Capsule Stage Reviews: The Blonde, the Brunette and the Vengeful Redhead, Death, the Musical, Romeo and Juliet, A Texas Romance, Wait Until Dark

 The Blonde, the Brunette and the Vengeful Redhead This theater curiosity is a hybrid — part point-of-view drama, part acting exercise — recording the aftermath of a husband walking out, with seven characters played by a single actor. Rhonda has been married for almost two decades, apparently a conventional woman to be found in many a suburban development, when to her astonishment her husband walks out. Her reaction is unexpectedly violent and leads to a chain of events, like ripples in a pond, that spread and create chaos in the lives of others. A gifted actor, Susan O. Koozin, plays all the roles and displays an admirable versatility, though some of the acting requirements present insurmountable problems. The main role is that of Rhonda (The Redhead), seen as she digests the news of being abandoned, and again a decade later, in a poignant finale. Koozin captures her, but Rhonda is humorless, apparently deeply naive as to human nature, and a bit boring. Her violent reaction seems inexplicable, even more so when we meet the husband in Act Two, who turns out to be such a loser-lout that Rhonda might better have knelt to give thanks for his departure. Koozin does get down on her hands and knees in one vignette, not to pray, but to portray a four-year old boy — observing a mature woman under a table playing with toys is a sight I hope never to witness again. Koozin's skills come into sharp focus when the writing is crisp, as it is in the vignette with an inquisitive neighbor (The Brunette), and I enjoyed this enormously, as it is filled with humor, irony, denial and even a twist. And I loved Koozin as The Blonde, all shiny and desirable and self-assured. As the husband, Koozin gives it a valiant try, but she is no drag king, though vivid writing makes this passage interesting. As a female doctor, Koozin is credible, though little range is demanded here. And Koozin fails to hit the mark playing a senior female with a walker, appearing far too young. There are six extensive costume changes, seen usually through a transparent curtain and accompanied by music, often lugubrious, and these are tedium itself, stopping the play dead in its tracks. It occurred to me early on, and regretfully, that the play would have had several times the impact, and twice the pace, if each part had been played by a different actor. The audience, apparently more receptive than I to acting exercises, provided a standing ovation. The play is by Robert Hewitt, and Stages artistic director Kenn McLaughlin directed the evening. In this ambitious effort, a gifted actor essays a variety of characters, with mixed success. Through October 30. Stages Repertory, 3201 Allen Parkway, 713-527-0123. — JJT

Death, the Musical If, by any chance, the title of this world-premiere revue doesn't give away this show's theme, perhaps the white coffin propped up stage left or pianist/musical director Steven Jones dressed in iconic medieval cowl should give you a hint. Just in time for Halloween, this four-performer musical from Thunderclap Productions takes the hoary old subject of death, kicks it around in 34 scenes and 14 songs without much humor or finesse, and pretty well keeps it where it finds it – hoary. The revue uses blackout sketches and much better songs in its comic examination of all things related: morticians ("Necrophilia"), the electric chair ("Sizzlin' Sally"), serial murderers ("Black Widow Bitch"), taxidermy, suicide. Even the despised Transportation Security Administration gets a deservedly funny skewering, as a passenger's tweezers become the trick ending and another passenger's coup de grace. Most of the skits are in questionable taste, but the worst fault isn't the show's flaunting of its anti-PC correctness, but the sketchiness of the sketches. Most have no perceivable ending – they just stop and the lights go off, or we're not sure what the point of the sketch is supposed to be. Take "Douche," for example. Two employees stand at the coffin of their hated boss. You can tell they despise him because they shout "douche" at the body. But one of the guys has an idea. He'll give his boss from hell the ultimate send-off, he'll pee in the coffin. Only he can't. Lights out. It's not all deathly pallor at Ovations, thanks to the lively quartet who put over this canned material as if it were the best of Neil Simon. H.R. Bradford, Ashley Maack, Erin Roche and especially Kregg Dailey (always a friend to any musical) give their all in a desperate attempt to resuscitate this dead body. At least the music has a heartbeat. Although there are seven composers, the tunes seem of one piece. All of them, even the weakest, have more charm than the skits that surround them. "Lullaby," by composer Aaron Alon, sung by concerned mom Roche to baby Dailey, tells the tyke not to be afraid of the dark, but afraid of the day, because that's when bad things really happen. Equally ironic and deeply chilling, that song has all the power that's mostly missing from the show. Without much sting in the material, the attractive foursome, under sprightly direction from Jimmy Phillips, keeps the show alive with some savvy showbiz CPR, but ultimately, as all things must, the show flatlines. Through October 31. Ovations, 2536-B Times Blvd., 281-954-4399. – DLG

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