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Scriptwriters/Houston 23rd Annual 10x10 Showcase 2013 Scriptwriters/Houston holds a monthly meeting to hear successful writers share secrets. For more than two decades, it has presented ten-minute plays after a competition. Explosive laughter greeted "I Don't Care Much for Coffee" as Shelby (Tyrrell Woolbert) tries to read quietly in the library but finds she can hear the interior monologues of those around her. Woolbert's reactions are vastly entertaining, and playwright Alex Scott adds an amusing twist. Whether nonviolent theater has appeal is discussed by Melanie Burke and Bob Galley in "Ordinary Life" by John Meiners. A brilliant denouement answers the question for all time. "Playing the Game" by Steve Stewart explores the conflict between coach and academia when a high-scoring basketball player fails a course. As the professor, with a history of his own, Robert L. Jacobs Jr. is excellent. "Dog Gone" by Walter Boyd is brilliantly acted by Joseph Lockett and Lisa Britton with hilarious, exuberant, blue-collar authenticity. "The Megamart Megasale" by Marilyn Lewis contains subtle, delightful wit. 'Trombone Trash" by Rachel Dickson explores the problems in communication that arise when one partner speaks in "trombone" and the other in "oboe." "Power Breakfast" by Lauren Tunnell has a couple breakfasting after a one-nighter, as networking opportunities arise. "Death by Bloody Mary" by Nicholas Garelick explores the power of urban legends. "Sister Fred" by Joe Barnes has a young husband encamped under his bed, and a teaching nun is called in when a psychiatrist fails to budge him. "The Last Cats" by Fernando Dovalina delivers both humor and pathos, as human mortality is faced. There's a bonus of eight monologues performed during set changes. This is a professional-level evening of exciting, varied theatricality. Through July 20. Country Playhouse, 12802 Queensbury Ln., 281-773-3642. — JJT

Sweeney Todd (Generations Theatre) Stephen Sondheim's Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street captured Broadway in 1979, garnering eight Tony awards, and Generations Theatre has mounted its own production of the macabre musical. Director George Brock sets the disturbingly dark morality tale in a 19th-century London asylum, with the inmates acting out the narrative. Sweeney Todd is the assumed name of a barber falsely accused and imprisoned for 15 years so the judge could ravish his beautiful wife. On his return to London, he searches for his daughter, Johanna, and seeks razor-sharp vengeance on the judge and on humanity. Todd is aided by Mrs. Lovett, who sells meat pies and has an entrepreneurial idea for disposing of bodies. Kristin Warren portrays Mrs. Lovett, and she is wonderful, with a bell-like voice and perfect diction — her vivacious energy anchors the play. Kregg Dailey plays Todd, but the part is underwritten — all menace and no nuance. Todd is a maniac with an obsessive thirst for revenge, but we instead see a man trapped in depression. Dailey as Andrew Jackson last year bestrode the stage like a Titan, but here he fails to create a compelling individual — there is no manic joy, no relish of evil, no triumphant glee. The supporting cast is superb, with standouts. Forrest Surles as the young sailor who loves Johanna captures the masculine need and an angelic naiveté. Stephanie Styles as Johanna brings beauty and sweetness to her role. Michael Bevan as the young Tobias provides an interesting intensity and involvement. Brock has created a tapestry of evil overwhelming in its brilliance, memorable in its power and hugely entertaining in its human vitality. Through July 28. Hamman Hall, Rice University, 6100 Main, 832-326-1045. — JJT

Sweeney Todd (Stage Door, Inc.) The Broadway production of Stephen Sondheim's Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street won eight Tony awards and ran for 557 performances in Broadway's largest theater. The tale is one of revenge, as a young barber is falsely imprisoned for 15 years so that the sentencing judge can ravish his beautiful wife. The barber returns to London; assumes the name Sweeney Todd; seeks his daughter, Joanna; and thirsts for revenge on the judge. He joins forces with Mrs. Lovett, owner of a pastry shop, portrayed by Heather Gabriel, who could not be better — she brings charm and chutzpah to the role. Colton Wright as Todd lets us see his torment and pain and permits Todd a sense of humor, making him a sympathetic character — no mean feat. The direction, by Stage Door's artistic director, Marc Anthony Glover, smacks of pure genius, re-creating 19th-century London with a set like a London mews. Gabriel and Wright sing beautifully and compellingly. There are eight other principals, all good, though Mike Ryan, the Beadle, might find more authority. Todd sings "Pretty Women" as he prepares to do in the judge, a fascinating irony. The wit and humor of "A Little Priest" humanizes both Todd and Mrs. Lovett. The ending is rich in raw emotional power, soaring toward the heavens and bringing us with it. This production understands the darkness of the human soul and the warmth and needs of our tattered hearts. A brilliant production hits the mark in this tale of a serial killer and fuses the powerful music with superb performances and inventive staging, creating the magic that theater at its best can be. Through July 28. 284 Pasadena Town Square Mall, Pasadena, 832-582-7606. — JJT

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