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Auntie Mame Sad to say, the champagne's gone flat at Stages Repertory Theatre. The irrepressible Mame (Sally Edmundson) still raises her glass high in Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee's classic tale adapted from Patrick Dennis's 1955 bestseller, but the party is surprisingly dull. With her incomparable presence and sea-deep voice, Edmundson, one of Houston's stellar talents, is a natural for the role of madcap Mame, who flouts convention, battles hypocrisy and fights for the little guy. But Stages' "reimagined" production makes her seem little, if not swallowed up, even on its intimate stage. Things are awry from the first glimpse: a guitar on a stand, black drapes and background, and three bare bulbs hanging down from the flies. Whose funeral is this? Where's the fun? And what's with the guitar? We soon find out — the instrument belongs to street musician Martin Saville, whose monotonic renditions of such classics as "Happy Days Are Here Again" and "I Want to Be Happy" illuminate each scene. The idea and execution are dreadful. So, too, the colossal drawbridge that's slowly wrenched into place (with portentous, medieval clanking) to reveal...surprise!...the front wall of the set. This whole "deconstruction" is terribly clunky, especially for a classic comedy that's already filled with bitchy wit, outlandish characters and a great, big, gooey heart. Mame doesn't need context; she needs glamour and excitement — and better-looking wigs. While the cast (each one plays numerous roles in this multi-character saga) tries its best to enliven the loopy proceedings, there's not much playfulness. The rhythms are wrong, some scenes fall flat and Eva Laporte is light years too pretty to play unwed mother/wiz stenographer Agnes Gooch. She's not supposed to be a knockout until transformed by Mame. David Matranga makes for a jaunty Irish horndog O'Bannion, and Josh Morrison a stalwart Beau Burnside, but it's Kate Revnell-Smith who steals the show as perpetually hungover, hammy actress Vera Charles. She enlivens the play with just the right touch of wicked charm. It's the only real taste of Patrick Dennis we get to savor. We're starved for it. Through October 10. 3201 Allen Parkway, 713-527-0123. — DLG

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