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Capsule Stage Reviews: Beauty Queen of Leenane, Complete Works of William Shakespeare...Abridged, The Story of Burford, Category 5

Beauty Queen of Leenane If you know anything about the works of playwright Martin McDonagh (The Pillowman, Lieutenant of Inishmore), then you're well aware that his vision of Ireland does not include leprechauns, four-leaf clovers or pots of gold. His plays are infamous for their willful violence, black-as-pitch humor and solid theatrical craftsmanship. This humdinger from 1996 has all of the above, plus a crushing sense of dread and foreboding. Twisty as a shillelagh, the plot keeps one guessing from scene to scene as new info is cleverly introduced and expectations derailed. Even the mundane objects in the ramshackle Fenley cottage in the remote town of Leenane take on ominous import. Will fortyish spinster daughter Maureen, chafing under her harridan mother's control, take that spoon out of Mom's oatmeal bowl and stab her in the eye? Is that pot of boiling water, used for tea, waiting to be thrown in a face? Who's the crazy one here? And will poor Maureen take up with sweet neighbor Pato Dooley down the way, and run away with him to Boston? Will Mom let her? McDonagh answers these questions with natural ease and, dare I say, charm; his choices are a testament to his great gifts. The quartet cast is downright superb, without one false note — Melrose Fougere and Julie Thornley play sharp-tongued hag and spiteful daughter; Wade Gonsoulin and Joey Melcher play the Dooley brothers, one knowing and one clueless. Under Ananka Kohnitz's edgy and right direction, the claustrophobic play becomes as taut and relentless as a murderer's hand around the throat. It's another haunting winner from a sparkling season at Theatre Southwest. Don't miss it. Through June 20. 8944-A Clarkcrest, 713-661-9505. — DLG

Complete Works of William Shakespeare...Abridged This amazingly wacky parody of the works of Shakespeare played for ten years in London, which says something about the state of theater in England. It's terribly silly and laugh-out-loud funny when approached with a sharp sense of style that references Monty Python, the Marx Brothers and low-rent Benny Hill. Ace Theatre doesn't give this show the respect it deserves. It goes all loosey-goosey and laid-back, losing a great many laughs with the slacker attitude. It's all rather haphazard and thrown together, as if the cast couldn't be bothered to rehearse. When the actors do quote Shakespeare, they get it wrong. If you're mocking the nose-in-the-air self-satisfaction inherent in Masterpiece Theatre, you'd better get the quotes right. There are still some funny bits, though. Othello, summed up by rap lyrics, is amusing; the gore fest Titus Andronicus tricked up as a TV cooking show is clever; and Hamlet, wrung through the wringer fast, faster and then backwards, is irreverent and goofy. Jillian Nolan, who also directs, seems most comfortable with the nonsense, as does stoner-esque Seth Radliff, who gets to play all the drag parts. Through June 27. 17011 Bamwood, 281-587-1020. — DLG

The Story of Burford, Category 5 Hurricane Ike might be just a sweat-soaked memory, but if Steve Farrell, the dude who writes all the silliness for Radio Music Theatre, has his way, we'll all be thinking storm surge soon. The Story of Burford, Category 5 imagines what will happen if a Category 5 storm really did blow our way. We meet the Spy Eye News team just as Burford is gathering steam out in the Gulf. City fathers are about to launch the "Houston Smug Campaign," thinking if that sort of attitude works for the folks in New York and L.A., the Bayou City should be able to get the same thing working. The story also follows the developers of places like Driftwood, who know they're building McMansions on flood planes but don't care. Then there are all those Canadians buying up Houston. One's here spending his time at the Poontang Club, getting the rib eye/table dance combo. Meanwhile, Burford is gathering power in the Gulf. Soon enough, it's a Category 5, enough to blow the city off the map — well, not quite. In Radio Music Theatre world, we still have the Art Boat Parade. And because we're so damned innovative, Houstonians know how to make big bucks out of disaster. Think gondolas and theme parks! It's all fun and giggles with Farrell, his wife Vicki Farrell and Rich Mills, the three-performer team who enact all the characters in this show — a very goofy way to forget about what could happen should a real Cat 5 barrel our way. Through August 30. 2623 Colquitt, 713-522-7722. — LW

 
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