Malcolm and Teresa If anyone put Mother Teresa on the international map, it was British journalist Malcolm Muggeridge, who interviewed the unknown "little nun from Calcutta" on the BBC in 1968. Prickly and iconoclastic, this former newspaper editor had been one of only two international journalists to document Stalin's genocide against the Kulaks of the Ukraine in the early '30s, which led to the deaths of millions by famine and brutal repression. The experience changed Muggeridge, a fervent supporter of communism, into a rabid anti-red and intensified his Anglican faith, although he practiced a very eccentric form of Christian spirituality. While the interview with humble, forthright and spiritual Teresa was a ratings bonanza, Muggeridge's 1969 TV documentary filmed in Calcutta, Something Beautiful for God, was a smash. Teresa and her Missionaries of Charity went prime-time. In her distinctive blue-edged sari, Mother Teresa was recognized everywhere. Awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979, she was beatified by the Vatican as Blessed Teresa of Calcutta in 2003, the penultimate stage to sainthood. This is heady stuff, especially when larded with two such disparate personalities as sweet Teresa (Vicky McCormick) and somewhat sour Malcolm (Marty Blair) in A.D. Players' sharply acted production of this regional premiere. But playwright Cathal Gallagher trips over history and unwittingly removes all the drama. Mother Teresa takes a backseat so we can watch Muggeridge struggle with Communism's feet of clay. His scenes, set in 1932 Moscow and Manchester, are intercut with Teresa's '60s interviews. As testament to her unshakeable faith and abiding Christian love, these interviews, taken verbatim from the actual transcripts, thud loudly when used as dialogue. We might as well be reading a book. Gallagher doesn't connect themes; he cuts and pastes. Juxtaposing Muggeridge's past Russian history against Teresa's present falls flat, giving us two pale plays. Neither one satisfies. As Teresa, McCormick is appropriately shy and retiring with an underlying backbone of burnished metal when it comes to faith; and Blair, as Muggeridge, with clipped upper-crust demeanor and voice, supplies a lot more thoughtful verve than does the playwright. Christy Watkins exudes a radiant naturalness as wife Kitty; Patty Tuel Bailey gives socialist firebrand Aunt Bo more charm than she deserves; Craig Griffin is solidly understated as Anglican theologian Vidler; and Blake Weir provides warm comic relief as the harried TV producer who can't see any value in interviewing "a nun." After decades of ceaseless devotion in the slums of Calcutta, Mother Teresa is a saint, whether officially recognized by the church or not. Gallagher's play won't get her into that pantheon anytime soon. Through June 23. 2710 Alabama, 713-526-2721. — DLG

MBTV Under full disclosure, I must declare that there is no more talented musical theater quintet than this collective (Rebekah Dahl, Brad Scarborough, Cay Taylor, Kristina Sullivan and Luke Wrobel — veterans of the late, great Masquerade Theatre), and I would be happy as a clam just to sit and listen to them sing whatever they want to. Which is exactly what they do in this revue, without much thought to the theme, which is The Music Box Does Television. To be fair, they state this objective right at the beginning — that the songs are a bunch of their favorites and this seems the right time to perform them — but why do a show about television if the songs have nothing whatsoever to do with the subject? Exquisitely sung, as always, the show is rushed and slapdash, not up to MBT's usual standards. The skits, as they are, are fairly lame and flatline badly but are saved in every way by the guest appearance of John Gremillion (another quality alumnus from Masquerade), who performs in knockout impersonations of Mr. Rogers, creepy and soft; Regis Philbin, peppy and overmedicated; and Johnny Carson, full of tics with perfect timing. Gremillion raises the level of the nonmusical segments with graceful ease. Of course, none of this truly matters when the five of them open their mouths and sing, instantly transporting us to a higher plane. Each gets to shine. Taylor, who does a brilliant but brief appearance as whiney Fran Drescher, turns on a dime and dazzles as a glamorous "Material Girl," squealing in little chirps as she paws the diamonds. Scarborough, with his trumpet-bright tenor, sails through "Hooked on Feelings," with the ensemble backing him up with those patented "ooh-ga-cha-kas." Dahl, pregnant and about to give birth if she wails another high C, channels her inner Grace Slick with a smoking "Somebody to Love." Wrobel, all honeyed baritone swirling like haze, mesmerizes with the Harold Arlen/Johnny Mercer classic "One for My Baby." Sullivan, all crystal-clear soprano, plunges deep into the Heart power ballad "Alone" and later gloriously traipses through Sting's elegiac "Fields of Gold," although she's overshadowed by a "best of" tribute to TV personalities playing behind her. The five join forces, unsuccessfully, I must confess, in an a cappella version of the rhapsodic Brian Wilson/Tony Asher "God Only Knows." But the best is saved for last, a rip-roaring Joe Cocker take on "With a Little Help from My Friends," fabulously rendered by Wrobel with all those neurotic Cocker mannerisms in place. No need to grab that remote when any of these five are singing center stage. Through July 3. Music Box Theater, 2623 Colquitt, 713-522-7722. — DLG

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