Stage Capsule Reviews

Forever Hold Your Peace The singing Fertle Family is back with a story nothing short of hilarious. As the eve of Gwenda and Uncle Al's wedding approaches, guests are frantically trying to get to the wedding. Meanwhile, menopausal Justicena, who can't seem to understand her husband Pete's love, kicks him out. He's left to fend for himself, when none other than the Lord Himself provides him with guidance from up above. And the cold feet of the couple-to-be cause stress for every member of the wedding party. What about sex? Can an old man whose hip is out of place still manage to please his future wife? Radio Music Theatre's productions would be incomplete without music, and the musical stylings at Uncle Al's bachelor party effortlessly amuse the crowd. While the initial humor took a few scenes to settle into, after intermission there were no scenes which didn't call for at least a chuckle. Every character, played by actors Steve and Vicki Farrell and Rich Mills, had a distinctly different style, and even scenes that required more than three characters were flawlessly performed. The transitions from awkward girl to scandalous lady to singing nun by Vicki Farrell were impeccable. Steve Farrell's minister giving sex advice and senile old man caused lots of laughter. But Rich Mills's transitions from biker to menopausal woman to old man were, by far, the favorite. Through Sept. 1. 2623 Colquitt, 713-522-7722. — IP

Parker Family Circus Tommy Parker's got problems. Big ones. Bounced from school for stripping naked, peeing all over the place and recklessly propositioning schoolmates, "slow" Tommy (Cory Grabenstein) finds sanctuary with Mamaw (Skip Blakely), widow of Tommy's idolized grandfather. Grandpa had been Tommy's only friend and confidant, a lifeline for his rootless existence. "What's to become of me?" Tommy wails. His parents (Helen Hurn and Revis Bell) are too busy with their careers and can't be bothered, his sassy sister (Melina Twyman) is thoroughly embarrassed by his very presence and valley girl Vesta (Laura Leigh Pavlica) is nice to him only to get her hands on his rare collection of comic books. He can have sex with her only one time in exchange for the comics. But Tommy only wants sex from Mamaw. Needless to say, this jaw-dropping revelation throws everyone into a gigantic tailspin. Jan Buttram's 2001 family comedy/drama has enough themes for several plays; unfortunately, they collide more than flow and ebb, making the play choppy and hesitant. The actors embody this problem subconsciously, and they dawdle and wait for cues instead of plunging ahead. Grabenstein handles this problem best, and his intensity overshadows the others — he's vividly alive and weird. That his emotional crack-up, so easily solved with a few family hugs, works as well as it does is testament to Grabenstein's striking presence. Would that the others followed his lead. Through June 30. Theatre Suburbia, 1410 W. 43rd St., 713-682-3525. — DLG

The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde Marvelously melodramatic, Robert Louis Stevenson's The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is one of the darkest gothic tales about the dangers of the unconscious mind to crawl out of the 19th century. It's so eerie, its creepiness can slither through even the weakest theatrical adaptation — like the one written by Eberle Thomas and Barbara Redmond, currently being produced by the folks at UpStage Theatre in Lambert Hall. In this production, Randy Wayne Creager plays Dr. Jekyll as a sort of bumbling idiot savant. He loves the lab but can barely speak when sitting in the room with Rachel Lanyon (Melissa Mumper), the sweet-faced woman who adores him. In the lab, though, he's a genius, or so he thinks. Which is why he avoids his lady friend to spend all his time trying to find an elixir that will change our chemistry and take us up a few rungs on the evolutionary ladder. It's no wonder that once he experiments on himself, drinking his own red poison — the one that creates half-mad hell-raiser Mr. Hyde — dear, sweet Dr. Jekyll can't stop himself from wanting more. Poor Creager, as the heart and soul of the entire show, is in desperate need of a good director, which he doesn't get with Arnold Richie. Richie has pushed the good Dr. Jekyll into a corner of the stage and given him a fistful of delicate bottles that are supposed to be a "lab." Mostly, Creager's left to tinker vaguely with a white powder. Still, for its flaws, the play does bring to life one of the most deliciously morbid explorations of the human mind ever committed to paper. The story remains strong enough to shoulder even a weak production. Through June 30. 1703 Heights Blvd., 713-838-7191. — DLG


Forever Hold Your Peace, Parker Family Circus and The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

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