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Love Goes to Press was a hit in London's West End in 1946 and a flop on B'way in 1947. Two female journalists, Annabelle and Jane, old friends, meet in the press room of an army base in northern Italy in the midst of WWII, and scheme to get scoops on other war correspondents. Romantic complications ensue as Joe Rogers, former lover of Jane and also a reporter, is there with his fiancée, Daphne, an airhead actress. Intended as a madcap comedy, the work has frenzy but not humor, with too many characters and not enough characterization. Elissa Levitt is good as Annabelle, but Joe Kirkendall plays Rogers by resorting to shouting his poorly written character, dominated by a fiancée he doesn't like and given to rage. Joel Sandel plays a Yorkshire dairy farmer/soldier who falls for Jane, ably played by Crystal O'Brien as a Katherine Hepburn type. He proposes, and Jane inexplicably accepts the offer to live on a rural farm. This lengthy passage, intended as a running gag, goes nowhere. Jacqui Grady is excellent as actress Daphne, making a triumph of a minor role, and lightens the mood of stilted fake whenever she enters. The writing has some delicious irony, as Daphne's misadventures turn into brilliant successes. There are laughs, but not enough to warrant attendance — with the two male leads miscast, director Mark Adams never gets this off the launch pad. The play is written by Martha Gellhorn and Virginia Cowles, both successful war correspondents. If you go, savor the brilliance of Jacqui Grady in a role that might have been a throwaway, and the diligent efforts of Elissa Levitt and Crystal O'Brien to rise above so-so material. Through December 23 at Main Street Theater — Rice Village, 2540 Times Blvd., 713-524-6706. — JJT

Sylvia "You never say the things to me you say to her, like...'You're beautiful'...or 'I love you.'" The "you" is harried husband Greg (Wayne White), going through midlife crises. The accusing "me" is neglected wife Kate (Ruth S. McCleskey), who knows a rival to her affections when she sees one. The other woman, the "her," is a real bitch, Greg's new dog Sylvia (Renata Smith). She's come into the household and upset everything, including making a mess on the living-room floor. Greg has found his new spark in life. A.R. Gurney's bouncy little bauble of a comedy is an authentic shaggy dog story. If you have a pet, this play will be your chew toy. (I'd say catnip, but Sylvia might bite.) If you're going through marital troubles, however, watch out; Gurney will rub your face in it. He writes about people of a certain social status who find themselves in the throes of comic crisis better than any other living playwright (Mrs. Farnsworth, The Cocktail Hour). Warm and cuddly as a favorite blankie, what sets this far above the ordinary is that Gurney writes Sylvia as a young, attractive girl, which gives the dog a lively temperament as both temptress and perky puppy. It's terribly clever and a lot of fun. No wonder Kate feels threatened by this nubile female plopped down in her house who so easily reroutes her husband's affection. Ms. Smith deserves a heaping bowl of Kibbles for her lovely performance. We first meet her fresh from rescue as a grunge teenager, with torn jeans and wayward sweatshirt, two ponytails draped on each side of her head like beagle ears. She scratches and sniffs, jumps on and off the couch, and circles around before she plops down, happy as can be. By the end of the play, she's outfitted in glamour mode with little black dress, black patent pumps and her hair up. As Greg would say, she's gorgeous. The other kooky aspect in the comedy is the triple role of Tom, Phyllis and Leslie, all played by the same actor (Jim Allman). Tom is Greg's dog-run buddy, all macho bluster, who knows the answers, except when he doesn't. Phyllis is Kate's waspy school chum who can't find the charm in a dog who jumps up and humps her leg. Sylvia triggers all sorts of hilarious confessions from Phyllis about her husband's obsession with his pet — a goldfish. Perfectly costumed and bewigged, Allman stops the show with obtuse Phyllis. In the last act, Leslie is Greg and Kate's marriage counselor whose gender identity problems have a couch life of their own. Throw everyone a bone. Four paws for Company OnStage. Through December 15. 536 Westbury Square. 713-726-1219. — DLG

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