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Capsule Stage Reviews: Fault Lines, The Most Fabulous Story Ever Told, The New Century

 Fault Lines The second show from Horse Head Theatre Co., one of Houston's newest homeless troupes, takes place in downtown bar Brewery Tap, which turns out to be a clever venue choice since the play, Stephen Belber's Fault Lines, is set in a bar. It tells the story of two longtime buds (Rick Silverman and Drake Simpson) who meet up after work to talk. They pop open Budweisers, toss back a couple of shots and get interrupted by a bar freak who somehow gets these friends to tell each other things that nobody needs to know. That's the nutshell version of yet another testosterone-driven tale about men behaving badly from Horse Head. (The first was Adam Rapp's Red Light Winter). The cast includes many stunningly talented men, especially Philip Lehl as the bar freak — the show really takes off when he arrives. The lights, the set, the ambient music from the band Plump and Kevin Holden's direction all keep the action ablaze with muscular energy. Belber's buddy play might be a bit adolescent, but it starts out engagingly enough — these boy-men rage against the machine with lines like, "You fuck things up, they become hard to unfuck things." All this is funny, especially from this enormously talented cast. But Belber's story makes an unwelcome detour three quarters of the way in — without giving it all away, this turn involves the sort of fabrication one might think up in a drunken conversation, but it's hard to believe that grownups, even the most adolescent among us, would actually enact the silliness this play ends with. Still, except for the last 15 minutes, this show is done with such raw power, it's impossible not to be completely engaged in the moment. But as good as they are, it's hard to understand why this group has picked such oddly limited subject matter — young men being small-minded and mean to each other and to the women they meet just isn't that important. And with talent like this, just imagine what they could do with a play that had a heart, a mind and a soul at its center. Through March 27. 717 Franklin, 713-835-2467. — LW

The Most Fabulous Story Ever Told Paul Rudnick's The Most Fabulous Story Ever Told, now running at Unhinged Productions, is a slightly irreverent, very gay retelling of the Genesis story. In the 1998 comedy, Adam and Eve become Adam (Travis Blount) and Steve (Giddony Sanchez). These two familiar stereotypes — Adam's a fussbudget and Steve's a hottie — frolic in the garden, amazed at the new world and with each other, wearing nothing but leather G-strings. Hidden in another corner of Paradise, butch Jane (Andrea Hyde) and airhead Mabel (Eva LaPorte) have set up lesbian house, and all is beautiful. But then Adam decides he wants to see what's on the other side of Paradise, which sends every human out of the garden and into the world of hardships, which includes an enormous flood, a big boat, sex with animals and the discovery of heterosexuals (who live on the other side of the earth and make babies!). Now love isn't quite so much fun anymore, and questions about god and fidelity abound. The second act fast-forwards the two couples into the present time, where even more troubles, like children and death, loom large. As directed by Dennis Draper, Unhinged Productions is very clever with its little bit of money — the ocean, for example, is made from a large sheet of blue plastic. And many of the one-liners for which Rudnick is known remain amusing — when Mabel is asked why she's wearing clothes after being kicked out of the garden, she says it has nothing to do with shame — "I need pockets," she says. But the naughtiness built into this play that has the characters questioning the standard Judeo-Christian version of spirituality feels a little dated — something no comedy can survive with all its hilarity intact. Through March 28. FrenetiCore Theater, 5102 Navigation, 832-250-7786. — LW

The New Century Paul Rudnick's The New Century isn't so much a play as it is a series of monologues stitched together to create an hour and a half of intermission-less theater. As directed by Joe Watts for Theatre New West, the show holds together and is both amusing and tender, even if it does feel a bit like the neighborhood adults have gotten together to put on a show, with its funky little stage in a dance studio and its lights on a dimmer. The show opens with Helen Nadler (Josephine John), the most tolerant mother in the world. She has three children — one is a lesbian, another is a transgendered lesbian and the last is a gay man into scatological sex. They all love their mother because she's so accepting. The second story comes from "Mr. Charles, Currently of Palm Beach" (Taavi Mark), a man who was kicked out of New York for being "too gay." Now he's got his own public-access television show that comes on at 4 a.m. He spends it all swishing about, reading letters from fans and talking to his hunky helper Shane (Lance Marshall). Finally there's Barbara Ellen Diggs (Julie Oliver), a mom who loves crafts and her gay son who died from AIDS years ago. At the end, all the characters magically end up in a New York hospital looking at the newborns and thinking about the brave new world that's out there. Rudnick, whose writing includes films such as The Stepford Wives and In & Out, doesn't seem to have worked all that hard with this newest play. The characters are clever, but since most of what's written is told straight out to the audience, there isn't a lot of conflict. Still, the performers are clearly enjoying themselves, and it's ­impossible not to smile at Rudnick's one-liners. Through April 3. Sirrom Studio, 5570 Weslayan, 713-522-2204.— LW

 
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