Capsule Stage Reviews: Boeing-Boeing, Cuckoos, La Fille mal gardée
Boeing-Boeing Alley Theatre veteran actor Jeffrey Bean is a national treasure, or should be, after a miraculous effort of resuscitation. With his actor's arsenal that is second to none (and a silent movie comedian's rubber face and rich pratfall dexterity), he manages to thoroughly revive Marc Camoletti's 1960 French farce, which had a remarkable Broadway resurrection of its own in 2007 and won the Tony Award for Best Revival. The Alley's remounting is as faithful to the Broadway version as if it were a touring production, keeping the '60s go-go set, the candy-coated color scheme and those seven doors that might as well be revolving ones for all the use they get, this being a sex farce to end all sex farces. Abetted by his morbidly disapproving housekeeper (the priceless Josie de Guzman), Bernard (James Black, who absolutely disappears into the woodwork) juggles three "air hostesses" at the same time, keeping everyone equal but separate. When shy, inexperienced hometown friend Robert (the aforementioned Bean) visits the swinger's pad, the situation, but of course, gets a lot more manic, with gung-ho American Gloria (irrepressible Emily Neves) in one room, passionate Italian Gabriella (Elizabeth Bunch) in the bath and stolid German Gretchen (Melissa Pritchett) on the warpath. "More manic" doesn't always translate into "funnier," however, for there are swathes of exposition and extraneous moments that should have been excised long ago. Everything is played broad, or broader, but there are some genuinely funny times (usually having to do with Bean being pawed by the buxom Gretchen, hit by a rotating desk chair, or skittering across the room as if on a commando mission. You know where all this is going by the third line of the play, but Bean gives this oldest of chestnuts a fresh gloss that is truly the kiss of awakening. He is so sweet and true, he turns this woozy sitcom cartoon into hi-def. Bravo, Bean! Through June 27. 615 Texas, 713-228-8421. — DLG
Cuckoos Oedipus Rex — about a man who unknowingly kills his dad and marries his mom, then stabs out his eyes once he realizes what he's done — just might be the oldest dysfunctional-family story there is. Lots of writers have come up with their own versions of the bloody tragedy, but Giuseppe Manfridi's Cuckoos, getting its U.S. premiere with Mildred's Umbrella Theater Company at Talento Bilingüe, is one of the oddest and possibly funniest retellings. The stage lights come up on a couple who are down on their knees. They've been having anal intercourse and have somehow gotten stuck. Beatrice (Karen Schlag) is an older woman who meets young Tony (Bobby Haworth) at the gym. She's inexplicably drawn to him, and the two end up back at Tony's place, having fun before the, um, accident. They wrap themselves in a parachute for modesty's sake and decide to call Tony's father Tobia (Ryan Kelly) for help. He's a doctor and should know about such things. When the good doctor arrives, he's not as much help as the two would like. And as they wait for things to, um, go down, there's lots of conversation about the past, which turns out to be much different from what all three people had thought, much like in Sophocles's version. The ending is dramatic, though there's no eye-gouging. Directed by Trish Rigdon, the production clips along at a nice pace despite Colin Teevan's sometimes awkward translation of Manfridi's Italian. This is not the sort of show you'd want to share with family, but in Manfridi's world, family is to be avoided anyway. Through June 26. 333 S. Jenson, 832-418-0973. — LW
La Fille mal gardée It's an old ballet based on an even older story: Girl loves poor lad, mom wants to marry her off to rich simpleton, and love triumphs in the end. But Sir Frederick Ashton turned this 18th-century ballet into a comic feast in 1960, and it hasn't lost any of its sparkle since. Houston Ballet's current production of La Fille mal gardée is perfect summer fare — it's light and funny, with absolutely no heavy thinking required. In the ballet, Lise tries to hide her affair with the handsome Colas from her mother, the Widow Simone, who in turn is courting a wealthy farmer whose foppish son Alain would secure Lise's future. The happy peasants rejoice with some lovely ensemble numbers, and Act II ramps up the real dancing as Lise and Colas perform a lyrical duet with some beautiful lifts, then separate for intricate solos with fast beats and high jumps. The peasants perform a complicated Maypole dance, and then a storm whips up, sending the harvesters running and the jilted suitor Alain flying (literally) with his umbrella, à la Mary Poppins. In Act III, all is resolved as the Widow Simone finally relents and allows the lovebirds to wed. The cast rotates, but Melody Herrera makes an adorable Lise; with her comic timing, she's like a Lucille Ball en pointe. Connor Walsh as her Colas has a hundred-watt grin throughout his intricate partnering and high-flying solos, showing again his technique and stamina. Ilya Kozadayev makes Alain into a Chaplin-like character who almost steals the show, and ballet master Steven Woodgate (in drag) camps it up as Widow Simone, even throwing down a spirited clog dance. Sir Osbert Lancaster's sherbet-colored costumes keep things cool and, oh, did we mention there are dancing chickens and a live pony? This is a great introduction to ballet for kids and non-dance fans. Through June 20. Wortham Theater Center, 501 Texas, 713-227-2787. — MG
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