Capsule Stage Reviews: Baby with the Bathwater, Electile Dysfunction, In the Middle of the Ocean

Baby with the Bathwater Poor baby. It's got a psycho for a nanny (Jay Menchaca), and parents (Julie Thornley and John Lloyd Clingman) who are so inept, they can't even figure out whether it's a boy or a girl. That's the opening premise of Christopher Durang's beautifully bizarre comedy Baby with the Bathwater, now running at Country Playhouse. The tightly written script follows the strange and terrifying childhood of Baby, showing us how children manage to survive all the damage that neurotic grownups inflict upon them. Both funny and horrifying, the smart story even survives the vague performances coming from John Mitsakis's cast. The most interesting is Menchaca's Nanny in drag, though the interpretation is so campy that it detracts from Durang's story. Suzanne King is good as the self-involved Ms. Willoughby, who thinks Baby's self-destructive school paper sounds like great art: She's so interested in her own ideas, she can't recognize a cry for help when she hears one. Mitsakis keeps the show moving quickly, but most importantly, he gives Houstonians a chance to see one of the most important and original scripts of Durang's career. Through September 6. Country Playhouse, 12802 Queensbury, 713-467-4497. — LW

Electile Dysfunction Radio Music Theatre has tackled the wild and wacky political season with this funny play, which is full of characters as kooky as the past few months have been. Writer/director Steve Farrell knows just how to put things into perspective. His silly show features the Jones family from Precious Trees, "the most planned planned community" in Houston. Mom, Dad and Junior all support different candidates. The Spy Eye News team finds out about the argument and decides to feature the family as a human interest story. The actors present the newscast complete with commercials; the funniest features a very familiar furniture salesman named Uncle Dan (played by a hysterical Farrell), who sells a "political leaning chair" that leans to the left or the right depending on your preference and a recliner that shoots bullets. Back on the show, Damn Mad (Rich Mills) rants about politics, and the biggest story of the week focuses on the pastor of the biggest church in Texas — it's so big it used to be a whole ranch. Nothing is actually settled during the show, but lots of fun is had as the politics of the hour get chewed over. Through November 15. 2623 Colquitt, 713-522-7722. — LW

In the Middle of the Ocean If the Greek bards ever come back to earth to tell their tales of gods and mortals, they'd be just as likely to appear as punk rockers as anyone else. This one-man song cycle, written by musician Chris Alonzo and presented by Melusine Theatre Company, is a far cry from the advertised "rock opera" (best left for The Who's Tommy), but it's not quite a musical either — there's not much staging going on. Basically it's a concert performance, subtly directed by Brandon Dinklage, who doubles as clever set designer. Devin Andrew Collins sings and narrates this neo-goth transposition of the classic story of Orpheus and Eurydice with appropriate sleaze and erotic tension, akin to Cabaret's Master of Ceremonies (and he plays a mean lick on guitar and piano when called upon). Why his character is called Twitchy the Clown is anyone's guess, but he wears a battered fedora, tennis shoes and white clown face, as if this explains it. In this saltwater version, ancient Eurydice is now called Camilla, and she's the one to go to underwater hell to rescue the "hung like a Christmas stocking" pirate lover she's never actually seen. It all ends badly, like most Greek myths, but the music, seemingly influenced by Kurt Weill, is always interesting if not too varied, and the lyrics are even better. The backup band is very good indeed — Teofilo Bijarro (bass), Taylor Tobias (drums) and Andrew Fortson (guitar) get into the salty spirit of the piece and amp up the noise when necessary. Through September 6. DiverseWorks, 1117 E. Freeway, 1-800-838-3006. — DLG


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