Capsule Stage Reviews: A Flea in Her Ear, The Little Foxes, Man from Nebraska, Uncivil Unions

A Flea in Her Ear Texas Repertory Theatre Co.'s sexy and silly production of Georges Feydeau's A Flea in Her Ear is loads of fun. The bawdy bedroom farce, about a wife who thinks her hubby might be having an affair because lately he's been a bit of a bummer in the bedroom, is filled with goofy characters who are ridiculously funny, especially as played by this cast, which is clearly having loads of fun onstage. The story follows a woman (Lauren Dolk) as she tries to figure out what her husband is up to by tricking him with a perfume-soaked letter from a fictitious admirer. A rent-by-the-hour hotel is involved, as are two men who look exactly alike and a character whose speech impediment is so bad he can't warn anyone of impending doom. Almost everyone has some sort of lover, even the doctor, who wears a tutu in the bedroom. The cartoonish characters riff off every stereotype, including a jealous, gun-wielding Spaniard (Sam Martinez), a drunken old sot (Joe Fullen) and a French lover (Mark McCarver). The action involves complex chase scenes and mistaken identities that ­require a devoted and clever director, and Craig A. Miller has clearly put in the hours to make all the shenanigans look ­charmingly hilarious. It's even fun to watch Jesse Dreikosen's set full of moving walls, doors and windows. Farce isn't easy to pull off these days, but Texas Repertory will keep even the most ­cynical theatergoer giggling with its joyful production. Through May 23. 14243 Stuebner Airline, 281-583-7573.— LW

The Little Foxes Not since Agamemnon and the house of Atreus has there been such an entertainingly decadent family as the house of Hubbards in Lillian Hellman's classic tale of greed, The Little Foxes (1939), about three on-the-rise siblings in 1900 Alabama. Ben is ceaselessly scheming at ways to get rich, and he's not above theft to see his dreams come true. Oscar has married into faded gentility. And their sister Regina has married well, but sickly Horace is too tame for her: He has no dreams, while Regina has too many. Of all the Hubbards, she is the most clever, sly, poisonous and cold-blooded. In one of theater history's most brazenly theatrical scenes, she withholds Horace's lifesaving medicine and silently watches him expire on the staircase as he struggles in vain to retrieve his pills. It's a wondrously chilling scene, and A.D. Players wrings out every last ounce of it. Famously portrayed onstage by Tallulah Bankhead and then gloriously archived on film by Bette Davis, Regina is a fascinating spider, full of charm, sarcasm, selfishness, pretense and an abiding strength not reckoned on by her brothers and family. Christie Watkins, with her honeyed voice and gracious physicality, embraces Regina with striking force. She's youthful enough that we can sympathize with her desires to "go to Chicago" and be someone, even if we can't condone her dubious methods of achievement. She's formidable, frightening and fun to watch in action, so long as we're not standing in her path. The ensemble cast is equally fine, with Ric Hodgin as Horace, who realizes much too late what a destructive force of nature he has married; Chip Simmons as oily Ben; and Orlando Arriaga as blunt Oscar. All in all, this is a delightful evening with some very despicable people. Through May 30. 2710 W. Alabama, 713-526-2721. — DLG

Man from Nebraska Each Tracy Letts play is unique unto itself. If you know the Pulitzer and Tony Award-winning playwright from only one work, you'd never guess he wrote the others. His first, Killer Joe, is gothic slasher; Bug is violent and paranoid; August: Osage County is all grown-up dramaturgy and scathing comedy; Superior Donuts is socially conscious TV sitcom; and Man from Nebraska is quiet and polite, so unprepossessing that it becomes all the more powerful for its lack of outright dramatics. It's a pocket drama that sneaks up on you and clobbers you over the head. At first, you wonder where it's going, for the opening scenes are cryptic and impressionistic. Ken (Paul Hope) and wife Nan (Cristine McMurdo-Wallis) are in their car. We haven't a clue where they're going. We know they're in Nebraska. Video and slides of streets and landscapes play across the background screens. He drives; she looks out the window. "They're finally gonna tear down that ugly house," she says without much inflection. Next into view: They're at church, singing a hymn. Next: at the cafeteria after church. "How's your steak?" she asks. "Good," he replies. "How's yours?" Next: They're at the nursing home visiting Ken's mother (Sylvia Froman), with the TV playing too loud. The routine of living hits Ken hard, and when he suffers a debilitating crisis of faith ("I don't understand the stars," he cries to Nan in one of the play's many felicitous phrases), he's off to London by himself to find the answers, leaving wife and daughter (Lisa Thomas Morrison) to stitch together the missing family. The play comes fully alive when he takes flight, meeting the raunchy divorcee (Krissy Richmond), the knowing earth mother (Portia Gant) and her cheeky sculptor boyfriend (David Matranga). The splendid ensemble cast keeps the play alive until Ken discovers his abandoned feelings and reconciles his life — or as best as one can, so Letts writes, with someone by your side. Life is full of pain, it's mysterious and infinite — but you're not alone if you just ask. That's plenty of comfort for any play. Through May 16. Stages Repertory Theatre, 3201 Allen Parkway, 713-527-0123. — DLG

Uncivil Unions Once upon a time there were shows known as "gay revues" that might have music by Cole Porter or sketches by George S. Kaufman. They were slight but entertaining pictures of their era. Flash-forward 70 years, and the collaborative effort by Unhinged Productions, led by artistic director Joe Angel Babb and his eager young cast, gives a representative look at same-sex marriage at the turn of this millennium. This sketch format, some of which use monologues from in-depth interviews of Houston's GLBT community, makes for an uneven mix. The dramatic, verbatim pieces are the best, since they're fraught with passion and humor that seem genuine and unforced — a transgendered woman, pre-op, who is happily married to a woman; a mélange of speeches from the Equality March on Washington; a real "girl girl" who wants just what any regular girl wants out of life. The sketches in between and the musical parodies are mostly lame, although the "Who's in Da Courtroom" knockoff of Judge Judy with the ghost of Paul Lynde is inspired, and the recurring vignette "Home Sweet Home" is a little play all by itself. The show has a unified, appealing look with brightly designed background projections, and the ensemble cast of eight is equally appealing and works well together. At least the creators are fair and balanced, and while they do preach to the chorus, as it were, their message is one of tolerance and understanding, along with understandable anger at a country taking so long to get things right. That kind of message needs to be heard — and never goes out of date. Through May 30. Frenetic Theater, 5102 Navigation, 832-250-7786. — DLG


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