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Capsule Stage Reviews: Standing on Ceremony: The Gay Marriage Plays, Tarzan the Musical

Standing on Ceremony: The Gay Marriage Plays Nine short plays with a common theme — gay marriage — have been gathered into an evening of entertainment. They avoid polemics, proselytizing and anger, and instead center on loving, long-term relationships, newly-mets, and articulate, voluble mothers. The plays lend themselves to being read with scripts on music stands, as is done here. The writing is superb, and watching master playwrights at work is one of the many pleasures of the evening. Two of the plays are by Paul Rudnick, and they are brilliant and hilarious. In The Gay Agenda, a distraught mother insists that she has no prejudice but fears gays, and her paranoia deepens as she hears imaginary gay voices telling her she needs to lose weight and that her home is poorly decorated. In My Husband, a mother is proud of her gay son but deeply disappointed that he is not yet married; she sets out to remedy this, and just as you think it can't get any funnier, it does, as Rudnick piles on new and inventive riffs. Marcy Bannor plays both mothers, and is a paragon of energy and comic timing. Neil LaBute surprises with a tender love story, beautifully crafted, and sensitively performed by Randall Jobe and Lynn Miller. Equally moving is London Mosquitos by Moises Kaufman, as a surviving partner gives the eulogy for his lover. On Facebook, by Craig Wright, satirizes a running thread of debate between a homophobic divorcee and more liberal view-holders, and is original and witty. The evening is co-directed by Jimmy Phillips and Ron Jones, and its entertainment value is primarily mainstream and can be enjoyed by anyone who is a mensch, though grinches need not apply. Through September 29. From Celebration Theatre at the Resurrection Metropolitan Community Church, 2025 E. 11th, 832-330-5478. — JJT

Tarzan the Musical Tarzan the Musical got panned on Broadway, but some European productions have been huge successes. A tribe of gorillas adopts the orphaned Tarzan, the female Kala eagerly and the male Kerchak reluctantly. Young Tarzan is befriended by a gorilla pal, Terk, and the scenes before the mature Tarzan enters have an elegiac, pastoral quality and a charming sweetness. Daniel Ewetuya plays Kerchak, and is amazingly good in a commanding, standout performance. Von Deylen as Kala finds the maternal love, an independent spirit and quiet charm. Young Tarzan is played by Andrew Sackett with the eagerness of youth and substantial gymnastic skill on jungle vines. The mature Tarzan is played by Kiefer Slaton; his chief acting assignment is to look good in a loincloth. Slaton does this with a warm, welcoming smile and sculpted abs. Civilization intrudes on this edenic setting with the arrival of an expedition — Jane Porter is accompanied by her father and Clayton, who is attracted to her. Director Nathan C. Hand, who was quite good in maneuvering the gorillas through their paces, stumbles badly here, possibly because he plays Clayton and so can't see the shambles occurring onstage as he and Haley Landers as Jane fail to project their voices. The scenic design by Ed and Robyn LeGris captures the feeling of a jungle glade. The fine musical direction is by Heather Tipsword, who doubles at keyboard, but the amplified sound too often drowns out the singing voices. A highlight is the exciting, humorous "Trashin' the Camp," where the gorilla ensemble goes to town on the suitcases of the expedition. An ambitious project is largely successful, though some amateurish acting in Act Two is unfortunate. Through September 8. From the Pearland Theatre Guild at Pearl Theatre, 14803 Park Almeda Dr., 713-340-2540. — JJT

 
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