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Capsule Stage Reviews: 13 Miles from Security, Oscar in the Box, Play On!, Shout! The Mod Musical, Whatever Happened to the Villa Real?

 13 Miles from Security Local playwright Kathy Drum creates vivid characters in a Texarkana setting as the battle of the sexes rages on. The sometimes stark stage of the Obsidian Art Space now sports not one but two detailed sets, designed by Leighza Walker, the rural porch and yard of a small cattle ranch, and the front of a closed small general store. The ranch couple are Herb and Tess (Tom Stell and Leighza Walker), combative and locked together with lust and inertia, while Tonic and Judy (Ryan Kelly and playwright Kathy Drum) play a couple deeply in love and with God in their hearts. Short scenes alternate in cinematic style between the locales, with the men in the yard and the women at the store, and we learn about the marital relationships, the bonding and the problems, without seeing the interaction between husband and wife, an interesting approach that creates suspense. Two other characters enter in Act II: William (Jon Egging), a sweet-talkin' cowboy type with a red pickup (aptly named), and Wanda (Randi Hall) as a bearer of truth. All the actors are wonderful, authentic, interesting, powerful when needed, but supplying subtlety in moments of dry wit or irony. Director Ricky Welch keeps the action flowing and the pace brisk. Kathy Drum's writing, like David Mamet at his best, creates through natural dialogue a milieu with which you may not be familiar, but you'll recognize its truth when you see it. The play has originality, twists, conflict, real events and a dramatic denouement, and augurs well for future works from Drum. Powerful acting and an original, authentic script create a vivid portrait of six Texarkana individuals, etched beautifully by playwright Kathy Drum, making for exciting and highly enjoyable theater. Through March 24. Big Head Productions at Obsidian Art Space, 3522 White Oak, 832-889-7837. — JJT

Oscar in the Box If you want to go to the movies with five friends, who better to accompany you than the talented quintet at Music Box Theatre? This musical send-up of movie genres is a lively romp, filled with silly parodies yet heart-felt renditions of complementary songs that, while not always Oscar winners, are awarded with all the professional polish that this group so effortlessly possesses. Brad Scarborough, one of the talented five, gets accidentally whacked on the head by real-life wife Rebekah Dahl, and he spends the evening trapped in movie mayhem trying to get back home. There's a James Bond goof, radiantly offset by Colton Berry's rendition of Marvin Hamlisch and Carole Bayer Sager's ballad from The Spy Who Loved Me, "Nobody Does It Better." Cay Taylor, all innocent but knowing, plaintively hugs Randy Newman's "Feels Like Home," while Luke Wrobel, playing godfather Don Cortisone (it's funnier in person, trust me), spins the classic Herman Hupfeld song from Casablanca, "As Time Goes By," and turns it into pure vocal butter. Dahl gets her golden chance with a muscular rock rendition of Jim Steinman and Dean Pitchford's "Holding Out for a Hero," appropriated from Footloose, and then positively shines during the second act in Harold Arlen and Ira Gershwin's "The Man That Got Away" from A Star is Born. Scarborough shows off his impeccable showmanship and silvery voice with his interpretation of Roy Orbison and Bill Dees's "Oh, Pretty Woman" and Alex North and Hy Zaret's poignant and haunting "Unchained Melody." Perfectly accompanied by the jazz quartet of Glenn Sharp, Mark McCain, Long Le and Donald Payne, all five talents comprise cabaret at its best. Oscars for everybody. Through April 28. Music Box Theater, 2623 Colquitt, 713-522-7722. — DLG

Play On! An amateur troupe rehearses a mystery drama as temperamental, ill-prepared actors clash with their director, and with the playwright. Act I is a rehearsal, Act II dress rehearsal and Act III the performance itself. All-too-familiar incidents abound: Actors bristle, props don't arrive but rewrites do, cues are missed, sound effects are absent and overacting rises to the point of hilarity in this comedy from director Laura Schlecht and assistant director Nicholas Garelick. The result works wonderfully. John Lazo plays a WASPish actor quick to offend with criticism of others, and lards the role as though in an 1850s mustache-twirling potboiler. Amanda L. Baird plays the ingenue, and communicates through arms flailing like a windmill. Ryan Rasmussen plays the young man, remaining within the parameters of a plausible performance (alliteration is a prime plot pivot), and achieves precisely a perfect pratfall. Victoria Harkrider plays the feisty tech gal and Jessica Brogan the put-upon stage manager. Carolyn Montgomery and Gene Griesbach play older actors, and convey clearly that they have been in better productions. Michelle James plays an actor being kept up long past her curfew, and Susan Bray plays the director of the murder mystery with vocal power and histrionics. Sudeane Holmes plays the playwright, unaware that a murder occurs in her play titled Murder Most Foul. Rick Abbott has written a resourceful, inventive comedy with a number of surprises. This is mayhem of the highest comic order, as we recognize the perils and pratfalls of live theater. This lighthearted comedy works on all cylinders, with enthusiastic actors and an entertaining script, and can be strongly recommended for all ages: young couples dating, suitable for children and a must-see for dedicated theatergoers. Through March 24. Theatre Suburbia, 4106 Way Out West Dr., 713-682-3525. — JJT

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