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Capsule Stage Reviews: Acting Whore, All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten, Electile Dysfunction, To Kill a Mockingbird

Acting Whore Here's a world premiere at Silver House Theatre that you should know about. Actor/director Eleazar Catter has written a very fine comedy/drama about the perils, pitfalls and joys of being an actor — the humiliating auditions, the dreams of making it, the constant terror of not making it, the pressure of time passing. Just when you think there's nothing fresh he could add to the age-old tale, Catter changes track and subtly moves us into more personal territory. His theme sings. We're all actors, he elegantly says, especially when we lie to protect each other. Even though there are a few too many improv-like scenes, Catter varies the pace with lively, imaginative little flicks, such as a harried Italian audition director (Riccardo Tursi is a gem), or the ambitious actress/waiter — forever to be known as a "wactress" (Stephanie Morris as both star-struck and slavish), or the bored agent juggling too many low-rent clients (Adrienne Rowe). The main story concerns three best-friend actors whose fortunes and friendships change through the decades; whatever happens, they remain interconnected. While the ties that bind Ritchie (Brandon Michael Osborn), Lola (Jill Brumer) and Pablo (Dasen Kendrick) get stretched thin, both over time and by the playwright, their stories beguile because of the finely hewn characters and the emotion invested in them by the great cast. We love rooting for success, and these sad sacks want it so badly, we wish them the world. That they get the world they themselves have fashioned is hardly news, but sometimes it's just enough to turn into a fascinating new play. Through October 19. 1107 Chartres. 832-865-3413. — DLG

All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten Robert Fulghum's feel-good nostrums about life and how best to live it have become a worldwide phenomenon ever since the publication of his first book of pithy essays, which has now been adapted into a play by Ernest Zulia, with music and lyrics by David Caldwell. Except for the classical concert parody "Uh-Oh" with its syncopated series of surprise sounds, the music is sweet and forgettable. A detriment in any other play, when it accompanies Fulghum's brand of Hallmark hokum and his earnest "sandbox school of ethics," it's the perfect sound. It's difficult plowing through Fulghum's golden rules, as if life's complexities could be reduced to a sampler's stitches. We all realize that, yes, laughing is good for you, that if we make a mess, we should be the ones to clean it up, and it's always good to share, but aren't there times when it's appropriate — and necessary — to slap someone upside the head? For all Fulghum's Quaalude-like bromides, there are some choice moments, thanks to the buoyant, personable cast, abetted by the smooth direction of Sissy Pulley and the atmospheric production design of Mark Lewis. Actors Marion Kirby (his story and song about romantic movie star Charles Boyer is touchingly memorable), Brenda Fager, Luisa Amaral-Smith, Marty Blair and Jim Salners romp through the Dr. Phil moments as if these self-evident truths were totally fresh and novel. Through October 19. A.D. Players, 2710 Alabama, 713-526-2721. — DLG

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

To Kill a Mockingbird In Bonnie Hewitt's Playhouse 1960 production of Harper Lee's phenomenally successful one-hit wonder, time moves too slowly in sleepy Maycomb, Georgia. Sleepy shouldn't mean comatose. There are interminable pauses and gaps that need filling — with action, music, sound, anything — to keep our interest. Granted, Lee's story is perennially fascinating with its simple, faux poetry and honest telling of how upright Atticus Finch battles racial prejudice with common dignity in the Depression-poor South, but tired pacing is still tired pacing. The acting is all over the place, which may be a clue, as some of the townsfolk register more strongly than the leads, throwing off the play's focus. Young Connor Heaton acquits himself nicely as Jem, though, gangly and on the cusp of growing up, while Rissa Medlenka, as Scout, is feisty and playful. Chuck Houston, as Atticus, grows in stature as the play progresses (Ms. Lee helps), but he still needs more of that moral center of gravity. He seems so aloof, he vanishes. And there's no atmosphere at all to speak of, which the play and book are full of — court scene aside, that's all this play is, nothing but atmosphere. Maria O. Sirgo, as grownup narrator Scout, gives coherence to the show and adds a special overlay of bemused wistfulness to the nostalgia. They haven't quite coalesced as a team yet; how about a round of mint juleps? That should help. Through October 25. 8614 Gant Rd., 281-587-8243. — DLG

 
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