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There Is a Happiness That Morning Is. In 2011, Catastrophic Theatre mounted There Is a Happiness That Morning Is, Mickle Maher's boldly original dedication to "love, sex and the poetry of William Blake," and due to popular demand they have brought the production back for another limited run. Directed by Catastrophic's Artistic Director, Jason Nodler, the play takes place at a financially failing liberal arts college where Bernard (Troy Schulze) and his lover Ellen (Amy Bruce) are two professors who both happen to teach the poetry of William Blake. The play opens with Bernard's acknowledgment to his Blake class that he and Ellen got somewhat swept away during the previous evening when the two, in the midst of a Blake oratory, went at it on the campus lawn for all to see. The entire play is written in rhymed verse, and the first half consists of monologues by the two actors of the event and how it is related to Blake's writing. For Bernard the act of passion was a thing of beauty, two bodies coming together out of pure love and exultation. Bernard's recounting of the evening is childlike and dreamy and Schulze makes his innocence, and perhaps naiveté, absolutely convincible and lovable. Ellen, on the other hand, does not see eye to eye with him. Bruce plays her as a tightly wound up ball of nerves. She refuses to apologize to the school or to the Dean (Kyle Sturdivant) because she doesn't think he deserves an apology. Ellen is painfully angry and Bruce gives her the perfect amount of emotion and depth. While some of the reasons behind Ellen's anger toward Bernard and their fleeting love seemed out of character, the duality between Bernard and Ellen's perceptions and the influence their night of love has had on them is a wonder to watch, especially as it is woven into both the poetry of Blake and Maher's own mastery over the English language. This is not a simple play, which is what is so wonderful about it. It makes you think, and you have to pay attention. Maher's verse and plot are so intricately married to the two Blake poems that you'll feel proud of yourself for keeping up with it all. Go with your thinking cap on tight, but go, seriously. This is what theater is supposed to be. Through May 25. 119 East Fwy., catastrophictheatre.com. — AK

Warrior Class A Republican assemblyman from New York, a Chinese-American, has given an inspirational talk that has gone viral and brought him to the attention of some political kingmakers. He is being vetted for the nomination for a Congressional seat by a veteran political practitioner, who works behind the scenes to bring together donors with money and candidate. The dialogue by award-winning playwright Kenneth Lin is subtle, accessible and compelling, making for an engrossing play. Vito D'Ambrosio as political matchmaker Nathan Berkshire finds the nuances — smooth words cascade even as he scavenges for politically damaging flaws; this is a bravura performance. Nathan has discovered that potential candidate Julius Weishan Lee, played by Nick Maccarone, had a relationship with Holly Hathaway in college, and Julius stalked her. Holly, now Mrs. Eames, refuses to certify that she and Julius had a typical relationship unless they find a job for her unemployed husband. Julius refuses, and tension-filled negotiations begin. Holly is portrayed by the excellent Caroline Hewitt, holding her own against Nathan. Maccarone provides the ambiguity the playwright intends: has he matured and changed, or is his still violent temper the better indicator he hasn't? The script rips the curtain off the political compromises, payoffs and deals made in private, which become disastrous when exposed. The main setting is a private room in an upscale steakhouse, and it is handsome indeed, thanks to designer Eugene Lee. The direction is by Wilson Milam, who understands the subtlety of the script and delivers its authenticity. A subtle duel of wits between strong personalities creates gripping tension, and three skilled actors create theatrical power, with Vito D'Ambrosio delivering a performance memorable for its variety and intelligence. This is a must-see event. Through June 2. Alley Theatre, 615 Texas, 713-220-5700. — JJT

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