Spy Eye News team finds out about the argument and decides to feature the family as a human interest story. The actors present the newscast complete with commercials; the funniest features a very familiar furniture salesman named Uncle Dan (played by a hysterical Farrell), who sells a "political leaning chair" that leans to the left or the right depending on your preference and a recliner that shoots bullets. Back on the show, Damn Mad (Rich Mills) rants about politics, and the biggest story of the week focuses on the pastor of the biggest church in Texas — it's so big it used to be a whole ranch. Nothing is actually settled during the show, but lots of fun is had as the politics of the hour get chewed over. Through November 15. 2623 Colquitt, 713-522-7722. — LW

A Murder of Crows The world is a bleak place in Mac Wellman's hilarious invective A Murder of Crows, now in the hands of Mildred's Umbrella. The apocalyptic tale imagines a landscape ravaged by pollution and the empty desires of man. The ocean is "like a big bowl of wiggly custard," "the air's all mustardy" and the rivers "look like bubble baths." As one character says, "no matter where you are, you're always downwind of something peculiar." In this devastation swirls Wellman's strange, whacked-out poetry about the meaning of life, death and ugly Americans who believe they should be able to get something for nothing. Director Jennifer Decker's cast includes Mom Nella (Karen Schlag), who's lost her husband to an "avalanche of radioactive chicken shit"; her brother Howard (Tom Vaughan) and his Klan-loving wife Georgia (Amy Warren); Nella's son (Bobby Haworth), who's come back from Desert Storm as a "public monument"; her wild child daughter named Susannah (Christie Guidry Stryk), who speaks in poetry and hates everyone; Raymond (Alan Hall), the dad, who comes back from the dead to haunt his daughter; and three black crows (Bobbi-Jo Davis, Karina Pal Montaño-Bowers, Dana Pike) who flock around the house like a new-world Greek chorus, discussing ontology, epistemology and the myriad possibilities of language. This is not easy theater. It takes concentration and attention. This uninterrupted hour of anxiety might be too much for some, but it's quintessential Wellman — who won the 2003 lifetime achievement Obie Award — at his strangest and darkest. Through September 13. Midtown Art Center, 3414 LaBranch, 832-418-0585. — LW

Unbeatable: A Bold New Musical Breast cancer isn't usually something to sing about, but don't tell that to Laurie Frey, the woman who thought up Unbeatable: A Bold New Musical. Frey is also a breast cancer survivor, and her experiences with chemo, radiation and surgery make for surprisingly funny and at times very tender theater. Shaped into a story by Eric Coble and put into song by Kevin Fisher and Todd Schroeder, the musical follows do-it-all, type-A Tracy (Kristy Cates) from her diagnosis to her treatment to her epiphany that it's best to live life for the moment. The overall conceit of the story is a bit odd: Tracy imagines that she is on trial for how she's lived her life since she found out she was sick. There are some good jokes about mothers judging their daughters (Tracy's mom is the judge of her trial), but otherwise, the whole story could be told without this rather clunky metaphor for Tracy's inner life. That said, there are several lovely moments, including "Follow the Light," sung by Janet Carroll, who plays Tracy's mom with sweet care. The show is also filled with humor such as a Miss Chemo pageant and lots of songs about eating right ("Supershake"), drugs ("Pharmacy Song") and the general humiliation of being a patient ("Picked, Poked and Prodded"). The opening-night audience was full of survivors and their families, and many were often moved to tears at Tracy's tribulations. The energetic cast, who traveled here from the Phoenix Theatre in Arizona, was directed by Michael Barnard (who is also credited as a co-creator in the program) with terrific joy. It's clear these actors are loving every minute of their time onstage, living out the show's central message — life should be savored. Through September 28. Stages Repertory Theatre, 3201 Allen Pkwy., 713-527-0123. — LW

 
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