Regrets Only After seeing Paul Rudnick's torn-from-the-headlines social satire about gay marriage, you'll know one thing for sure: Never get into a bitch-slap contest with him, because you will lose big-time. Whatever the occasion, he'll jab you in the eye with a politically incorrect barb, bon mot, epigram, put-down, or witticism — no matter if it stops the dramatic flow cold, comes out of left field or, Oscar Wilde forbid, is inappropriate for the character. And while the zinger is effortlessly lobbed, the rest of the cast sits around mixing martinis and being witchy. Household-name fashion designer Hank Hadley (John Kaiser) has wafted through life somewhat like Oz's Glinda, oblivious in his little gay bubble. When his high-society best friends (Bonnie Hewett, Carl Masterson and Elizabeth Marshall) don't object strenuously enough to a proposed constitutional amendment that would solely define marriage as a heterosexual contract, he suddenly becomes all huffy and rallies the city's gays to go on strike for a day. As you can well imagine, the entire world panics, since there are no florists, caterers, hairdressers, shrinks, doormen or even politicians to do any work. Rudnick's fantasy carries loads of potential but not much bite, since his Noël Coward-lite people have the substance of tissue paper. But you'd never know it from the brilliantly efficient ensemble cast at Theatre Southwest, who take Rudnick's chiffon and make out of it a Balenciaga. There are plenty of laughs, but the sentimental tears are crocodile — and faux, to boot. Through March 15. 8944-A Clarkcrest, 713-661-9505. — DLG
Young and Fertle If you think the goofy Fertle family of Dumpster, Texas, is hilarious enough in the present, you should see them back in the day. In this installment, the 20th Sentral High School Reunion sends the loons time-tripping into their past, which is just as screwy and dysfunctional as their lives today. If you're new to Radio Music Theatre — and just what has taken you so long? — you don't need to know the backstory to appreciate the nonstop nuttiness, since the witty script by Steve Farrell fills in the blanks. Of course, if you're already a committed Fertle Head, the extra details just make the show funnier. The three actors who play all the characters (Steve Farrell, Vicki Farrell and Rich Mills) are at the top of their form, and their glee is as infectious as ever. In the old days, Justicena and Bridgette were already bitch-fighting; Lou was as clueless as ever; sweet, dumb Earl found a friend in sweet, dumb Special Ed; Doc Moore couldn't be understood any better than he is now; greaser Braxton Hix continued his mischief; fey Curtis Miller dreamed of wearing a uniform; and Michael (who's never seen) spent all his time in the boy's bathroom with Bruce Nelly, much to the chagrin of Justicena, who carried a torch for him that would light up west Texas. Well, it certainly would light up Clem, Texas, next door to Dumpster, because only Clem lived there. It doesn't get any funnier — or smarter — than the Fertle family and their bizarre neighbors. Through May 10. 2623 Colquitt, 713-522-7722. — DLG
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Capsule reviews by D.L.Groover