Capsule Stage Reviews: Girls Only — the Secret Comedy of Women, Panto Mother Goose

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, good-looking, 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 February 3. Main Street Theater, 4617 Montrose, 713-524-6706. — JJT

Panto Mother Goose The latest installment of Stages Repertory Theatre's annual Christmas "pantomimes" has a nimble score by David Nehls but top-heavy book (though far nimbler lyrics) by Stages' artistic director, Kenn McLaughlin. With tongues firmly planted, the actors gleefully chew the scenery — a Necco wafer storybook set by Jody Bobrovsky. The actors have a lot to chew, since the show runs two and a half hours with intermission. Even with first-class staging and first-rate performances, tiny tots begin to nod off. So do their larger chaperones. Director Ryan Schabach, who gives this panto its fleet-footedness, returns as audience favorite Buttons. He supervises the marriage of Mother Goose (Genevieve Allenbury) to Old King Cole (Jimmy Phillips). By getting married, Goose will retire as rhyme queen, so she creates a poetry competition to determine the next ruler of childhood verse. Reporter for the Goose Island Gander, Little Tommy Tucker (Mark Ivey) aches to be a Broadway gypsy. Jack (Mitchell Greco), noted for his water-fetching, is the likable hero but has a terrible stutter, so he's not a contender. Jack loves Jill (Teresa Zimmerman), no surprise, but she wants to be independent and liberated. The trio of Hickory, Dickory and Doc (Hunter Frederick, Cameron Davis and Danny Dyer) work for arch-villain Baron Von Nastypants (an amazingly adroit Andrew Ingalls), whose schemes to usurp the kingdom drive the show with wry audience ad-libs and a beguiling stage presence. Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary (a fine blustery Joshua Estrada) is the shrew married to Nastypants; the head henchman is Wee Willie Winkie (Kyle Curry, equally amazing), a bumbling comic foil "in his nightgown" with borscht belt pedigree. With numerous morals and sketchy sex jokes, the panto lumbers, but if you keep nudging the kids, they'll have a fine time yelling at the villains and cheering the heroes. The go-for-broke actors redeem the lumpy story. Through January 6. 3201 Allen Parkway, 713-527-0220. — DLG


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