Capsule Stage Reviews: Fear of Ducks, Panic

Fear of Ducks Just when you thought it was safe to go back to the theater, along comes the inspired lunacy of Radio Music Theatre. You're never safe around these three (Steve Farrell, Vicki Farrell, Rich Mills), for you could die laughing, or at the very least spray your drink out of your nose as you gasp for breath. We wouldn't want it any other way. This scrumptious little tour de farce is one of the group's "unfertle" comedies, which means it doesn't feature those lovable Fertles from Dumptser, Texas. But never fear; author Steve Farrell has populated this juicy fable with new creations that could each have an entire series written about them, too. Revealing too much of the plot would be sacrilege — and nearly impossible — for the show doesn't move as much as it's propelled, by entrances and exits, one-liners, non sequiturs and our continuing laughter. Suffice it to say, there's a whacked-out, curly-headed televangelist, Jimmy Dillard, who's in a hissy fit over the fact that rocker du jour A.C. Adapter is to appear at the Margaret Mueller Mitchell Miller Pavilion at Precious Pines, Houston's most-planned planned community. Dillard's ready to do his "instant damnation" on this horn-headed smut rapper, especially for his hit tunes "Bra Full of Love" and "Set Your Parents' Pants on Fire." Adapter is not suitable for children, being one himself. That he also has two gigantic electrical prongs imbedded in the top of his head should say something about his state of mind, or lack thereof. Everything goes blissfully out of control, and there's even a delightfully affecting, albeit brief, scene between the fried rocker and the oblivious Mrs. Peeples, whose son has won a day with A.C., that's surprisingly lovely. Situated among the verbal mayhem, it's a little gem. Through August 28. 2623 Colquitt, 713-522-7722. — DLG

Panic Not only was master filmmaker Alfred Hitchcock a superb visual stylist, he was also a supreme conductor who knew exactly when to speed up the action or slow it down for maximum suspense. In putting on Joseph Goodrich's Hitchcock homage, which won the 2008 Edgar Award for Best Mystery Play, director Suzanne King would be wise to study Hitch's editing rhythms. She gives this production at Theatre Suburbia such a leisurely pace, the suspense takes a back-row seat. The pauses aren't pregnant so much as annoying — and as with too many productions this year, the appearance of a stagehand to rearrange the props at scene change stops the flow completely. Goodrich doesn't need these roadblocks; his mystery, compelling and intelligently written, is a loving homage to Hitchcock (here called Henry Lockwood and played with arching magnanimity by Paul Hager). Lockwood is accused of raping and fathering a child by a French extra during a previous shoot in Paris. He's back in the capital for the premiere and for interviews with a noted French film critic (Scott Holmes) when the young Frenchwoman (Allie Collins) confronts the great man's secretary (Rebecca Pipas Seabrook) and attempts blackmail. This being a jigsaw-puzzle contraption, the mystery keeps us guessing until the end. The murder scene is unnecessarily drawn out, and the needed gore is left to our imaginations, which is cause for unintentional laughter when the director's wife (Robin Beckwith, nicely befuddled) exclaims that the murderer has obviously had a heart attack, blithely unconcerned that he's been stabbed and slashed multiple times. Seabrook is a sturdy Gal Friday who pieces the puzzle together, Holmes is suave, and Collins and Allison Carr, as sisters, sport the worst French accents this side of the Pink Panther. Despite the show's problems, Hitchcock survives his stage tribute — even the faux movie posters in the lobby advertising Lockwood's films are delightful. Fridays and Saturdays through July 3. 4106 Way Out West Dr., 713-682-3525.— DLG

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