capsule Stage Reviews: Crazy for You, Girls Only — the Secret Comedy of Women, Home for the Dysfunctional Family Holidays!, Sylvia
Crazy for You This is a 1992 version of B'way's 1930 Girl Crazy, music by George Gershwin and lyrics by Ira Gershwin, with a newly revised book by award-winning Ken Ludwig. Some songs were dropped, and others added and incorporated smoothly into the plot. The young leads are brilliant. Richard Gomez as Bobby Child seems born to be a song-and-dance man, capturing perfectly boulevard insouciance, fresh-faced bravado and tap shoes. Kathleen Baker as Polly Baker has exquisite beauty and an endearing virginal appeal — both can sell a song. Bobby is the son of the wealthy banker Lottie Child (LeeAnne Denny), whose mortgage on a theater in Deadrock, Nevada, is in default, propelling Bobby to visit the once-prosperous mining town. Bobby falls instantly in love with Polly, the theater owner, and the plot requires him to impersonate Zangler, a Hungarian producer, played with admirable finesse by Richard Hahn. When the duo meet face-to-face, the lengthy double-take is hilarious. The set by Michael Tessier converts easily to various locations, and the costumes designed by Mary Balest are often witty and rise to brilliance with the feather dance. The ample and well-staged choreography is created by Tina Dennison and Dinah Mahlman. Sam Brown directed, assisted by Teri Clark, and their skilled efforts in marshaling 20 talented actors around the stage result in a professional, spirited production. The book by Ludwig amusingly weaves various romantic skeins into a pleasant tapestry of pairings-off. You will savor I Can't Be Bothered Now, Embraceable You, I Got Rhythm, They Can't Take that Away from Me and many more. This is a must-see production, with the Gershwin magic and two leads who are brilliant. This is the last week for this show — don't miss it. Through November 25, Houston Family Arts Center, 10760 Grant Rd., 281-685-2374. — JJT
Girls Only — the Secret Comedy of Women Two gifted female improv actors in Denver, Barbara Gehring and Linda Klein, discovered a golden lode of material in their high-school diaries and mined it into scripted vignettes of what it's like to be young and female. The resulting comedy is having its regional premiere after extended runs in major U.S. cities. The set is a pink teenage bedroom, frilly without being fussy. As the audience is seated, on stage are two local female actors, Tracy Ahern and Keri Henson, dressed in bra and panties, who mime conversations and laughter. Both Ahern and Henson are excellent comediennes with great timing. They discuss diaries, valentines, including those returned, the first crush, breast-feeding and other topics. This comedy is intended for a female audience, but this may be too restrictive — these are babes, goodlooking, fit, with outgoing personalities and a great sense of humor. They're good sports, they tell jokes well and they like men. What male wouldn't want to spend 90 minutes in their company? I especially liked the skit about sex education, as the actors play counselors so inept that they never get to the subject. The overall tone never strays far from sweet and amusing, although there is a hint of anger in a video section on restrictions on public breast-feeding. The event ends with a hilarious ballet to music as the ladies struggle to don pantyhose. The comedy is directed by Luanne Nunes de Char; this is her seventh time directing the work and her experience pays off brilliantly, with pace and exuberance. These vignettes will warm your heart while convulsing you with laughter. Extended through December 2. Main Street Theater, 4617 Montrose, 713-524-6706. — JJT
Home for the Dysfunctional Family Holidays! Two actresses with operatic voices take us through some of the holiday pitfalls, assisted by a piano player who does a lot more than tickle the ivories. An almost bare stage can barely contain the exuberance of Julia Kay Laskowski and Patti Rabaza as they create the characters of Mavis Applebee (that's Julia) and Myrtle McGillicurdle (that's Patti), and convince us instantly that these are old friends who know each other's secrets — and strengths. If Mavis has to hide everything with 2 percent alcohol, including Listerine, from a visiting aunt, well, that's not the end of the world, is it? Julia and Patti also briefly portray two young-uns, Agnes and Henriette, who have changed their names to Tiffany and Buffy. Patti creates a rehabilitation facility named "From Slut to Saint," and Julia re-enters as Candy LaRue, pole dancer — this amusingly skirts the edge of bawdy humor. Daryl Banner provides piano accompaniment, and displays an elfin charm and some fancy footwork. One film skit covers a costume change, but does fall a bit flat. There are Christmas songs, with some lyric variations, and both Julia and Patti more than do them justice — the walls come close to shaking. Michael Tapley as director and choreographer keeps the pacing brisk and the movements flowing, and he has added wit and humor. Julia and Patti are expressive actors stopping short of mugging, with great comic timing, and they are also the writers. The current offering is a world premiere, but it could become an annual event on Houston stages. Comfort entertainment for the holidays comes early to Houston, as good-natured humor and adroit comic timing bring good cheer and flashes of wit to a world premiere. Through Dec. 2, Theater LaB Houston, 1706 Alamo St., 713-868-7516. — JJT
Sylvia "You never say the things to me you say to her, like...'You're beautiful'...or 'I love you.'" The "you" is harried husband Greg (Wayne White), going through midlife crises. The accusing "me" is neglected wife Kate (Ruth S. McCleskey), who knows a rival to her affections when she sees one. The other woman, the "her," is a real bitch, Greg's new dog Sylvia (Renata Smith). She's come into the household and upset everything, including making a mess on the living-room floor. Greg has found his new spark in life. A.R. Gurney's bouncy little bauble of a comedy is an authentic shaggy dog story. If you have a pet, this play will be your chew toy. (I'd say catnip, but Sylvia might bite.) If you're going through marital troubles, however, watch out; Gurney will rub your face in it. He writes about people of a certain social status who find themselves in the throes of comic crisis better than any other living playwright (Mrs. Farnsworth, The Cocktail Hour). Warm and cuddly as a favorite blankie, what sets this far above the ordinary is that Gurney writes Sylvia as a young, attractive girl, which gives the dog a lively temperament as both temptress and perky puppy. It's terribly clever and a lot of fun. No wonder Kate feels threatened by this nubile female plopped down in her house who so easily reroutes her husband's affection. Ms. Smith deserves a heaping bowl of Kibbles for her lovely performance. We first meet her fresh from rescue as a grunge teenager, with torn jeans and wayward sweatshirt, two ponytails draped on each side of her head like beagle ears. She scratches and sniffs, jumps on and off the couch, and circles around before she plops down, happy as can be. By the end of the play, she's outfitted in glamour mode with little black dress, black patent pumps and her hair up. As Greg would say, she's gorgeous. The other kooky aspect in the comedy is the triple role of Tom, Phyllis and Leslie, all played by the same actor (Jim Allman). Tom is Greg's dog-run buddy, all macho bluster, who knows the answers, except when he doesn't. Phyllis is Kate's waspy school chum who can't find the charm in a dog who jumps up and humps her leg. Sylvia triggers all sorts of hilarious confessions from Phyllis about her husband's obsession with his pet — a goldfish. Perfectly costumed and bewigged, Allman stops the show with obtuse Phyllis. In the last act, Leslie is Greg and Kate's marriage counselor whose gender identity problems have a couch life of their own. Throw everyone a bone. Four paws for Company OnStage. Through December 15. 536 Westbury Square. 713-726-1219. — DLG
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